Thiruvananthapuram, earlier known as Trivandrum, is the capital city of Kerala. The name literally splits into "Tiru","Anantha""puram" meaning "the town of Lord ANANTHA". This is really true since the temple is at the heart of the town and for generations, the kings have called themselves "Padmanabha-Dasa" or the "servants of LORD Ananthapadmanabha", and ruled the state as the representatives of LORD Anantha-Padmanabha.
The town has a history of supporting fine art and culture. The Kings of Tiruvancore (Thirunals as they are known) have not only promoted art but have themselves been accomplished artists. The most famous of them are Swathi Tirunal who is a well known composer in both Karnatak and Hindustani systems of music, and Raja Ravi Varma the internationally acclaimed painter, well known for inventing paints using natural materials.
The town bustles with activity during Navaratri, when music festivals are held in the Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple. Unique in its style, the temple combines the Chola and Chera styles and is large enough to conduct processions within the temple. There is a separate quandrangle for dancers, where even the pillars are tuned and reverberate to different notes! Anantha-Padmanabha in reclined posture is a large statue, which needs to be viewed from three separate doors.
Museum is an important and unique building which houses several artifacts and rare musical instruments used in yesteryears. Within the museum complex is the Chitra Art gallary which houses Raja Ravi Varma's most famous paintings. It also brings to light the unique history of Travancore state, where education was given prominence. Another full length painting captures the mood of temple entry act of 1932 when untouchables were allowed into the Padmanabha temple. Their disbelief, reverence to the LORD are brought out well.
During the beginning of this century, the state had a statesman Diwan called Sir.C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, who made women's education compulsory and free. He also allocated 15% of the state budget to education, laying the foundation for 100% literacy, which Kerala achieved a few years ago. Petty shop owners were heavily fined if their customers spilled garbage (banana skins etc) into the streets. This is reflected even today, all the shops carry a tin case as refuse bin to keep their city clean!
Extensive backwaters provide plenty of water resouce for all. People in fact are in the habit of bathing thrice a day and are well known for their good personal hygene. At the southern edge of the city is the internationally known Kovalam beach, which has the picturesque view of a paradise. Except for the monsoon season (June-Sept) the beach is a good place to swim and surf, due to it blue, shallow, waters. Specially designed cottages to catch the best of surf and sun make it an excellent summer resort with sauna, yoga and other health clubs provided during the season.
At the northern edge of the city is the space centre where India began its space program in a disused church. Visitors to this city can view launching of sounding rockets on wednesday evenings. These rockets, launched for conducting physics experiments, have been a regular feature for years now. Located on the magnetic equator, the data from the equitorial electrojet at about 70 kms altitude has particular importance to meteorology.
A city of tradition and space technology, Thiruvananthapuram truly represents the contrasts India is well known for. Being the capital of a state which boasts 100% literacy, it is both clean and environmentally conscious. Ayurveda - the Indian system of medicine (extensive use of herbs and roots), is well supported in this state. Doctors practicing this school of medicine have kept alive their generations of knowledge. Today they are supported by the University which conducts undergrad, graduate and research courses in the field of Ayurveda. With valuable help from this Dhanvantari (Doctor) traditions an Ayurvedic pharmacopia exists today and standardized medicines are marketed in India and abroad.
The city is home to one of India's best known architects Mr.Larie W.Baker. This octogenerian architect has built some of the most beautiful residential and public buildings here using his low-cost techniques using local materials and traditions. One of his widely known public buildings is the Centre for Economic development, which was built ECONOMICALLY by Baker. His own home in Nalanchira, often attracts visitors. Although he has been decorated by the Govt of India (Padmabhushan) and the British Queen (Honours list) he continues to be a simple but radical person. He has lived here for decades, helping people build beautiful houses/churches/public buildings at an unimaginably low cost.
This article is written by K. Raghunandan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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