Up the stairs we went. Round and round. At each level, there were windows - one opening to give a view of the green sea, the other the village landscape. With each flight of stairs that went up, our perspective kept changing. The angles changed and we started getting a bird's eye view of the area. We took in the beauty of the surroundings as we walked up the stairs, for this was our first time walking up a lighthouse.
At the top of the spiral staircase came the steep ladder and the star attraction of the lighthouse – the light itself. It was towards the evening that we got up there, and the technician who was taking off the protective curtains around the windows was only glad to talk. The light, he said would be lit by 6 pm. It had a reach of about 25 km and would shine through the night and be switched off in the morning. Every evening, he told us, they would take down the protective curtains, clean the light, see if there is any fault with the mechanism and ensure that it shone through. We left him to his task at hand and gingerly stepped out on the narrow ledge that ran around the lighthouse.
We were at the lighthouse at Anchuthengu. Situated at about 40 km from Thiruvananthapuram city, Anchuthengu today, is a normal fishing village - one of the many you will find on the coast of Kerala. But, Anjengo, as once the British called it, used to be a famous port of call during the olden days. And from the ledge on the lighthouse, we got a good look at the rustic charm of the village.
The wind whistled past us, the skies were laden and the sun played hide and seek across the sea. We saw the river, Parvathiputhenar, snaking its way past the lighthouse, the coconut trees waving their heads and the village life in all its rustic charm. We saw people waiting on one side of the river for the boat to take them across the waters. Around the ledge, on the other side, we saw more of the Anchuthengu village. The Fort that spoke of a rich past, the beach dotted with fishing boats and ocean spread out for as far as the eyes could see.
The fort is a simple structure, with four bastions and paved pathways inside. There are steps on all the four sides leading on to the bastions. And you can see the sea from two of them. There is nothing more inside the fort to keep you engaged. However, it has a long and gory history. In 1680's the English East India Company got permission to set up a factory at Anchuthengu from the Rani of Attingal. This fort served as the first signaling station for ships coming in from England. Battles were fought from this fort during the Anglo-Mysore wars and during the Attingal Rebellion, when the local people rose in revolt against the British. Now a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India, the fort is open to public on most of the days.
However, the lighthouse is open only between 3pm and 5pm. The best way to see Anchuthengu is to take in a 360 degree view from the top of the lighthouse like we did. The next best option is to stride out on foot. You will, if you keep an eye out, find an old church built in the 16th century, a school dating back to the 18th century and a couple of old houses.
Anchuthengu is for those who love to explore the traces of the bygone era. And for those quick trotters who would love to go out of city or Varkala, which is hardly 10kms away.