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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

What is the history and culture of Alleppey?

Rupali Khanna DEC 10 2012
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Get ready to be mesmerized by the enthralling beauty of the ‘Venice of the East’ with its web of waterways crisscrossing the city and the Coconut trees forming archways.

  • Middle ages and Christianity

    According to the history, the city of Alleppey had trade relations with ancient Rome and Greece in the Middle Ages. Places like Purakkad or Barace of the Alleppey district find their mention in the classical works of Pliny and Ptolemy of the first and second centuries. The district’s insights of its ancient period and some archaeological antiques are found in literary works like "Unnuneeli Sandesam". Since first AD, Christianity has deep roots in this place. St. Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, founded a church at Kokkamangalam, which is one of the seven churches founded by him. He landed at city’s port in 52 AD and preached Christianity in South India. The second Chera Empire ruled the city from 9th century to 12th century, during which the district flourished in the field of religion and culture.
  • Portuguese and Dutch

    The influence of Portuguese started since they landed in Calicut in 1498, through spreading Catholicism and converting already existing Syrian Christians into Catholics. It was during the reign of the Portuguese that the famous St. Andrew's Basilica was built. Around the 17th century, Portuguese lost their power to the Dutch who built many factories and warehouses and with time they entered into the political and cultural affairs of the district. They relied on various treaties signed between the Dutch and the Rajas of Kayamkulam, Karappuram and Purakkad.

  • Maharaja Marthanda Varma

    The 'Maker of modern Travancore', Maharaja Marthanda Varma displaced the Dutch eventually and was responsible for the commercial and administrative development of the city as we see today. He built many monuments including the Krishnapuram palace, which is now a protected monument. With an increase and growth of canals connecting the sea, there was an expansion of shops and factories and as a result, merchants were attracted to the backwaters from other areas of India. Thus, by mid-1800s trading vessels were regularly stopping at Alleppey. Weaving started becoming one of the first industries to develop in Alleppey, as local coir yarn was used to produce matting for export.
  • British Rule

    With the arrival of the British in the 19th century, the district saw quite some changes like the reorganization of the judicial system by Colonel George Monro. This period saw the establishment of the first post office, first telegraph office and first manufacturing factory for the coir mats along with the setup of town Improvement Committee. The British brought with them their knowledge of this craft, infrastructure and industry which helped the district to evolve and still contributes to the economic life of the town. Alleppey features in many freedom struggles of the country against the British, playing a prominent role.
  • After Independence

    After India got independence, a Ministry was formed in Travancore on 24 March, 1948 and on 1 July 1949 Travancore and Cochin states were integrated. This continued till 1 August 1957 when the district came into existence as a separate administrative unit. Today, Alleppey is a major centre for trade in coir products, copra (dried coconut meat) and coconut oil used in cooking and Ayurvedic products. Being blessed with a long coastline, the city is also famous for fishing and marine products processing activities and beaches which are very popular among tourists. The city forms the pivotal point for trips into Kerala's famed backwaters and the state's rice bowl, Kuttanad.

The history of the place clearly reflected in its current state, which is clear when we look at Alleppey with its canals and houseboats, economic activities including agriculture, fisheries, toddy tapping and coir works. Many festivals and events are celebrated here with much enthusiasm, especially the Snake Boat Races. Alleppey is a major commercial as well as a tourist destination and truly reflects the vibrant culture of Kerala.

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