Stories by the sea shore

The backwaters lead to a network of canals at Thengapattanam. Photo: Soma Basu

The backwaters lead to a network of canals at Thengapattanam. Photo: Soma Basu

Is it Maldives or Lakshadweep, you wonder as you approach this stretch of Arabian Sea beach, 45 km from Thiruvananthapuram. The peace and quiet grows on you and the exotic appeal of Thengapattanam lingers long after you leave the place. The sleepy coastal village, which, as its name suggests, is a coconut country. Thengapattanam is blessed by Nature, surrounded as it is by the sea, the calm of the river, a network of canals, a carpet of paddy fields, a mountainous backdrop and lush green ubiquitous groves.

It is here that Tamiraparani river meets the Arabian Sea. On the fringe of an estuary formed by the Valiyar, a tributary of the Tamiraparani, the crashing sea and the crystal clear backwaters are separated by the vast emptiness of a quaint beach front. No milling crowds, noisy tourists or picnickers. Only handful of local boys splashes into the cool blue waters, diving in and out. As noon approaches, I discover Iam the solitary visitor to the pristine beach, and totally struck by a ‘do-not-rush-me’ mood. There is absolutely nothing to do except unwind. I spend hours listening to the sound of tall waves lashing against the rocks and watching the colour of the water change from bluish-green to shimmering silver.

On one side of the beach only the ruins of a mosque is visible, and on the other are a few fishing huts and boats. My hunger pangs lose to the serenity of the place and I engage myself in collecting sea shells.

Late afternoon, people arrive, shattering the stillness of the place. Cement tetrapods get offloaded from a truck with the help of a crane. The way they are placed paving the road to the beach and along the waterfront almost make them look like a sculptor’s creation from a distance.

But to my horror, I learn the State Government is planning to build a fishing harbour and that’s why the activity. And once that happens, this little-known paradise will be lost. I meet a group of youth that comes to the beach for its daily evening outing and occasional boating. From them I gather, Thengapattanam is not just about geography, it has an interesting history too.

Apparentlyduring the days of the Chera Nadu, it was an important trading town with links to the Middle East. Even till 56 years ago, it was part of the Travancore State. Legend has it that the Juma Masjid was built 1,200 years ago by a disciple of the Prophet. Many smaller mosques were added in time.

The Tamil epic Silappadhikaram refers to Thengapattanam as the capital of ‘Thenga Nadu’ — one of the 48 countries of Lemuria, also known as Kumari Kandam , where Dravidian civilisation flourished.

Thengapattanam was attacked by the Dutch when it became part of ‘venad’ under the rule of Marthanda Varma. It became part of Tamil Nadu in 1956.

Lessons in history over, I feast on the breathtaking view of the sunset. The tiny hilltops rise like silhouettes in the far background. The waves gently brush the shore. The backwaters fall silent and the cool wind refreshes supremely. I can go on, but I must leave, and good things don’t last forever.

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Printable version | May 22, 2022 6:42:18 am |