At Andhakaranazhi, which lies between Alappuzha and Kochi, Priyadershini S. walks the sands of time to trace the lagoon’s journey from darkness to light

Before the Manakodom lighthouse came up, some 30 years ago, and lit the white sands of Andhakaranazhi, the bay was shrouded in darkness. And so this mysterious name, meaning “lagoon of darkness”.

Driving down from Kochi, en route to Alappuzha, you veer off the National Highway, past Thuravoor, and turn into a narrow, wobbly road. The scene turns serenely rural. You drive past large tracts of organic paddy fields and vegetable farms. You saunter along, hemmed in by water bodies rich in shrimps, harvested by magnificent old-world Chinese nets. You drive past a railway crossing and climb over a newly-built bridge. You reach the beach.

It is mid-morning and the grey skies have a cast a spell of gloom.

Nothing, nothing at all lends credence to the name of the place now. But before the uncharacteristic lighthouse was erected and flooded the sandy stretch and the frothing waters with light it must have been hauntingly dark. It must have been dark because the land opens up and folds in the sea, in a shadowy cusp where water, backwater, sea and sand meet and part in small formations. “It was the sea that prised open the land,” an old man sitting atop a dry docked boat says and not the other way round. But there clearly has been a tussle; the most recent being the tragic deaths caused by the raging tsunami waves.

The beach is quiet; the fisher folk have left, before dawn, for the catch. They will return with the dusk. So will return the high tide with loads of sand. But at low tide, the sea moves back, the sandy bank rises and the backwater cups the beach from behind. A bridge over the backwater canal and two shutters on either side control the ebb and flow of sea water. The receding tide leaves behind rich sands that are hauled in country boats by the fittest of men. About a dozen of them are at work, digging and shovelling the sands into boats and punting it across. It is strangely quiet except for the sound of scooping earth and breaking waves. The men are not garrulous but focused. A few villagers walk across, a stray dog curls up to sleep peacefully. A seagull flies past.

Soon, a busload of people arrives but they are not holidayers. The group walk to the water’s edge led by a man carrying a pot on his head. It holds ashes. It is for this ritual of immersion of ashes that the lagoon of darkness is sought for.

But all is not grim. Happy signs of a village approaching lunch time appear. Two wooden goal posts on the sands bring out the boys in the evenings. “The beach is full of people on weekends,” says a standee.

Yet the beauty is marred. The tsunami has left in its wake hurried Government interjections. In the name of beautification and development two uncharacteristic structures have been erected. A viewer’s gallery, a walkway with lampposts, and benches have been built but it obstructs the scenic expanse. The light drops. Concrete has robbed the lagoon of its natural charm. Darkness in a strange way hangs.

Past afternoon, as one begins to leave, a fishing trawler returns, laden with men proud at their catch and bounty. Greetings, nets, tows, ropes, pull, thrust…the action begins. As you walk past the jarring buildings, a graffiti on the wall reads: ‘Amal loves Vineetha’.

It’s a bright note to leave on from this sandy arc which makes a great picnic spot, replete with mystery tales about its strange name, of the hungry tidal waves and a mythical story of a human sacrifice to build the bridge…

Getting there

Andhakaranazhi is mid way between Kochi and Alappuzha. It is 30 kms from both places and 5 km from the National Highway. A beautiful coastal road takes one along the sea from Fort Kochi right up to Alappuzha.

Where to stay

Andharkaranazhi is a perfect picnic spot and hence only a day affair. The beach is inviting but the sea is rough. Swimming in the sea is not allowed. There are a few tea, juice and snack shops for visitors. Visitors can indulge in punting, fishing, exploring the countryside or just take in the looming beauty of the place.

For boat rides, contact 0477-2251796, DTPC office. There are comfortable and clean homestays and three-star hotels along the National Highway.