Trivandrum General Information
- Area 141.53 sq. km
- Population 6,99,872
- Altitude Sea level
- Languages Malayalam and English
- STD Code 0471
- Best time to visit September-May
Introduction to Trivandrum
God’s own country with its psychedelic sunsets complete with palm trees swaying to whatever music the wind chooses to play, the wafting aromas of the land of coffee, spices and coconuts, the bastion of communism, a literate people whose friendliness is only surpassed by their curiosity for more. A place that fiercely retains and respects the ancient traditions while viewing the modern with tolerance and invitation – Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum is Kerala incarnate. There is beauty and intelligence, the exotic and the mundane, there are Ayurvedic massages that elicit equal amounts of pain and pleasure, beaches and lagoons with the best part being the preservation of it all the way Nature meant it to be. Trivandrum is also a bustling city, where the business of life is carried out like it is around the world, interspersed with everyday visits to the nearby temple or mosque. Myth has it that the place derives its name from it being the city of Anantha, the sacred serpent of Vishnu. History has it that Thiruvananthapuram had once been the port of call for Romans and Jews, Arabs and Christians. Believable, considering that it remains one of the biggest centers for sea-bound labour.
Places of Interest:
Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Covering an area of about 2,400 sq. meters, the temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy is believed to be around 260 years old. The temple with its gopuram (tower) soaring majestically upwards is believed to be one of the 108 shrines sacred to the Vaishnavites in India. The main entrance to the temple is through the eastern gopuram that towers to over 30 metres and is devised in the Dravidian style. The deity of the temple, Padmanabha (an incarnation of Vishnu) reclines on the sacred serpent in the inner sanctum. The main shrine inside the temple is well guarded with a number of massive doors and darshan (audience) can be had through the three-door openings into the sanctum sanctorum.
Dating back to 1880, the Napier Museum building is a combination of the Kerala, Mughal, Chinese and Italian architectural styles. The building has a unique natural air-conditioning system. A visit to this museum gives you glimpses of Kerala’s rich cultural heritage. The museum has an excellent collection of bronzes, historic ornaments, ivory carvings and chariots, and life-size figures of the Kathakali dancers in full costume.
Sri Chitra Art Gallery
The Sri Chitra Art Gallery houses paintings from the Mughal, Rajput and Tanjore schools of art. Besides these, the gallery has a rare collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Varma, Svetoslav and Nicholas Roerich. An Oriental collection consisting of paintings from China, Japan, Tibet and Bali are a visual treat to the visitor.
The spacious zoological garden is set among the pleasant surroundings of woodlands and lakes. The garden provides delightful shaded walks for the visitors. You can also have a look at the wide variety of the animals and birds that are housed here. The Reptile House has a collection of snakes worth seeing. The nearby botanical gardens have a large number of trees that can be easily identified by their labels.
The Government Observatory is located on a hill opposite the Kanakakunnu Palace. It is an interesting attraction worth a visit. The terrace of this Observatory offers you a fascinating view of the city.
Science and Technology Museum
Located in the heart of the city, the Science and Technology Museum has interactive displays and scores of other items that highlight the science, technology and electronics. Near the museum lies a planetarium. The planetarium presents a daily 40-minute show that provides a panoramic experience of the universe.
The children’s museum, situated at Thycaud, has been named after Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. The museum has a wonderful display of dolls, masks and paintings.
Aruvippuram is located at about 24 km from the city of Kollam. The major attraction out here is the Shiva temple that attracts a large number of devotees during the Shivratri festival. A small waterfall makes it an attractive picnic spot.
Located at a distance of about 87 kilometres from Thiruvananthapuram, Kanyakumari is the southernmost part of the Indian mainland. The place is the meeting point of the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Kanyakumari has great religious significance for the Hindus. The place is dedicated to the Goddess Devi Kanya, believed to be an incarnation of Parvati, Lord Shiva’s wife. Pilgrims come here to visit the temple and bathe in the waters here, as they are considered sacred. One of the major tourist attractions at Kanyakumari is the Vivekananda Memorial. The memorial is built about 400 meters offshore. It was here that Swami Vivekananda meditated in 1892 before embarking on a journey to usher in the religious reforms throughout the country. The mandapam built here in his memory reflects the architectural styles from all over the country.
Sixteen kilometres away from Thiruvananthapuram lies Kovalam, an internationally renowned beach. The beach has been a favourite haunt of tourists, especially Europeans, since the 1930s. A visit to the beach provides you with plenty of leisure options. You can go for sunbathing, swimming and herbal body toning massages. Special cultural programmes are also organised here. Kovalam has been developed as an integrated seaside resort by the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC). The beach complex includes the Ashoka Beach Resort (owned by ITDC), low-budget cottages, Ayurvedic health centres, shopping zones, and swimming pools.
Located at about 32 km from Thiruvananthapuram, the Neyyar Dam is a popular picnic spot with a lake and a dam. You can enjoy boating in the lake that has been formed by the dam across the Neyyar River. Apart from boating, you can also take a trip to the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary. The wild species in the sanctuary include elephants, wild buffaloes, wild boar, porcupines, tigers and a variety of snakes. There is also a crocodile breeding centre and a lion safari park at the dam site.
Padmanabhapuram Palace, 64 km from Thiruvananthapuram, is a magnificent wooden palace of the 16th century. This old palace of the erstwhile rulers of the State of Travancore (1550 to 1750 AD) is a fine specimen of Kerala’s indigenous style of architecture. It has rosewood-ceiling carvings in floral patterns, windows laid with jewel-coloured mica and floors finished to high polish with a special compound of crushed shell, coconuts, egg white and the juices of the local plants. Some of the interesting items housed here are the musical bow in mahogany, royal chairs with Chinese carvings, secret underground passages, the King’s bedroom with a four-poster medicinal bed, mural paintings, pictures of Lord Krishna, hanging brass lanterns lit continuously since the 18th century, hanging cage through which eagles tore criminals to death, open-air swimming bath, granite dance hall, Saraswati temple, Belgian mirrors and an outer cyclopean stone wall fitted together without mortar. The palace, though situated in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, comes under the purview of the Government of Kerala.
Ponmudi is an enchanting hill resort situated at about 61 km from Thiruvananthapuram city. The resort offers you excellent opportunities for trekking. You can also visit the deer park that is just 3 km from the resort. Golden Valley, which lies on the way to Ponmudi, is an ideal place for bathing in the cool, clear mountain stream that splashes down the rocks. You can also find natural springs, flowering trees and orchids quite in abundance here.
Located at 51 km north of Thiruvananthapuram City, Varkala is a calm and quiet hamlet that has several places of tourist interests. There is a tranquil sea resort, rich in mineral water springs, at the Varkala beach. A dip in the waters here is believed to purge the body of impurities and the soul of all sins. Overlooking the beach from the cliffs is Janardhanaswamy Temple, a two-thousand-year old shrine. The Sivagiri Mutt, founded by the great Hindu reformer and philosopher Sri Narayana Guru (1856-1928) is also close by.