V A R K A L A
Varkala is a coastal town and municipality in Thiruvananthapuram district situated in the Indian state of Kerala. It is suburban town of Trivandrum city.It is located 50 km north-west of Trivandrum and 37 km south-west of Kollan city. Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian sea. These Cenozoic sedimentary formation cliffs are a unique geological feature on the otherwise flat Kerala coast, and is known among geologists as Varkala Formation and a geological monument as declared by the Geological Survey of India. There are numerous water spouts and spas on the sides of these cliffs.
Varkala is also famous for the 2000-year old Janardana Swami Temple which is an important Vaishnavaite Shrine in India and is often referred to as Dakshin Kashi (Benares of the South). The temple is located close to the Papanasam beach, which is considred to have holy waters which wash away sins.
It is also an important Ayurveda treatment centre. The temple has an ancient bell removed from a shipwreck, donated by the captain of the Dutch vessel which sank near Varkala without causing any casualties.
Another major landmark in Varkala is the Sivagiri Mutt, established by the social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. The hill-top mausoleum of Sree Narayana Guru is one of the most famous monuments in Kerala. It is believed that a Pandyan King was instructed by Lord Brahma to build a temple at this very place to redeem him of his sins. Another legend goes like this — when a group of pilgrims approached Saint Narada and told him that they had sinned, Narada threw his valkalam (a lion cloth made from the bark of a tree) and it landed at this scenic village and hence the place came to be known as Varkala. Narada told the pilgrims to pray for their redemption at Papanasam, which literally means redemption from sins.
Trivandrum Intrnational airport (55 km) is the nearest airport. Varkala Sivagiri railway station is well-connected by regular trains from Thiruvananthapuram Central and major places in India. There are private and Kerala State buses.
Varkala Beach is a haven for sun-bathing and swimming. It is one of the most popular tourism destination in Kerala. The evening views of the sunset are worth lingering over. The cliff has a long stretch of small shops which goes on for over a kilometer.
Janardana Swami Temple — is a very important Vaishnavite shrine and attracts thousands of pilgrims. The temple is the Papasnanam beach where devotees take a bath in the belief that the sacred waters will wash away their sins. A large bell washed up from the wreck of a Dutch merchant vessel is kept on display at the temple.
Sivagiri Mutt Ashram — is a famous ashram in Varkal, founded by the philosopher and social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. Sree Narayana Guru’s tomb is also located here. The Samadhi (the final resting place) of the Guru here attracts thousands of devotees every year during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days 30 December to 1 January. The Sivagiri Mutt, built in 1904, is situated at the top of the Sivagiri hill near Varkala.
Even decades after the guru breathed his last here in 1928; his samadhi continues to be throned by thousands of devotees, donned in yellow attire, from different parts of Kerala and outside every year during the Savagiri Pilgrimage days — 30 December to 1 January.
The Sivagiri Mutt is also the headquarters of the Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham, an organization of his disciples and saints, established by the Guru to propagate his concept of ’One Caste, One Religion, One God’.
The Guru Deva Jayanti, the birthday of the Guru, and the samadhi day are celebrated in August and September respectively every year. Colourful processions, debates and seminars, public meetings, cultural shows, community feasts, group wedding and rituals mark the celebrations.