THIRUVANANTHAPURAM – the Capital City of Kerala
Thiru Anantha Puram retains its past glory of the capital of a princely state. The capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) or Syanandoorapuri is built on hills with wide open spaces, sports stadium and low-lying paddy fields. Thiruvananthapuram is linked by flight to Kochi, Chennai (Madras) and Mumbai (Bombay), international flights are being operated to Colombo, Maldives and Gulf countries. The district is also connected by road and rail with Chennai and Kochi.
Thiruvananthapuram city and several other places in the district loom large in ancient tradition, folklore and literature. South Kerala, particularly the
Thiruvananthapuram district, had in the early past a political and cultural history which was in some respect independent of that of the rest of Kerala.
In 1684, during the regency of Umayamma Rani, the English East India Company obtained a sandy spit of land at Anchuthengu (Anjengo) on the sea coast about 32 kms north of Thiruvananthapuram city, with a view to erecting a factory and fortifying it. The place had earlier been frequented by the Portuguese and later by the Dutch. It was from here that the English gradually extended their domain to other parts of Thiruvithamcore (Travancore).
Modern history begins with Marthanda Varma, who is generally regarded as the Father of modern Travancore (1729-1758 AD). Thiruvananthapuram was known as a great centre of intellectual and artistic activities in those days. The accession of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal (1829-1847 AD) ushered in an epoch of cultural progress and economic prosperity.
The beginning of English education was made in 1834 by opening an English school at Thiruvananthapuram. In 1836, an observatory and a charity hospital were established at Thiruvananthapuram. During the reign of Ayilyam Thirunal (1860-1880), a fully equipped Arts College was started besides the several English, Malayalam and Tamil schools. A large hospital with a lying-in-hospital and a lunatic asylum was also established. In 1873, the University College was opened. It was during the reign of Sri Moolam Thirunal (1885-1924), that the Sanskrit College, Ayurveda College, Law College and a second grade College for Women were started at Thiruvananthapuram. A department for the preservation and publication of oriental manuscripts was also established. One of the significant measures associated with Shri Moolam Thirunal’s reign was the inauguration of the Legislative Council in 1888. This was the first legislative chamber, instituted in an Indian State.
In 1904, the Shri Moolam Assembly came into being. The activities of the Indian National Congress echoed in Thiruvananthapuram and other parts of Kerala during the reign of Shri Moolam Thirunal. In 1938, a political conference of the Congress was held in the city under the presidency of Dr. Pattabi Sitaramaiah. The period of Maharaja Shri Chithira Thirunal Bala Rama Varma who took the reigns of administration in 1931, witnessed many-sided progress. The promulgation of the Temple Entry Proclamation (1936) was an act that underlined social emancipation. In 1937, a separate University for Travancore was started. This was later redesigned as University of Kerala, following the formation of Kerala State in 1956.
With the accession of Travancore to the Indian Union after Independence, the policy of the State Government as well as the political atmosphere underwent radical changes. The first popular ministry headed by Sri.Pattom A.Thanu Pillai was installed in office on 24th March, 1948. Consequent on the recommendations of the State Reorganisation Commission, the four southern taluks of Thovala, Agasheeswaram, Kalkulam and Vilavancode were merged with Tamil Nadu. The State of Kerala came into being on November 1, 1956.
Thiruvananthapuram, the southern most district of Kerala State is situated between north latitudes and and east longitudes and the southern most extremity, Parasala, is only 56 kms away from Kanyakumari, the “lands end of India”. The district stretches along the shores of the Arabian sea for a distance of 78 kms. Kollam district is on the north and Thirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu are on the east and the south respectively. The district can be divided into three geographical regions-highlands, midlands and lowlands. Chirayinkeezhu and Thiruvananthapuram taluks lie in midland and low land regions, while Nedumangad taluk lies in midland and highland regions and Neyyattinkara taluk stretch over all the three regions. The highland region comprises mainly of mountains. Bounded on the east and northeast by the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, this area is ideal for major cash crop plantations like rubber, tea, cardamom and other spices. Timber trees like teak, rose wood, etc. are grown in this region. The midland region, lying between the Western Ghats and the lowlands, is made up of small and tiny hills and valleys. This is an area of intense agricultural activity. This region is rich in produces like paddy, tapioca, spices and cashew. The low land is comparatively narrow and comprises of rivers, deltas and seashore and is densely covered with coconut palms. The Ghats maintain an average elevation of 814 meters rising to peaks of 1219 to 1829 meters in certain places. The Agastyarkoodam, the southern most peak in the Ghats, is 1869 meters above sea level and figures in the popular mythology connected with Agastyamuni, the sage. Mukkunnimala near Thiruvananthapuram (1074 meters) is an important health resort in the district.
Many important cultural institutions universities and libraries are located in the Thiruvananthapuram city itself. The museum complex consisting of the art and natural history museums. Art Gallery and the Zoological and Botanical gardens are prominent among them. The complex is situated on a beautifully landscaped 80-acre plot in the heart of the city.
About 13 Kms. south of Thiruvananthapuram city is located one of the best bathing bays in the world – Kovalam, where a sheltered beach and a shallow sea offer excellent bathing facilities. The scenery around the place is enchanting. Even a casual visitor to the state will not fail to observe the peculiar ecological patterns of Kerala as soon as he tours some distance in the state.
About 56 Kms. north east of Thiruvananthapuram city is Ponmudi, one of the important hill stations in Kerala. It has a height of over 900 metres above sea level. The Tourist Bungalow at Ponmudi offers quiet and delightful accommodation and good cuisine.
Neyyar Reservoir is a scenic picnic spot, 32 Kms south east of Thiruvananthapuram city. About nine sq.Kms. in area the reservoir offers excellent boating facilities. A wild life sanctuary is also coming up here. The forests around the reservoir are the adode of elephants. On the upper reaches of the Neyyar Reservoir there are two magnificent waterfalls. A trek of two Kms. through dense forests, one would reach Meenmutty waterfalls and after two Kms. the Kombaikani waterfalls.
Thiruvananthapuram city gets its water supply from Aruvikkara, 16 Kms. north-east of the city. The reservoir and garden here are good picnic spots for visitors. The small temple on the stream’s edge attracts large number of devotees.
On the drive from Thiruvananthapuram International airport to Thumba (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre) is the Veli lagoon.
The famous Hindu pilgrim centre, Varkala is 48 Kms. north of Thiruvananthapuram. The place is noted for its mineral springs that gush out of the towering cliffs.
Situated 40 Kms, north of Thiruvananthapuram along the sea cost, Anjuthengu (Anjengo) is a place of historic importance. It was here that the first
settlement of the English East India Company was established in 1864 A.D. According to the local folk, the limited area where five coconut palms stood (Anjuthengu – Anjengo) was given on lease to the company by the then ruling prince of Travancore for trade purposes. The remains of the old English Fort which had withstood many a siege can be seen here even now.
About 1869 metres above sea level Agasthyaarkudam is a prominent peak of the Western Ghats. A pilgrim centre of the Hindus, tradition says that the
great sage Agastya had his abode in this peak. The place is also noted for its abundant Ayurvedic herbs.