Sunday, March 19, 2017

Muziris Heritage Tour - A cruise through Kerala's ancient spice route

Muziris an abbreviation for Muchiri Pattanam is an ancient port town in Kerala, India. Stretched between North Paravur in Ernakulam district and Thrissur, Muziris shores played a vital role as a centre to trade and commerce for black pepper or ‘black gold’ in exchange for gold coins, wine and wheat. History says that 31 countries in Europe, Asia and Far East had trade with Muziris in the first century of BC.

Sadly, in 1341 AD, Muziris was hit by a flood that devastated the port and the spice route was destroyed. After Kerala Council for Historical Research's initiative to rediscover Muziris, Kerala tourism launched Muziris Heritage Project to revive the lost city.

You can enjoy hop-on hop-off boat service which takes you to various places in the erstwhile Muziris region. The boats are fully air-conditioned, which can accommodate about 25 passengers. The trip starts at 10 AM and ends at around 6 PM.

This is first time am traveling in a boat to visit different places.  So for me it was pretty exciting and interesting. The boat was, by my reckoning, very comfortable and far more luxurious than I imagined.

Kerala Jews History Museum (Paravur Synagogue)

Before starting your boat journey, you can first visit the  Paravur Synagoue which is at a  walkable distance from the boat jetty. There are large and small Jewish synagogues in this region.  Among the still existing synagogues, the Paravur synagogue boasts of a long-standing tradition.

Jewish Calendar

After crossing the main gate, you can watch Jewish calendar placed beside  the main door. Deciphering the numeric sums encoded in the Jewish stone incriptions is a science and an art in itself. The Jewish calendar commences with the Cosmic Creation, believed to have occured 3760 years prior to the Christian calendar. It is notable that every alphabet in the Hebrew script has an assigned value; this too is taken into consideration while reckoning dates.

A New Bema

The pedestal from where the Torah recital is conducted is called the 'Bema'. The Bema that is now seen in the Paravur synagogue is a careful reconstruction of the Old Bema. The first one was dismantled and taken away to Israel when the worship at this synagogue ceased, it is in the Israel Museum,Jerusalem.

Currently, there are less than fifty Jews residing in Kerala. Nowadays there is no Torah recital  because of less number Jewish men. It is said that atleast 10 Jewish men are required for  Torah recital.

Facing Jerusalem

The Ark is the wooden container in which the Jewish Torah is safely kept; it is also known as the 'Hekel'. This is fixed onto the wall of the synagogue.The traditional custom demands that this installation  be done in such a way that the Ark is as close as possible to Jerusalem, the Jewish holy city. At the very least, the place/spot where the Ark is mounted should be facing Jerusalem.

Architectural wonder

Paravur synagogue is an architectural marvel in which the different parts of the structure are linked to one another.

Also the Art works are adorned with exquisite wood-work and decorative carvings. One can easily spot the influence of Spanish and Italian architectural styles in these artifacts.

Chinese Fishing Nets

Then we began our boat journey.  Slowly the Chinese fishing nets started making an appearance withthe  beautiful backdrop of coconut palms. They look perfect , hanging from the banks and  overlooking the waters. Most of them are queued up together in bunches.  At some places, the fishing nets were parked right in the middle of the lake. It is a sight to behold.

Sahodaran Ayyappan House, Pallipuram

Soon we reached Sahodaran Ayyappan Museum jetty. This museum has a waterfront view of the River Periyar. This is the birthplace of Sahodaran Ayyappan - a renowned social reformer, thinker and administrator . The house has a traditional thatched roof (palm leaves, maintained every year).

Next to this house is another house known as 'Math' where the elder brother of Sahodaran Ayyappan - Achuthan Vydiar  lived.

Another building in the compound is a newly built Digital Library. The museum illustrates the life and work of Sahodaran Ayyappan and his movements against the Caste- Madness of the Kerala Society.

Manjumatha Church(Basilica of Our Lady of Snows), Pallipuram

Our next halt was at Manjumatha church. This church was built by the Portuguese for the believers of the surrounding area and dedicated it to Our Lady 1503.
Old Church (left), New church ( center)

There is an interesting story behind the name of the church. The name of the church was Mother Mary or Matha. Legend says that Tipu Sultan camped near Chalakkudy to attack places during his invasion in the 18th century.  The feared local people gathered in the church and prayed to Our Lady for her help. The church and its surrounding area were spread by fog and Tipu's army could not locate the church. After that incident, the church is known as  'Manjumatha church' which means ' Church of Our Lady of Snows.
inside of new church
The church was renovated in 1931 and 2006

Fishing Boats

We then traveled through the  Kollam - Kottapuram waterway. Some tourist houseboats and  fishing boats crossed our paths. Colorful fishing boats were parked on the banks, next to the lovely houses.

Fishery Harbour, Munambam

We passed through the Munambam fishing harbour which is one of the best among the nine major fishing harbours in the State.


We got  a distant view of the  Periyar river joining the Arabian sea. The water shimmerd with blue color. It is a sight to behold.

Azhikode Marthoma Church

We passed through the Azhikode Marthoma Church which comes  under the Muziris Heritage Project. I immersed myself watching the water, lush green coconut palms and  villages on the banks of the Periyar.

Kottappuram Fort

Soon we reached Kottapuram Fort jetty .  Kottappuram Fort, built by the Portuguese in 1523, played a significant role in the wars between the Zamorins of Kozhikode and the rulers of Kochi. History says that, the Dutch tried to capture the fort, following a heavy fight in which the fort was all but destroyed. Now you can see only the remains of the fort. Photography using camera is not allowed but you can use your mobile camera.

Knanaya Thomman Church is a nearby place but we skipped this place.

It was already lunch time and our lunch was arranged in a house near to Kottapuram Jetty. Lunch was arranged only for travelers of Muziris boat. After a delicious lunch, we continued our boat journey.

Soon we reached Paliam Jetty.  You have to walk some distance to reach other museums. Since it was already 2 pm and the time is not suitable for a temple visit, we skipped the Chennothrikkovu Vishnu Temple, Bhagavathi temple, and Chedamangalam  Puthiyathrikkovu Siva temple.

Paliam Kovilakom (Kerala History Museum)

Paliath Achans, the prime ministers of the king of Kochi used to live here. Photography is not allowed inside the building. On entering the Palace there is a big elephant carved in wood . The upper level houses the Palace Pooja room where various items used for pooja, like lamps, bells, conch shells are displayed. You can watch the Dutch influence in the architecture. Top of the entrance passage of the Palace is known as Prasanga Peedum, where The Paliath Achans used to address the people. The building features wooden staircases and thick walls .

Paliam Nalukettu (Kerala Lifestyle Museum)

Paliam Nalukettu's are the traditional homesteads (tharavads) where several generations of a matrilineal joint family lived together. The house has a Portico, Inner Hall, Kitchen and four blocks. It has a big courtyard at the centre with rooms surrounding it. There used to be a common dining hall and a common kitchen.

I traveled back centuries. It was a nice experience to learn the human experience of this land, through museums and monuments and you will understand the feeling of the people of those times, their sufferings and sorrows, their achievements and contribution.

If you are a fan of history and love to travel, then Muziris tour must be in your list. 

For more information, visit the web page  Muziriswebpage

Adult . Rs.550
Children: Rs.400
Senior Citizen Rs.450
Family Ticket : Rs.1500
Students: Rs.325
Foreigner: Rs.2000