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SHEER BLISS At Poovar, a small island near Thiruvananthapuram
SHEER BLISS At Poovar, a small island near Thiruvananthapuram

Azure waters, blue skies, a stretch of coconut trees…an idyllic island for frenzied urban souls

Imagine this. A blue sky, a sandy beach, a river and an estuary, a lost island, a stretch of coconut trees, a lone boat and the blue-green backwaters with plenty of birds and fish. As for people, there is just the boatman and us. This is Poovar for you, lost somewhere near the tip of South India, tucked in Gods Own Country, Kerala.

It was a lazy Saturday morning and we were in Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum staring endlessly at the beaches in Kovalam. Unlike most capital cities, this quiet nonchalant town-city has a certain charm that makes you linger and lose yourself. My reverie was interrupted as voices emerged from the sea. A long line of fishermen immediately queued up and tugged at a thick never-ending rope, pulling their booty from the sea.

We were in Kovalam at the beach, sipping a tender coconut when the vendor asked us if we had been to Poovar. I recollected travel packages promoting Poovar, images of floating cottages and a couple of resorts vying for attention. We were not the typical beach lovers, so we were willing to tear ourselves away from the sunny shores. We went driving, in search of a coastal hamlet called Poovar along the River Neyyar.

Sleepy village

The drive is not just beautiful, but it takes you into the heart of rustic India. A little bustle here and there, a few shops convert a sleepy village into a market. The smell of the fish was everywhere — we took a detour and came to a jetty which only allowed tourists who were staying in the resorts. We managed to talk the boatman into taking us for a little ride on the backwaters.

And we discovered not just an idyllic island, but an interesting chunk of history as well. We learnt that Poovar was a trading centre for timber, sandalwood, ivory and spices. It is believed that the trading ships of King Solomon landed in a port called ‘Ophir’, which is probably today’s Poovar. As we waltzed down the backwaters, our boatman regaled us with this story.

I was quite surprised to read that Poovar had a royal connection as well and it owed its name to a king. It was in this tiny hamlet, then a rich trading centre, that Raja Marthanda Varma, the legendary 18th Century king of Travancore had sought refuge.

The story goes that Ettuveetil Pillamar had proclaimed Marthanda Varma as his successor and the former’s sons declared war. The Maharaja had to flee from his land and he landed in Poovar with the help of one Moosa Marikar, a merchant who also helped him regain power. The Raja was fascinated by the sight of red flowers, chipped out from the Kovala trees growing along the Neyyar River, which floated on the river as a red carpet. The legend has it that the stream was named “Poovar” (meaning a stream of flowers), as the Raja described the river.

There were a few resorts dotting the landscape but besides that, all we could see was just the azure waters and the blue sky. The coconut trees stretched out, kissing the waters here and there, as we sailed. We saw two horizons, one separating the sky from the sea, the other, a sandy beach separating the sea from the backwaters. The estuary here connects to the sea during high tides. I looked at the vast expanse of waters and wondered if there was anything so simple and yet so beautiful in life! This is probably what they call happiness!

LAKSHMI SHARATH

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