15th April 2015
My very first encounter with Kerala was on the 1st March 2015 when we landed to Trivandrum airport together with my dad. Let me just tell you, my dad never had any patience, and I was not so far from him, not even after hours of meditation and yoga.
So waiting for a taxi driver from Amritapuri ashram who was supposed to pick us up here but never appeared for half an hour until I called them twice, was not so funny with the drops of sweat on my forehead. I was already analysing my decision of coming to India at the airport outside of the arrivals.
Thankfully, it all changed already a few hours later. We spent our first night at Amritapuri, I left my dad there and took a taxi to Leela Kovalam hotel on the following morning where Kerala Blog Express trip with other 29 travel bloggers started. I will write about Amritapuri in a separate post as it deserves a lot of information 🙂
Although I wanted to catch up with sleep, my taxi driver was very talkative for those 2 and a half hours and thus I used the situation to find out some details about Kerala and India in general. As it was not me organizing the trip, I was happy I could use that otherwise ”planning time” for working online… which meant I knew very little about Kerala before I came.
Only once I spent some time around the city, I found out more details.
1. Trivandrum is the capital of Kerala, one of the 29 states of India.
2. The original name of Trivandrum is Thiruvananthapuram was reinstated in 1991. It still causes me difficulties when I try to pronounce it (so I always go with Trivandrum instead.) Trivandrum was the name the British put to town when they ruled it. Its original name is Thiruvananthapuram which translates to: thiruv – very holy/respect, anantha – holy snake/deity, puram – land of so Thiruvananthapuram means The Land of the Holy Snake.
3. Around 1 million of people now inhabit just 74 square kilometres of this ancient town which was founded in the 15th century, even though the history of this area dates back to around 1,000 BC.
4. According to Wikipedia, which is what I read before going there, Trivandrum was for Mahatma Gandhi the ”evegreen city of India” and no wonder. It’s supposed to be one of the top 10 greenest cities in India.
5. Most of the buildings we can see now in Trivandrum are from the 16th century.
6. Trivandrum is the state of Kerala Government, even though the biggest city in size is Kochi.
7. Trivandrum is an IT centre and even though it might seem very fast to you, comparing to other Indian cities it is a slow one.
8. I was surprised by the amount of all the religious places in Trivandrum. There’s a mosque, a temple next to it and a church just across the street. Only later on I found out it’s the same all across Kerala.
9. Kerala’s Parliament building is called the Legislative Assembly and it’s very pretty to look at from the outside – a sort of terracota colour with white columns in front.
10. There’s a Botanical garden in Trivandrum with Napier Museum which is one of the oldest museums in India. The very beautiful pink buildings show the Indian, European and Muslim influence. In the beginning no one went to the museum until a ZOO was open next to it.
11. Trivandrum used to be a dynasty and then together with other 2 dynasties they formed Kerala state.
12. Indian national games were hosted in Trivandrum in the past.
13. In Trivandrum city centre you can find Library for adults and children library – it’s the white and dark pink Victorian buildings (really very British looking).
14. The main road is called Mahatma Gandhi road similarly to other main roads in many Indian cities. This one is the main shopping area for locals.
15. A beautiful green building on Mahatma Gandhi road is the home to Ayurveda College where you can get an Ayurvedic Doctor degree.
16. Trivandrum in Kerala is known for the richest temple in the world, the Gold Temple. Only the Indian people can enter it now and only under certain conditions, such as barefoot and wearing traditional clothes. Before random people used to enter, even play there and sit inside. Nowadays the ”Black cats”, the strong Guards of India are protecting the temple since all the wealth was found there.
The original name of the temple is Sree Padmanabhaswamy Templeand is definitely a must see at least from the outside. Non-Hindu people are allowed to walk around and the policemen guard it very well. It is estimated to hold around $15 to $20 billion of treasure which the ruling Travancore Royal Family accumulated during the better times to borrow from in poor times.
17. Just a few metres from the Gold Temple lies another famous attraction, the Mansion of Horses, or the Horse Palace nicknamed after the 122 wooden horses carved in the roof. This Kuthira Puthen Malika Palace (sometimes spelled Puthen Maliga) was built by Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma. After his death in 1846 it was closed for more than 100 years and only opened to public around 20 years ago. No photos are allowed inside the palace but at least you can visit it even as a foreigner. Nowadays only 20 rooms are opened to public but there are supposed to be more than 80. It took 4 years to 5,000 workers to build this palace.