Gods own country – Kumarakom

We had just set foot in God’s own country, in search of that elusive stuff called peace. It had rained just then. The sheer collage of colors blinded us – a natural mosaic of greens, yellows and browns which merged into a beautiful pattern. Even the muddy roads seemed picturesque. A narrow creek appeared out of nowhere .. We took a small detour and followed the stream , driving through the muddy road , cutting through the foliage, until we saw the board. Tharavadu Heritage Home, Since 1870. We were in Kumarakom, a small island carved out of the backwaters .

The common portico comes with arch shaped entrances as they open into various rooms There are currently eight rooms only and more are on their way. Some rooms open into their own private verandahs opening into the garden The teak furniture is mostly antique and intricate designs can be seen in all of them .The house smacks of an ancient charm, especially the dusty wooden staircase which is being renovated. An underground storage area, which has been closed now, ends near the reception, says the host.

We had decided on Kumarakom after much deliberation. We had wanted an authentic experience of Kerala, with dollops of nature thrown in, spiced with a bit of local culture and topped with luxury. With just three days on hand and a shoe-string budget, we opted to go in for a home-stay – to get a taste of Malabar heritage and hospitality and to experience the backwaters, floating in a Kettuvellam ,with the water hyacinths for company. Our choice was the Tharavadu Heritage Home, a 135 year old “Mallika “ built in the Syrian Christian style.

The verdant greenery was all enveloping as we entered the portals of this heritage house. The creek which had guided us flowed into a river scattered with lotuses . A school bell rang close by ; devotees emerged out of a temple located on its bank. We munched our breakfast , taking in the scene . It was a lazy day, as birds gnawed on the grains and coconut shells were sun dried in the courtyard or the ‘koprakalam’ .

We explored the three acre property which boasts of a heritage preserved over the last century. We went past the dining hall which overlooks the river and interrupted a group of geese playing in a pool. Stepping over logs of wood , we crossed over to the bank , where some boats were slumbering . There are three magnificent structures here with ornate wooden work, that speaks volumes of a bygone era Our host, Kencee George points to an etching on the brick red tiles that adorn the sloping roof which reads 1870 and the name , M C Chandy, the grandfather of the current owner, Joseph John. The home stay is now jointly promoted by the duo . The sloping roof and terracotta floor have been retained , while the rooms have been renovated to suit all modern requirements.

The architecture tour ended in a sumptuous meal, replete with all the traditional food, soaked in the deliciously rich coconut oil. A trip to Kerala is never complete without a touch of ayurveda. As we treated our frayed nerves and tired muscles, we succumbed to indulgence . Before we knew it, a day just went past us as we launched into sight seeing and it was time for us to shift our abode. And this time, we literally floated around.

A spacious double bedroom kettuvellam or the traditional rice barge was waiting for us on the narrow creek with her crew on board . This was an extension of the hospitality that The Tharavadu Heritage Home offers to make your holiday special . The houseboat completely charmed us , and it came with a living room , an open lounge, a kitchenette and a personal bathroom attached to our bedroom. The thatched windows soon opened out into the Vembadand Lake and the canvas came alive-an endless expanse of blues, with tinges of green and browns.

As we started sailing towards Alappuzha, we crossed several clusters of islands and farms separated by a labyrinth of brooks, streams and lagoons. The inclined coconut trees interrupted the landscape as we found ourselves flanked by lush greenery on either side. Several tourists and locals sailed past us in their barges and canoes, taking in the moment.
It was one heady mix of beauty and peace. Occasionally the birds broke the silence , feasting on the paddy fields submerged in water. We paused for lunch in an idyllic island, sipping in the natural flavor of toddy . Our next port of halt was the bird sanctuary on the enchanting island called ‘Pathiramanal‘, home to several migratory birds such as Siberian cranes, teal, egrets, heron and the water duck.

We ensued our journey watching the lake turn several hues. The sunlight streamed in, creating patterns, a flight of birds flocked in the horizon, a lone oarsman slowly rowed his way through , leaved a hard day’s work behind him … it was like a moment captured in eternity . As the night closed in on us like a thick blanket that shrouded everything, I collected my thoughts of the day. My journey had not yet ended … but I think we found what we were looking for.

Getting there
You need to reach Cochin by air or train and then drive or ferry down to Alleppy or Kottayam.Kumarakom is just a stone’s throw from there and you should ideally ferry down from there . We took a train from Chennai to Kottayam and drove down to Kumarakom. We later sailed from kumarakom to allepy and back(22 hours) in the houseboat


  • Nandan says:

    22 hours of sailing. Beautiful pics and this read like a single malt, seems the impact of those serene shots had made this smoother. I am sure I am going to read this few more times.

    By the way, just a trivia query, How old was Mr. John. For his grand-pa to be in 1870, he would need to be a very senior guy. Typically 30 odd years is what separately two generations.

  • backpakker says:

    I think Kenzee is now the current promoter.Never occured to me to check with him – he told me the history :) Now that you ask, I must write to him and check this out

  • backpakker says:

    Ok ..here are the facts – straight from the horses mouth –
    The homestay is dated 1870 . It is that old ! When MC Chandy inherited it , he built the main building and he was 16 then ! He is the grandfather of the owner – Joseph John and I just spoke to his wife who narrated this to me…Kenzee is his cousin who is helping him promote it . Its a great place

  • Manish khamesra says:

    Yet another Beautiful post from you.

  • Gread wall says:

    nice travel .
    The houseboat completely charmed us , and it came with a living room , an open lounge, a kitchenette and a personal bathroom attached to our bedroom.

  • Baby says:

    Never occured to me to check with him – he told me the history .

  • manish khamesra says:

    We took backwater trip from Kottyam to Alleppy in Jan 2006. At that time my guide book suggested Kumarakom and it was written that there you can find many varieties of the bird. When we interacted with locals, most of them didn’t appreciated it much. The impression I got was that the backwaters are not so clean there, chalo anyway I am able to visit it with you.

    So you are able to write about Kerla before me, I am envious, its the same professional rivalry. Another bad part is that you raise the bar of writing and readers expectations from others so much that its difficult to meet :)

    BTW you have not written the price of the package. I think that information too will help. Though I know that it varies according to the season.

  • Celine says:

    I reached here after reading Manish’s post on Backwaters from Kottayam to Allepey. Your photographs here do not look your usual best.

    A very well written post Lakshmi. Your choice of words make it sound as if we were with you, experiencing it all. :)

  • backpakker says:

    thanks celine..I try to write better when photographs dont support me :) the pics are scanned and hence the quality..its three years ago and I was just another tourist then :)


  • backpakker says:

    Manish – Good to see your post now and the comment makes more sense.waters in Kumarakom are not dirty..I dont know why the locals deterred you..but the place is expensive..I got a very good deal as my entire trip for a couple costed me around 10 K ..though this is not a benchmark really..it was also off season and I stayed in a homestay in Kumarakom who organised this package

  • Kumarakom is really a place with stunning beauty. Though it’s known more for backwaters but it’s also a prominent place for bird watching. Expensive but good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *