Thursday, May 31, 2012

Varkala and Varkala Beach

Varkala Beach, also known as Papanasam beach is a beach in Varkala, Kerala, India, along the Arabian Sea, part of the Indian Ocean. The word Papanasam means wash away sins. It is believed that a dip in the waters of Papanasam Beach washes away all the sins in ones life.

Varkala beach  
Situated in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala in south India, Varkala offers relatively untouched and clean beaches that are increasingly difficult to find in God’s Own Country. Situated 51 km north of Thiruvananthapuram and 37 km south of Kollam, Varkala is also a pilgrimage centre for Hindus. The 2000-year-old Janardhana Swamy Temple is located in Varkala. Thousands of Hindus converge on Papnasam Beach on Karkidavavu Bali held during the Malayalam month of Karkitakam (Jul-Aug) to pray for their ancestors.

Several myths abound about the construction of Varkala temple and the town. According to one myth, the temple was constructed by a Pandyan King at the instructions of Lord Brahma to redeem him of his sins. According to another legend, when a group of people requested the sage Narada to show them a way to get rid of their sins, Narada threw his valkalam (loin cloth made from tree bark). The place where Narada’s valkalam landed, came to be known as Varkala. Narada told the pilgrims to pray for their redemption at Papanasam, which literally means redemption from sins.

Visit the Varkala Cultural Centre to watch Kathakali performances which are organised every evening during tourist season. The shows are held from 6.30 PM to 8 PM. The Centre charges an entry fee of Rs 175 per head. Watch the martial prowess of Kalaripayattu masters at the Sudarsana Kalari Sanghom situated at Mundayil. Kalaripayattu is an ancient Indian martial art practiced in several parts of Kerala.
Varkala is not a shopping destination. Shops mainly stock products for the visiting tourist. Traditional handicrafts, coir products and little knick-knacks can be purchased in Varkala. Artifacts made of coconut shells are also popular things to buy. Tibetan expatriates also sell artifacts from Tibet.

Varkala offers a plethora of options to stay. Budget hotels, resorts, luxury hotels and homestays are available to suit every budget and choice. Some of the homestays are located close to the beach. While several homestays offer en-suite bathrooms, wi-fi connectivity, Ayurvedic massages and easy access to the beach, some even offer yoga classes. Budget hotels and homestays are priced under Rs 1000, tariffs at mid-range hotels start at Rs 1500.

Varkala offers a lot in terms of places to eat. However, most of the places-to-eat are seasonal and spring up during the tourist season. Being a beach town, Varkala is a sea-food lover’s paradise. Many restaurants and eateries display in front seafood caught by the local fishermen. Select your food, get it prepared and savour it watching the sunset. While the ubiquitous Kerala food is easy to find, one can find restaurants offering Continental, Mexican, Italian and even Tibetan cuisine. Thattukadas (street vendors) are also a common sight and some offer the best porotta and beef curry. Even though non vegetarian restaurants are common, pure veg restaurants are not hard to find.
Climatic conditions in Varkala like other parts of coastal Kerala, is generally hot and humid. October to March is best time to visit.

Varkala beach has very strong currents and there have been instances where even experienced swimmers have been swept away.
Children should not be allowed to enter the water alone.
It is always advisable to make your hotel reservations in advance.
Varkala is a laidback beach town; hence, things to do are limited to spending time on the beach or tasting fresh catch from the sea.
Visit the temples in and around Varkala.
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