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Welcome to Kerala - contd.
Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum
The capital of the state of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram or the City of the Sacred Snake, is built over seven hills. Named after Anantha, the thousand - headed serpent of Hindu mythology, the city once formed a part of the Travancore kingdom, its capital at Padmanabhapuram, now a part of Tamil Nadu.
Thiruvananthapuram is, decidedly, one of the cleaner and well-planned cities of the country. The city's scenic appeal, its enchanting beaches, and overwhelming greenery only add to its uniqueness. It embodies the magical feel of Kerala, as a whole, and lends terrific insight into the culture of the state. The red-tiled roofs, the never-ending stretches of palm trees, the maze of narrow, winding streets and above all, the sea, make for a fascinating mixture. There is an element of understated and effortless elegance about the city, which leaves a lasting impression on the visitor.
What to See
The area of historical interest in the city is the Fort, at the southern end of M.G.Road, which encloses the famous Shri Padmanabhaswamy Vishnu Temple. The fort gateway leads to the temple, which is surprisingly enough, in the Dravidian style of architecture, typical of Tamil Nadu. The temple enshrines, and is dedicated, to the presiding deity of Thiruvananthapuram, Lord Vishnu. It was constructed by a Maharaja of Travancore, in 1733. The temple is open only to Hindus. The city derives its name from this temple, as the deity i.e Lord Vishnu, is shown as reclining on his serpent, Anantha.
The Museum, Zoo, and the park they are located are in, are quite popular with the local people and tourists. The Napier Museum is housed in a striking building, and has a good collection of bronzes, ivory carvings, ancient musical instruments and life-size figures of Kathakali dancers. The art collection at the Sri Chitra Art Gallery, contains paintings of the Mughal, Tanjore and Rajput schools and a special section, devoted exclusively to the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma. There are, also, works of art from China, Bali, Tibet and Japan.
The Zoological Gardens are, said to be, among the most well-planned zoos in Asia. The Botanical Garden within the zoo, houses specimens of almost every tropical tree existing. The Observatory, located on the highest point of the city, is one of the impressive architectural landmarks of Thiruvananthapuram.
A short distance away from the city's airport is the Veli Lagoon, a serene tourist village by the side of a beautiful lagoon. It, also, has a exciting range of aqua sports facilities to offer.
15 km away from the city is the famous Kovalam beach. It ranks amongst one of the loveliest beaches in the world. This sheltered bay is ideal for surfing, swimming and sun-bathing. Other facilities include Yoga, Ayurvedic massage and water-sports.Overnight accomodation is available.
29 km from the city is Neyyar Dam, that houses a mini wildlife sanctuary, and a crocodile farm. Additional attractions, in the form of boating facilities and trekking opportunities, make this spot a favourite with tourists.
61 km from Thiruvananthapuram, and 3000 feet above sea-level, is the idyllic hamlet of Ponmudi. A popular weekend getaway with the local people, it boasts of a complex of attractive cottages, and unlimited trekking routes across the sylvan hills, that embrace it. Overnight accomodation is available.
Kollam, 66 km from the city, was the ancient port of the state, that received ships from all over the world. The region also houses the Astamudi Lake, ancient churches, the Thirumullavaram beach and some Hindu shrines. Backwater cruises to Allapuzha can be organized from here, and modest accomodation for an overnight stay is available.