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Travel with Soul to Enjoy the Pulse of Kerala
  • February 2016
  • Rajani A
A journey through, Kumarakom Village Life Experience- a Responsible Tourism initiative of Kerala - God’s Own  Country
Some masterpieces are created by man and nature together; Kumarakom is one such which has a unique position on the tourist map of Kerala in India, popularly known as  God’s Own Country. Now, responsible tourism activities, which was initiated by authorities with the support of Tourism and hospitality industry stake holders, in this tiny backwater village have acclaimed many laurels from across the globe.

An enchanting backwater destination, Kumarakom in Kerala, the southernmost state of Indian peninsula, offers a never ending experience to a traveler, from Village life experiences to  ethnic cuisine to  backwater cruise. Compared to many other Indian villages, the villages in Kerala, especially the hamlets near Vembanad Lake, one of the largest fresh water lake in the Indian Sub continent  has its maximum length and breadth near Kumarakom - about eight km. With the huge lake on one side and with a network of palm fringed calm canals running through it.

The  backwaters with shimmering water, the  mangrove forests, coconut palms , blue skies, migratory birds each and every thing plays their own role in making  the true Kumarakom, a surreal mythical land in earth. When nature is all you need to recuperate, Kumarakom is undoubtedly the most invigorating, fascinating paradise in Kerala makes a real God's own country. This place can peacefully calm and invigorate your mind with renewed inspiration for your vocation and life. That is the pristine beauty of Kumarakom.

Kumarakom, Village Life Experience (VLE) is a specially crafted program aims at an organic interaction between the visitors and the local community and thus ensures a win-win situation. In my personal view, this is an incredible experience of a lifetime to an ardent traveler, who likes nature and culture immersion simultaneously. Through this village tour, we can explore and experience the most vibrant and colorful life of an interior village, whereas the hosts, the affable community members derives pride and satisfaction in ensuring the visitors a meaningful and fun-filled time. Village Life Experience tour program is devised and packaged through the Responsible Tourism initiative promoted by the Kerala Tourism department.

A journey to the village, Kumarakom, 16 kms from  Kottayam and 76 kms from Cochin international airport,  is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake, and is part of the Kuttanad region, called the rice bowl of Kerala. Kumarakom has a moderate climate, with heavy rains during the months of June to August, due to the southwest monsoon cllouds. Winter starts from December and continues till February in Kumarakom. In summer, the temperature here rises to a maximum of 35°C and 25°C during the winters. Annual average rainfall in Kumarakom is 310 cm.

When Monsoon showers the brooks get the chance to break the shores. As part of Responsible Tourism initiative, the Kerala tourism department is organizing tour packages that enable the tourists to explore experience and enjoy the village life of Kerala. In this package travelers can spend a day in the villages of Kumarakom. The place is an abode to a wide variety of flora and fauna and has well developed agriculture and fishing practices.

“Kerala” mean “Land of coconuts”, which is derived from the lush green tree with sweet nectars of coconut and renowned as ‘God’s own country’, is a tropical stretch of greenery nestled on the coast of Arabian Sea is truly a treasure trove of coir, the goldern yarn of Kerala and the manufacturer of the World’s best coir and natural fiber. The coir extraction technique in Kerala is a craft developed, perfected and mastered through generations, with Alappuzha (or Alleppey is also known as “Venice of the East”, due to its narrow canals and waterways across the city) being the centre of coir production. A land where coir making is a way of life, Alappuzha is where the finest Coir in the World is produced, processed and woven into high-quality fiber products that are exported across the Globe.

The tradition of Kerala's coir industry is older than a  century  and the retting process is unique to the State. The  coir fiber immersed in water for several weeks before the coir making process  makes the products a much superior texture and quality when compared to the coir products manufactured elsewhere. Nowadays Kerala Tourism and Government authorities have started to promote Coir making a Tourism product to eradicate poverty in the region. Now Kerala Coir is branded as ‘Golden Yarn of Gods' Own Country.'

Kumarakom is part of erstwhile Alappuzha and the manufacturing units are meant for women, specialized in manufacturing coir and coir products. Here travellers can not only see the detailed process involved in coir making but can also see the social association which binds the women folk for their livelihood needs. Coir and coir product making involves several steps and here they  offer us to experience all the methods that are adopted for the making of coir. Thus through this rural traditional coir making unit, travelers can witness a demonstration of coir making.

As Kumarakom is a destination which is originated from back water, the life of the local inhabitants there is also strongly connected with the same.  The canals which lead to back waters too play a lead role in the mobility of ordinary people, who depends on these canals for local transportation, leisure and product movement. Canal ride in country boat is a superb experience which gives an excellent view of nature, life style, practices and village life of Kumarakom. Our journey through the magnificent backwaters begins here in the company of a lady guide. As the boat moves, the guide shows and narrates the sights from both the ends. Around 45 minutes of boat ride, we will reach Kandan Kavu, where one get to see Kumarakom’s local biodiversity and the teeming life of the local people.

Country boat is the normal transportation mode of the Kumarakom villagers and a ride in this water carriage is really a wonderful experience to any tourist.  This beautiful Palm fringed  narrow canals,  is an enchanting picnic spot which looks like mirror and this experience is truly exhilarating. This cherishing ride is not only to enjoy the nature but to see the lively community in the banks of canal and to realize how the life of local community is connected with back waters. Here we really experience and enjoy the real meaning of the motto of International Year of Sustainable Tourism for development.

Travellers can enjoy the backwater ride in traditional country boat or a canoe and reach the lakeside to see the conventional fishing with traditional fish nets. While seeing the catch, They offer us our choice for which will get cooked and served then and there. The traditional fishing is practiced in this region. Such orthodox practice receives wider attention in the present context mainly because of its adherence to ‘sustainability’ principles. Here the visitors can participate in the fish catching process if they wish so. On the way we can see another traditional fish catching method popularly called as ‘vala veeshal’. Vella veeshal has some of the remarkable methods using tender coconut leaves which are tied in ropes. Once ropes are thrown into the water we can see fishes like pearl spots coming closer to the leaves and lying upside down. Meanwhile the waiting fishermen will jump into the water and catch the fish alive and carries it to the boat.

Adults  and many Children in this tiny village spent their free time in Fishing in the traditional fishing rods with hook and nylon ropes.  If we wish to join them for a catch, they will welcome us and guide us to the best fishing spots.  

Kuttanad region is popularly known as “Rice bowl of Kerala” and local farmers will enlighten us about how Responsible tourism is benefiting the local community through organized agricultural practices. We can taste the locally grown bananas along with tender coconuts here.

Home stead - house surrounded by variety of attractions. It includes an array plants, bunch of vegetables, different flora and fauna, ornamental flowers, medicinal plants, ponds, vegetable cultivation etc. walk through this conserved area of local people which brings them livelihood and income, provides us rich experience on Kerala village.

Hotels and Resorts in Kumarakom are currently purchasing the vegetables, eggs, chicken and rice from Women Self Groups, which is formed as part of Kumarakom Responsible Tourism initiative. More than 800 families are enjoying the benefit of this local procurement. Hence a traveler can experience the power of Sustainable tourism through a responsible initiative by tourism industry and government.

“Toddy” is a local country made wine extracted from Coconut and Toddy tapping is a livelihood for many farmers and villagers in this region. The sweet extract from the coconut water is very tasty and its mild hallucination effect will enthrall any tourists who like to enjoy the local flavor. Toddy tapping is not only an attraction but an activity which we  can experience  a rhythm of  nature.  This systematic and cumbersome process of toddy tapping offers some enjoyable moments to guests.

The process of climbing the palm/coconut and tapping the toddy is an amazing view and experience. Thus letting one understand the special skills one needs to have to undertake this activity. Toddy - a sweet local drink produced through toddy tapping gives us nourished feeling. Besides this we will be revealed with the techniques of coconut tree climbing and the climber will demonstrate it for our benefit.

The most exciting and delicious part of the Village Life Experience tour in Kumarakom is the traditional lunch, named as Sadhya an elaborate Kerala meal with 11 to 20 different types of dishes of currys with rice and payasam, a typical Kerala dessert, which all served in a fresh green banana leaf. Traditional Lunch makes us feel the taste of ethnical Kerala cuisine. According to many scientific and nutrient studies, the preparation and ingredients of Kerala curries and food style is very unique and well balanced diet to the tropical climate of the region. Fresh Coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut powder and pastes are all integral part of mouth watering Kerala delicacies. Usually wood is used for fire to cook, which will give the real taste of Kerala dishes. 

Different types of traditional food varieties can be had from the canteen in the village. Here also they are served with a sumptuous lunch with boiled rice, sambar, aviyal, koottukari, pickle, papad, thoran, rasam, payasam and served on a plantain leaf,  all part of a traditional Malayali meal -  Sadhya. Tapioca and fish curry a tasteful local cuisine can be ordered here. Instead of using readymade ingredients, they use natural products in food items.

The next visual treat of the tour is the visit to Screw pine weaving unit, which is also run by Women Self Groups. Using one of the locally abundant resources the ‘screw pine’, they make amazing crafts in the form of mats, hats, bags, files, etc. To the interest and amazement of many among us, she will explain the minute details of such a wonderful traditional art with live demonstration. Screw pine weaving is interesting to observe, the art of weaving the screw pane leaves. Here you can also get an incredible opportunity to try your skills with screw pane leaf weaving.

Travelers can buy their favorites souvenirs and office stationeries likes files, pen holders etc from here. The hotels and resorts are also procuring their room stationeries from this unit and prove their responsibility towards a sustainable society. Kumarakom Village Life Experience of Kerala Tourism authority is also a classical example of UNWTO’s slogan- Tourism a tool for Poverty eradication.
Our next stop during the Village Life Experience tour in Kumarakom was at a small house, which is constructed with locally available construction materials like Mud, Wood and thatched roof of coconut leaf mat. The name Kerala implies to the land of coconut trees.

The most interesting feature of coconut tree is that there is hardly any useless part in it.  Weaved coconut leaves are used for thatching houses and fences. It will be interesting to observe the art of weaving the coconut leaves and here you can also find an incredible opportunity to try your skills with coconut leaf weaving.

The Village Life Experience (VLE) guides will briefly stop at Leelamani’s house to see her skills in coconut leaf weaving. Amazed by the swiftness and perfection in weaving, we can listen to her about the process in which a raw coconut is getting converted into frames, which is used widely for roofing and fencing. In order to understand the nitty-gritty’s in coconut leaf weaving, you need to try it out and our host Leelamani will teach you the basics.

We will get a chance to visit Anganvady also. Anganwadis are government run primary learning centre for kids below 6 years. Every child usually gets his/her primary education from anganwady. This Anganwady acts as the nodal centre for the implementation of various schemes of government for children and women development and poverty eradication. This traditional system of education gives you a unique and rare experience with the cutie pies in a village.

Broom stick making is very interesting to observe the art of making broom stick and here you can also find an exclusive opportunity to try your skills in broom stick making.

The Village Life Experience of Kumarakom in Kerala is a visual treat for our eyes and mind. We can feel the real taste of a Kerala village and soul of India in this incredible travel. Here they are practicing the sustainable tourism at the core and implementing the real tool to eradicate poverty that we called fondly as “TOURISM”.  Come, explore and experience the synergy between People, Private and Public Partnership (PPPP) in all sense.

Travel through the Backwaters of Kerala - one of the most beautiful places in the earth, to experience, the nature and culture to purify your mind and soul. Tourism can be consumed in a more responsible way  at Kumarakam,  As Responsible tourism defines, all the activities here; minimize negatives of social, economic and environmental impacts and generating greater economic benefits for the local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities.

Tourismindia India' s Travel & Tourism magazine,  kerala, India
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