Thanks to the Palakkad Gap, a 32km wide pass through the Western Ghats, Palakkad is
Thanks to the Palakkad Gap, a 32km wide pass through the Western Ghats, Palakkad isknown as the Gateway to Kerala. The Palakkad Town is also known as the land of the Palmyra Trees, which are an intricate part of Kerala’s image. Palakkad cannot be easily defined; no label fits and no description is precise. It is a town that would rather be a village, making way for chariots during festivals and processions like little villages might, brightening up each morning as the sunlight falls on its golden paddy fields. But it is also a village that wants to be a town, with air-conditioned restaurants, faux amusement parks and local cable channels that cover everything from school sports to dirty streets.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Tipu’s Fort, sometimes called the Palakkad Fort, is integral to the city. Since its construction in 1766 by Haidar Ali, it has served as a kind of motif of Palakkad. It rises just a little above the rest of the city, offering a picture of sombre dignity. Its strong, solid laterite walls and peaceful moat speak of its rather violent history. Although it was built with the intention of improving communications between opposite sides of the Western Ghats, it was attacked and eventually captured by the British. Now, the Archaeological Survey of India preserves it within landscaped gardens, with paved walkways, an open-air auditorium and a small museum.
Entry Free Timings 8:00am–6.00pm
The main deity at the Vadakkanthara Temple is Bhagavathi, an incarnation of Kannagi, the heroine of the Tamil epic Silappatikaram, who is an incarnation of Parvati. This temple has some interesting and unusual customs, the most notable of which is that every day at 6.00am and 6.00pm, 101 crackers are burst within the temple complex, as a motif for driving away evil spirits. Most rituals performed here are connected with driving away negative influences:
Timings 4.30am–12.00pm & 4.30– 8.30pm Tel 0491-2500229
The Manapullikavu Temple is believed to be an ancient temple constructed on the banks of the Bharatapuzha River. The main deity here is the Bhadrakaali version of the goddess, also thought to be a female incarnation of Paramashiva.
Legend has it that the goddess came here to protect the temple from an asura called Neelan, and upon defeating him, she showered all her devotees with prosperity and love. Even now, it is believed that the goddess protects her devotees from evil and grants them all their wishes and desires.
Timings 6.00–10.30am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays & 6.00–11.30am on Sundays, Tuesdays & Fridays, 5.00–7.00pm Pooja Timings 6.00–9.45am
Jain Temple, Jainmedu
This temple, on the Kalpathi River, is believed to have been built about 500 years ago. Many idols are housed here in different divisions of the temple including those of Chandranathan, Vijayalakshmi, Jwalamohini, Rishabh-anathan, Parswanathan and Padmavathi. There is a marked aura of austerity about the place, no less emphasised by the unadorned nature of the main alter, only brightened by lamps, and the granite walls devoid of decoration.
Timings 7.00–10.30am & 5.00–7.00pm
Tip This temple is not treated like a tourist destination, and the caretakers of this temple, who live within the compound, will need to be alerted so that they can let travellers in
This is a relatively small, yet impressively built, Shiva Temple. Modelled after the Kashi Vishwanathaswamy Temple of Banaras, this temple building dates back to 1425. It has an imposing kodimaram, or flagpole on which the temple banner flies during the Kalpathi Ther, a chariot festival usually held in November, wherein all temples in the area participate. Traffic comes to a halt during this time. Streets are lined with stalls selling knick-knacks, and people praying and shopping with equal enthusiasm.
Timings 5.00–10.00am & 5.00–8.00pm
The Kumarapuram Temple was once a major centre of Vedic learning. The main deity here is Prasanna Venkatachala-pathy, who is flanked by his consorts, Alamelu and Mangalambal.
Timings 6.00–11.00am & 5.00–7.00pm
The Agraharams of Palakkad
Legends say that a prince of the royal dynasty of Kochi fell in love with a tribal girl and was ostracised for his relationship. He decided to leave his family and settled down in the area to set up the royal dynasty of Palakkad. The Namboodiri Brahmins in the region, who wanted no part in officiating the ceremonies of an ex-communicated prince, left the area. The Palakkad kings sought the help of Brahmins living on the other side of the Palakkad Gap, who graciously agreed. As a result, Tamil Brahmins settled down in Palakkad. The areas where they settled grew into gramams or agraharams.
Along the banks of the Kalpathi River lie the agraharams of Kumarapuram, Ramanathapuram, Ambikapuram and Chokkanathapura. Ramanathapuram (the abode of Ramanathan or Shiva) has three shrines, dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Ganesh. Around 35 families still live here following past traditions. The Vedas and shastras are orally passed down from one generation to the other.
WHERE TO STAY
Sri Chackra International (Tel: 0491- 2570901/ 06; Tariff: ₹1,600–3,700), is amongst the best. Hotel Gazala (Tel: 2546581/ 84; Tariff: ₹2,300–4,000) is amongst the nicest mid-range options.
Hotel Indraprastha (Tel: 2534641/ 47; Tariff: ₹1,700–6,000), is also a good choice. Hotel KPM Regency (Tel: 2534601/ 02; Tariff: ₹1,250–4,500) is within walking distance of most places.
Kanoos East Fort Resort (Tel: 2532507, 2526935/ 47; Tariff: ₹560–900) at Fort Maidan is a good budget hotel with 23 rooms and a restaurant. Kairali Towers (Tel: 2547174/ 77; Tariff: ₹700– 2,000) is a good option. Kapilavasthu (Tel: 2515897/ 98; Tariff: ₹775–1,800) is centrally located. Fort Palace Hotel (Tel: 2534621/ 24; Tariff: ₹1,500–3,750) has 19 rooms. ATS Residency (Tel: 2537477; Tariff: ₹2,000–5,000), with 19 rooms and a restaurant, and Hotel Ambadi (Tel: 2531244, 2532244; Tariff: ₹900–1,500) with 15 rooms, are amongst the older, well-reputed budget hotels.
WHERE TO EAT
Ashok Bhavan is undoubtedly the best place for steaming hot breakfast. The Noorjehan Hotel offers authentically prepared non-vegetarian biryanis, pathiris and mutton curries. For pure Iyer Brahmin food, Hotel Hariharaputhra is the best. Good vegetarian food and sweets can be enjoyed at Hotel Kapilavastu.
Food Fort at Joby’s Mall has Kerala, Arabic and Chinese cuisines. Royal Treat on College Road serves succulent chicken tikka. For good south Indian food, Nalanda is great.
Other good outlets that offer delicious non-vegetarian Kerala food include Malabar Fort and Hotel Ambadi. Magic Oven on Court Road has good confectio-nary and tempting specials. For good coffee, visit Indraprastha on Church Road. Also visit Rava Stores to pick up packets of gigantic rice murukkus, melt-in-the-mouth chakka varatiya (jackfruit jam), fresh and crisp tapioca and banana chips among others.
When to go September to April offers cool, pleasantly breezy weather; summers are incredibly hot, and monsoons extremely wet
District Tourism Promotion Council, West Fort Road Palakkad, Tel: 0491-2538996, W dtpcpalakkad.com
STD code 0491
Air Nearest Airports: Peelamedu Airport, Coimbatore (55km/ 1.5hrs), is connected to Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune. Less frequent flights connect it with Kochi. Prepaid taxi (Cell: 09976494000) to Palakkad will cost approximately ₹1,700. Palakkad is also close to Kochi’s Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery (115km/ 2.5hrs), which is connected with most cities in the country. Prepaid taxis (Tel: 0484-2610115, extn: 2107) to Palakkad will cost between ₹2,650 and ₹2,950
Rail Nearest Railhead: Palghat Station is connected by the Amritha and Kerala Expresses to the capital Thiruvananthapuram. These also serve Ernakulam which has daiy connections to Palakkad. The Kanyakumari Express serves Bengaluru and the Alleppey Express serves Chennai
Road Palakkad is on NH47, which links Salem to Kanyakumari via Coimbatore, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Thiruvan-anthapuram and Kollam. Additionally, NH213 links Palakkad to Kozhikode on NH17 via Mannarkkad, Perinthalmanna and Malappuram Bus Palakkad’s KSRTC Bus Stand (Tel: 0491-2527298) on the Shoranur Road has daily services from Thrissur, Kochi, Kozhikode, Bengaluru among others