History in Varkala

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54 kilometers from Kerela’s capital city of Thiruvananthapuram lies the quiet and secluded beach of Varkala, which is rich in Varkala history.

Besides being known for its extensive sandy beach, Varkala is popular for its historical background with vacationers who are looking for something more than the typical beach holiday. There are a number of temples to visit here, where history will come alive in front of your eyes.

Major Port

Varkala had been a major port during the Sangha era. It used to go by the name "Balitha" at this time, and references to this port have been spotted in some of the old Malayalam classics such as the Brahmanda Puranam and, interestingly, in Ptolemy’s Periplus.

Varkala in erstwhile times

During the pre-independence days on India, before 1947, Varkala was actually a part of the state of Travancore. But when the state of Kerala was formed in 1956, Varkala then became a part of Kerala. According to Hindu mythology, it is said that a group of pilgrims had approached the saint Narada to confess their sins, after which Narada threw a cloth made out of a tree bark and it happened to land at a place near the sea shore. He instructed the pilgrims to offer their prayers here. This place then came to be known as Papanasam, and as the years went by, the town came to be known as Varkala.

Janardana Swami Temple

Janardana Swami Temple is famous in Varkala, as it has existed for over 900 years. This temple is associated with the Vaishnavaite sect in Hinduism, and thus sees multitudes of pilgrims visiting annually. Also known as Dakshin Kashi, literally translated as the "Benares of the South," this temple is located near the Papnasam beach. Incidentally, the sacred waters of this beach are said to wash away ones sins. Janardana Swami Temple houses an ancient bell that was once recovered from a Dutch shipwreck that sank near Varkala. the bell was donated to the temple by the ship’s captain.

Varkala’s Tunnel

Varkala houses a now dilapidated tunnel known as the Varkala Tunnel, which is a part of the TS Canal (Trivandrum-Shoranur Canal). This canal was commissioned in stages under the three erstwhile states of Madras, Cochin and Travancore sometime during the 18th and 19th centuries. This waterway was of huge importance during India’s pre-independence times before 1947.

April 05, 2010 change by beverly_per

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