Most Popular Heritage Sites of Kerala


The Great History and Heritage that Kerala is Part of

In talking of most popular heritage sites of Kerala we would like to begin with our rich history and traditions that culminated into these great array of heritage sites. Heritage constitutes our timeless link to the time that has been.

A part of this story is lost in oblivion; a part of it is preserved for us in the form of artifacts used by our forefathers in their day to day existence; the evolution of consciousness of being what we are preserved in the form parchments, books, languages, metaphysics, science and religion. The cave-paintings, the pyramids, Mohenjo-Daro-Harappa, the remains of the city-states, the forts, the tombs, the temples, the palaces - the mute witness of this journey interspersed with wonder and disillusionment-all these constitutes our heritage ,our precious record of what we are and what we can be.

Now when we are looking back to these great historical periods for our enumeration of some of the most popular heritage sites of Kerala, many of these sites with their material traditions are already lost in oblivion. The Indian subcontinent had witnessed it all and Kerala as a formidable part of these historical lineages offers a vivid specter to this lost time through thousands of year's survived tradition and through artifacts and heritage architecture.

To talk of most popular heritage sites of Kerala we must take a look at the history and historical traditions of Kerala to a brief extent. Kerala has its rightful share in the flow of events that had affected the country since the pre-historic era. Located at the south western corner of the subcontinent, flanked by Arabian Sea in the west and Western Ghats in the east, this narrow strip of land had witnessed the emergence of humanity at its very outset.

The stone age carvings found at the Ekkadal Caves of Kerala are the oldest remains of human footprints dating back as early as 5000 B.C. Many artifacts of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic ages at different places of Kerala studies suggests a close link of Kerala with the Indus valley civilization during late bronze age and early iron age. Sumerian records dating back to 3000 B.C describes Kerala as an important spice trading centre, establishing trade links with the important ports of red sea, Mediterranean Sea and the civilizations of Far East. It was a time of great prosperity for the state as the spices of Kerala were in demand in the civilized world of those times. The ports of Kerala was said to be the busiest ports of the world.

The first instance where the word Kerala was found was in the rock inscriptions of Asoka dating back to 3rd century BC where the word Keralaputra was inscribed referring to the rulers of the land. Cheras were perhaps the first ruling dynasty recorded in history that was later defeated by the joint attack of Chola and Rastrakuta kings.

Kerala is often tagged as Parasurama Kshetras.The mythical figure Parasurama is inextricably linked with the folklore of Kerala. The mythical figure, found in both Ramayana and Mahabharata, whose name practically means 'Rama with an axe' is one of the avatars of Vishnu, who vowed to save the world from the atrocities of Kshtriyas. After killing all the male Kshatriyas, he established the rule of the Brahmans and himself travelled to far south for the expiration of his sins. Parasuram threw his axe on the sea and reclaimed the land of Kerala. Parasuram is often dubbed as the father of the national identity of the Keralites.

In relating here the most popular heritage sites of Kerala we cannot leave behind the age of spice trade with the western traders that have been responsible in many ways for the first row of invasions by the westerners. During the high and late Middle Ages the spice trade was mostly dominated by the Arab traders. Europe obtained its share of spice through the Arab traders. It was incurring huge loss on the part of the European traders. Especially the demand for black pepper was very high; it led the European trading vessels to find a maritime route to India. Vasco Da Gama reached India in 1498 AD. The Zamora of Calicut provided permission for trade and the Portuguese began to dominate the spice trade since the beginning of 16th century. The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch East India company and finally The British established its dominance in 1795.The Portuguese, the Dutch and British legacy can be witnessed in various parts of Kerala in the forms of palaces, forts, culture and cuisine.

On 1st November 1956, the state of Kerala was formed, amalgamating the British dominion and princely states by the State Re-organization Act.

This colorful and variegated history had left its mark on the land and it is to be observed at some of the most popular heritage sites of Kerala stated below.

Most Popular Heritage Sites of Kerala

Pallakad Fort:

Built by Haider Ali of Mysore who captured the northern part of Kerala in 18th century .This fort is also known as Tipu Sultan's fort named after the son of Haider Ali. It was later annexed by British dominion after the fall of Tipu Sultan. Pallakad fort is situated at the heart of Palghat region.

Napier Museum:

Without this unique museum of historical artifacts no discussion regarding most popular heritage sites of Kerala can begin. A very beautiful example of natural air-conditioning system, Napier museum was built in the 19th century. It is a place where the history of Kerala comes alive by the artifacts preserved for all to see-the bronze idols, the chariots , exquisitely carved ancient ornaments, ivory carvings makes this place a memorable visit. Visitors of Kerala must always try to visit this place once.

Koyikkal Palace:

This palace is situated 18th km form Thiruvanathapuram, near Ponmudi hill station. This grand building was built in 15th century and an excellent example of royal grandeur. Tourists going to Kuttalam waterfall must stop here to experience the prosperity that was inherent in the past of Kerala.

Koder House:

Kerala among other lineages of traditions and heritage boasts off a great Jewish lineage also and among many of the most popular heritage sites of Kerala that bear the witness of this rich tradition Koder House is the most important place to visit. It was built by the Jewish patriarch Samuel Koder in 1808. Koder was related to the famous Cochin Electric factory. It is a fine specimen of Indo-European style that was typical of the architecture of Cochin. The sophistication of the Jewish life style is reflected in the furniture and decorations of the house.

Jewish Synagogue:

This is a formidable structure, impressive and artistic, full of exquisite decoration built in 1568 by the Jewish settlers from Mattenchery. They had been expelled from Rahabi. The tiles were brought from special Chinese designers depicting hand painted willow patterns. The clock tower is a reminder of Jewish architecture.

Krishna Menon Museum:

Named after the world famous intellectual, this museum is 5km from Kozhikode and situated in the East Hill. It is the place which is considered the treasure trove of knowledge. Many rare books are found in this museum. The heritage of the sub continent, especially the history of Kerala is best represented and retained in the ideas reflected in this museum.

KIrtad museum:

If we are drawn here to go into the depth of Kerala's history through historical artifacts, sculptures and architectural heritages then aboriginal and indigenous people of the state and their live traditions that date back to thousands of years must find a special place in our consideration and this museum is the most important witness of indigenous traditions and art among the most popular heritage sites of Kerala. An abbreviated form of Kerala Institute of Research and Development of Scheduled tribes and Caste is dedicated to the indigenous population of the state. The tribal culture has their root in the pre-Aryan background that flourished from the pre-historic time and still has their flag bearers in the form of prevalent tribes still thriving in the state .This ethnological museum of Kerala reflects the history of the tribal people. The material as well as the spiritual heritage of the indigenous population is well documented in these museums. One finds the bow and arrows of many sizes, the tribal ornaments, the potteries, the utensils, the craftsmanship and the artistic aspirations of the tribal people. The indigenous artifacts never fail to enchant one who has some curiosity about this other way of life.

St Angelo Fort:

This massive fort is also known as Kunnar fort. A formidable triangular lateritic structure is an imposing sight in the background of clear endless sky. Many moats and bastions adorns the building and is an exposure of the might of the rulers.

Pazhassiraja Museum:

Found in the midst of Kozikode, this museum has a very rich collection of artifacts. The mural paintings are worth seeing. The coins found here dates back to beginning of Christian era. Miniatures are fine specimen of craftsmanship.

Thallassery Fort:

This fort is 20 km away Kannur. It was a stronghold of the British people, a military centre of respectable size and built in 1708. Each stone of the fort bespeaks of the might of the erstwhile rulers and the British architecture and design is observed.

Ambalasvayal Museum:

The evidence of advanced civilizations that developed in Kerala during the 2nd century AD is well documented in this museum. It is a heritage museum reflecting the sources of the complex cultural structure of Kerala. The artifacts preserved are one of the largest collections in the state. It is amazing to observe the richness of the history of the region. Situated in Wayanad, it is easily reachable by road.

Archeological Museum:

This building is often cherished as an archeological delight; the architecture is unique. This is comparatively recently built and accommodated in the Trissur town hall. Archeological museum has a commendable collection of items representing the history of this richly adorned state.

Bastion Bungalow:

It was built in a hybrid indo-European style in 1667 AD by the Dutch archetects.This place is replete with Dutch items and artifacts - the Dutch culture that has left its mark in the history of the place. It was an Old Dutch fort and anyone interested in Dutch culture how it influenced the synthesis that made this assimilation possible. It got its name from Stromberg Bastion.

Bekal Fort:

This fort and its adjoining sea beach is one of the tourist attractions and hugely popular in respect of regular tourist turnouts. This is also the largest fort under the care of the Archeological survey and it has been transformed into a tourist complex. The old meets the new where the spectacular sights of history can be relived while enjoying all the modern amenities of the modern era.

Bulgotty Palace:

Kerala among many historical heritage sites belonging to different western or European traditions can boast off its rich Dutch heritage that dates back to era of spice trade long ago and this beautiful palace is truly a witness to that history and is a very special one among the most popular heritage sites of Kerala. This is a relic of Dutch heritage, built in 1744 on an island in the Arabian Sea offshore Cochin. You can reach this place via Ernakulum. The Governors of the Dutch East India Company used to live in this palace which was later taken over by the English residents. Both Dutch and English artifacts are well preserved in this palace anyone interested in the European contribution to the culture of the state should visit this place.

Bishop's House:

Bishop's house is the home of the oldest Catholic Dioceses in India. Located near the Parade ground, Fort Kochi is one of the most visited and most popular heritage sites of Kerala. The Portuguese built it in 1506 AD. The Portuguese history in Kerala is well documented in this place.

Anchunthengu Fort:

Situated near the capital city, Thiruvanathapuram, it is a relic of pure British architecture. This form is the oldest and major trading centre of the British in the Malabar Coast. The adjoining cemetery reminds one of the grandeur and desolation of death. The fort is strongly built.

Bay Island Driftwood museum:

If you have knack for wood curvings and other exquisite artistic marvels from historical eras this one is the best among the most popular heritage sites of Kerala. A dynamic lady teacher used to collect the driftwoods while she was working at Andaman and Nicobar Island. She was the fascinated by the intriguing shapes the small and resilient pieces of roots and stems that had drifted across the seas and became tough and durable by withstanding erosion and attrition. She started giving shapes to the woods and that collection is preserved at the Bay Island driftwood museum. Located amidst the quiet and green Kumarakom village the collections at the Bay Island Driftwood museum is truly an artist's paradise. The art connoisseurs and dilatants often visit here to observe the pieces of wood transformed by deft hand into pieces of modern art. The woods were crafted with fierce dedication and great artistic sense that is reflected in each and every piece of artworks exhibited in the Bay Island driftwood museum.

Tea museum:

The exquisite and rich heritage of tea making and delicacies and aroma of diverse range of leaves are something that make tea lovers from all over the world turn to this museum and unquestionably for many people, especially for the tea lovers it is truly an exquisite place and one simply cannot leave this place from the enumeration of most popular heritage sites of Kerala. Built by Tata tea in the Nallathanni tea estate in Munnar, this heritage site showcases the history of the tea cultivation and the technologies of the tea industries that have developed over time. There are displays of rare photographs and samples of machineries used at different times. From the rollers used in the earlier times to the fully automated tea processing machines are displayed in the museums. The tea lovers and curious visitor would revel at the sight and sophistications by which this world conquering leaf is taken care of before they are served to us in cups. Anyone visiting Munnar should visit this museum to cherish this experience and sight.

Thakur House:

It was earlier called Kunal house or Hill bungalow, Thakur house bespeaks of the ambience of the bygone colonial era. The heavy furniture, the big and airy rooms, the natural breeze from the sea making it a cool place to relax your nerves really can make you grateful to this place for a great vacation. It faces the sea and one of the seven bastions built by the Dutch. The sand and the sea and the memories of the centuries left behind gives one a feeling of nostalgia over the romanticisms of the British era.

Shree Charta Art Gallery:

Situated inside the Napier Museum, Shree Chitra Art Gallery can boast of a fine collection of the greatest painter of Kerala, Raja Ravi Verma. He was a painter realistic style and his portrait of the members of the royal families, important personages of his times are so plastic and life like that one gets into the past itself simply by gazing at the paintings. There are paintings of Svetlova, Reorich among other notable painters. The traditional art schools of north and south India, the Rajasthan art school, Tanjore art school, and the Bengali school that has emerged in the earlier part of the twentieth century - all are well displayed at this museum.

Vasco House:

Believed to have been the residence the first European to set foot on Kerala, this is one of the oldest specimens of Portuguese architecture. It is quite probable that Vasco Da Gama himself built this house and one gets an idea of the life style of the first European settlers by visiting this place. It was most probably built in the sixteenth century and near to Fort Cochin.

Maritime Museum:

The naval forces of the rulers of Kerala had always been strong as the long coastline offered a formidable challenge to the security of the erstwhile kingdoms. The history of this evolution of Navy is well preserved in this museum from Marakers to the present days. Situated in Kochi this maritime museum offers a fair glimpse of the naval strength of the country at this present moment. It is located in INS Dronacharya in Kochi; Maritime museum should be visited by one and all.

Mannadi:

It is 13 km from Adoor, this place reminds one of the great Veluthampi Dalawa, and once a Diwan of the erstwhile Travancore who lived his last days and faced his sad demise in this house. He led a small uprising against the British and said to have committed suicide instead of surrendering before the opponents. A memorial has been erected in his memory as this old freedom fighter is greatly revered by the local people.

Krishnapuram Palace:

This is another place with great artistic traditions in full display among the most popular heritage sites of Kerala It was built in the 18th century by Muthanda Verma; this palace is a repository of architectural details and unique designs of Kerala. It is about 50 km from Alapazzu and the visitors often stop en route to Kollam. The palace was surrounded by beautiful garden and it has recently been adorned by Buddha Mandapam. Antique bronze collections are an important attraction of this lace along with rare sculptures and exclusive paintings. The architectural pattern has a unique stamp as working in the miniature where every inch is richly decorated.

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