Varkkala wears two hats: one is that of a seaside tourist resort and spa and the other, completely opposite, is that of a Hindu religious centre
To begin, there is the quiet stretch of white sandy beach, the Papanasam Beach. Myth has it that the sage Narada was approached by a group of sadhus who told him that they had sinned. In anger, Narada threw his valkkalam, the loin cloth made from the bark of trees, into the air. The place where it landed was Varkkala. Narada then told the sinners to pray at a place near the seashore. That came to be known as the Papanasam Beach. The added attractions are the mineral springs and rocky cliffs. Varkkala is worth taking a look for it is out of the ordinary. It is so peaceful that no one would bother disturbing you when you watch the sun set into the sea.
The Sivagiri Hill, near the beach also happens to be the final resting place of a great social reformer of Kerala, Sree Narayana Guru. Nearby are the high cliffs and the mineral springs. Varkkala is home to the 800-year old Janardhana temple, dedicated to Ayyappan and Hanuman. Non-Hindus are not permitted to enter the inner sanctum but can look around the temple.
Reaching Varkkala: The nearest airport is Trivandrum, 50 km away. Varkkala has rail connection but not all trains stop here and the best place to get off is at Quilon, the nearest major railway head. Varkkala is accessible by road.
According to a myth, sage Narada was approached by a group of mendicants who confessed to having sinned. Narada threw his valkkalam (the bark of tree which the mythical sages used to wear) into the air, and the place where it landed was subsequently named Varkkala. The mendicants were directed by Narada to offer their prayers in the newly created place by the seashore. The place where they prayed for redemption came to be known as the Papanasam Beach ('Papanasam' means redemption from sins).
Ernakulam district is located on the coast of the Arabian Sea, is a cluster of islands networked by lagoons and backwaters. Kochi, one of the finest natural harbors in the world, was once a major center of commerce and trade with the Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and the British. All these foreign traders have left their mark on this beautiful island. Half the fun of visiting Kochi is moving around on the local ferries. A conducted cruise through the winding waterways will take you to several quaint spots.
This palm-green commercial town of Kerala is one of the finest natural harbors in the world from where ships set sail for foreign ports with different products of Kerala, like seafood, pepper, rubber and coir. Across the bridge into the old city, there are bastions and streets built by the Portuguese over 500 years ago. It was here in St. Francis Church that the body of Vasco Da Gamma was originally buried. The enormous fishing nets on the sea front of Cochin provide a charming view.
Sightseeing at Ernakulam-
Bolghatty Palace: This Dutch palace is situated on the Bolghatty island. At present it is being used as hotel. The island has a fine golf course and the panoramic view makes it an attractive picnic spot. Frequent boat service is available from the mainland.
Chinese Fishing Nets: The Chinese fishing nets found here are the only ones of its kind in India. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets here.
Dutch Palace: The Dutch Palace was originally built by the Portuguese. Later, in 17th century, the Dutch modified it and presented to the Raja of Kochi. Coronation of many Rajas of Kochi was held here. The place has a fine collection of mural paintings depicting the scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Fort Kochi beach: A stroll along the beach, particularly at sunset with the Chinese fishing nets and sailing ships in the background, is a fine experience. Many European style bungalows can be seen along the shoreline.
Jewish Synagogue: The synagogue, magnificently decorated by Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers, was built in 1568. Giant scrolls of the Old Testament can be found here. It is located near the Dutch Palace.
St. Francis Church: It is the oldest church built by European in India. On his 3rd visit to Kerala, Vasco da Gamma, the Portuguese trader who reached India from Europe by sea, fell ill and died in Kochi. He was buried in the St. Francis Church. Later his remains were taken back to Portugal. In spite of that the exact place where he was buried has been marked out inside the church