Allapuzha

Alleppey town traces its history to the 18th century but the region had been a long established trade route for spices connected to the hinterland through a vast internal network of backwaters.The region came under Portuguese and Dutch influence and continues to be a thriving center of Syrian Christian culture. In this image, two joggers sweat it out on Alleppy Beach next to a backwater emptying out into the Lakshwadeep Sea. Alleppy's beach is interspersed by several such freshwater streams emptying on the sands.

A highly unlikely animal in the Deep South of India. A handful of camels take visitors to Alleppy beach on joyrides.

Alleppy, also known as Allapuzha, is known as the Venice of the East and is criss-crossed by a vast network of canals and backwaters. The town itself is divided by two straight canals emptying into the Arabian Sea. This is a view of the North Canal, which is the terminating point of the government ferry service which connects Alleppy to many remote villages on the backwaters and bigger town like Kottayam.

The most ubiquitous product sold in Alleppy town are umbrellas. Huge showrooms specialize in just umbrellas, something you hardly see anywhere else in India. Almost everyone carries an umbrella and there is a small scale industry of umbrella repairers.

Connected by artificial canals, the backwaters form an economical means of transport, and a large local trade is carried on by inland navigation. Kerala backwaters have been used for centuries by the local people for transportation, fishing and agriculture. It has supported the efforts of the local people to earn a livelihood.

Children practice a mock race on a wooden Chundan vallam or snake boat. Traditionally these were used by local rulers for naval warfare and still used during times of festive boat races.

A traditional wooden canoe with a modern motor attached to it on the Punnamada Lake. Punnamada Lake is the portion of the Vembanad Lake located in the Kuttanad region of the district of Alappuzha. It is in this portion of the lake that the celebrated Nehru Trophy Boat Race is conducted.

Kettuvallam is a house boat widely used in the Indian state of Kerala. In the Malayalam language "kettu" means "to tie" and “vallam” means boat – the two together make the local name "kettuvallam”. Each houseboat is constructed using the ancient principles and techniques of boat building by the local carpenters using 'Anjili' wood. Coir ropes are used for fastening the wooden planks together.

The kettuvallams were traditionally used as grain barges, to transport the rice harvested in the fertile fields alongside the backwaters. A smaller boat here transports a consignment of bamboo across the Punnamada Lake.

Children play cricket next to the Punnamada lake as tourists take a joyride through its waters on a hired shikara. The unregulated proliferation of motorised houseboats in the lakes and backwaters have raised concerns regarding the adverse impact of pollution from diesel engines and outboard motors on the fragile ecosystem.

Chundan Vallam (Beaked Boat), known to the outside world as Kerala snake boats, are one of the icons of Kerala culture used in the Vallamkali (boat race). Sitting two to a row along the length of the boat, there will be 64 oarsmen, representing 64 art forms (or on occasion 128 oarsmen). They row in rhythm of the vanchipattu (boatman's song.)

A stucco statue of Ganesha with a lion in one of the many Hindu temples in Alleppey town.

A canopy of trees shading the North Canal. Alleppey's north canal is lined with private shikaras and small boats offering tourists a guided tour of the backwaters. The rates vary depending on the size of the boat and the time agreed upon. The canal also serves as an outlet of the waters of the Punnamada Lake to the Arabian Sea.

As with almost all Indian food, spices play an important part in Kerala cuisine. The main spices used are cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, green and red peppers, cloves, garlic, cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, and so on. Few fresh herbs are used, unlike in European cuisine, and mainly consist of the commonly used curry leaf, and the occasional use of fresh coriander and mint.

A band of temple musicians playing the Kombu. Kombu also known as the Kombu Pattu is a wind instrument usually played in temples throughout Kerala. The kombu is regarded as a rhythm instrument by its players, with the function of embellishing the beats of the drums.

Alleppey district is also home to the unique Mannarasala Snake Temple, a very ancient and internationally-known centre of pilgrimage for the devotees of serpent gods (Nagaraja). Snakes are highly revered in Kerala and snake shrines are very common in houses and under trees.

The Mannarasala Temple has over 30,000 images of snakes along the paths and among the trees, and is the largest such temple in Kerala. Women seeking fertility come to worship here, and upon the birth of their child come to hold thanksgiving ceremonies here, often bringing new snake images as offerings.

The cult of snake worship lies in the mythology of how snakes through their venom helped desalinate the coastal strip of Kerala which was reclaimed from the sea by the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu, Parashurama. In gratitude Parashurama established the cult of snake worship and made Kerala a green and habitable region.

Another famous temple in Alleppey district is in Ambalapuzha. The Ambalappuzha temple is one of the three important Sri Krishna temples in the state of Kerala.This temple is directly associated to the Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple. During the raids Tipu Sultan in 1789, the idol of Sri Krishna from the Guruvayoor Temple was brought to the Ambalappuzha Temple for safe keeping. Here craftsmen prepare temple brassware by hammering designs on brass plates.

Ambalapuzha Temple is famous for its payasam, which is made in its large traditional kitchen. According to the legend, Lord Krishna once appeared in the form of a sage in the court of the king who ruled the region and challenged him for a game of chess. Being a chess enthusiast himself, the king gladly accepted the invitation. The king asked the sage to choose his prize after the sage won. The sage told the king that he had a very modest claim and all he wished was a few grains of rice. On the chess board, one grain of rice would be placed in the first square, two grains in the second square, four in the third square, eight in the fourth square, and so on. Every square would have double the number of grains of its predecessor. By the 20th square, the number had reached one million grains of rice, and by the 40th square it had become one trillion. The royal granary soon ran out of grains of rice. The king realised that even if he provided all the rice in his kingdom he would never be able to fulfill the promised reward. Upon seeing the dilemma, the sage appeared to the king in his true form, that of Lord Krishna. He told the king that he did not have to pay the debt immediately but could pay him over time. The king would serve paal-payasam (made of rice) in the temple freely to the pilgrims every day until the debt was paid off, a tradition which continues till the current times.

Th exterior walls of the Krishna Temple is covered with rows of divas., something unique in the temple architecture of kerala. This multilayered rows of divas are lit on each Sunday evening by the priests and also by the visiting pilgrims. When the whole temple is lit on all sides, it forms a spectacular visual spectacle.

Manichithrathazhu, the magnificent door lock, is an old traditional metal engraving with a lock is widely used to adorn the front doors of big houses and temples in Kerala. This one with a peacock design is from the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum of the Krishna Temple in Ambalapuzha.

Ambalapuzha is also famous for being once home of Kalakkathu Kunchan Nambiar, an early Malayalam language poet, performer, satirist and the inventor of local art form Ottamtullal. This Mizhavu, a big copper drum played as an accompanying percussion instrument, was used by Nambiar and is now preserved in the Ambalapuzha Krishna Temple. The instrument is considered sacred, and only Ambalavasi Nambiar community members are allowed to play it inside temples or Koothambalams still.

Two ladies use fire sticks to light divas on the outside wall of the sanctum sanctorum at the Krishna Temple in Ambalapuzha.

The temple elephant at the Krishna Temple in Ambalapuzha gets a cooling shower in the afternoon heat. Velakali is a group dance held in the open air as an exhibition of the martial feats in front of the raja (king) of Ambalapuzha (erstwhile Chempakassery), who wanted to see how his soldiers had performed in the wars. This show meant to be witnessed by the deity of the temple which is taken out in procession to the courtyard of the temple on a caparisoned elephant.

Description

Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey, is a city in Alapuzha District of Kerala state of southern India. Alleppey is a town with picturesque canals, backwaters, beaches, and lagoons, and was described as “Venice of the East” by Lord Curzon. Alappuzha is also the venue for the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held on the Punnamada Lake. The spectacular race takes place on the second Saturday of August every year, is the most competitive and popular of the boat races in India. Alapuzha is one of the lowest areas in India with many rice fields being a few meters below sea level. In recent times, tourism has become a major source of revenue. This is mainly due to the presence of houseboats that provide the tourists a view of the scenic backwaters around Alleppey.