Kollam, known for its vibrant coasts, cashew factories and fish delicacies would undoubtedly be one of the favourite destinations of any travel enthusiast.
Once a Portuguese colony, distinct influences of the European country can still be seen at many places in Kollam. The beautiful Harbor town of Iravipuram was one of their major centres. The Portuguese has not only left their memories here, but also a part of their culture, traditions, architecture and even names. There are people at Iravipuram who still continue the 500-year-old tradition of sewing the Portuguese handkerchief called the ‘rentha.' Though this traditional art form became very popular in India centuries ago, it later got limited to Goa.
The spectacular sight of the Chaakara (peculiar marine phenomenon seen along the Kerala coast when mud banks are formed and fish get trapped in huge numbers) during the monsoon season would overwhelm any traveller who wish to experience the distinct features of Kollam. The golden sands on the beach would then become a sea of fish.
Fibre fishing boats came much late to Iravipuram and the old ones made with the wood of cotton trees can still be seen here. The natives of the nearby Valathungal village grew cotton tress in large numbers for the fishermen in Iravipuram to make boats.
The fish tales
Fields were abundant with a type of fish called the ‘half beak’ which could survive in both fresh water and in the sea. From the Arabian Sea, they would swim all the way through the Ashtamudi Lake to reach the small ponds and fields. The western part of Kollam is known for its water bodies which are full of various species of marine life. Fishing is very prominent here and fish export is one of the main industries in the district. The super hit film ‘Meen’ starring yesteryear screen icons Madhu and Jayan was shot at various locations around Neendakara, a prominent fishing harbour.
Meanwhile, the cashew industry dominates the southern part of Kollam where most of the cashew offices and factories are located.
It is on the Kollam beach where the coastal lines of southern and western Kollam meet. The SN College and Fathima Matha College have become an incredible meeting point of students who hail from both parts of the district. The legends say that Achani Ravi, a prominent industrialist and KP Appan, the renowned writer, used to take their evening stroll on the two sides of the Kollam beach.
One cannot talk about Kollam Lake without mentioning renowned poet Keralavarma Valia Koyithamburan who wrote ‘Mayurasandesham.' Iravipuram, Kollam Lake and the nearby Chinta Duraivi Nayakar temple find prominent mention in this literary text.
The Kollam market which was once the centre of the tobacco industry has changed drastically. However, the centuries-old buildings still stand as a reminder of the glorious past. It is said that famous Malayalam writer Kakkanadan who hails from Kollam had planned to write a novel about the Kollam market.
Though the old Kasaba police station where Vaikom Muhammed Basheer was imprisoned decades ago has been changed into a government office, the old prison cells can still be seen inside it.
Jonakapuram could rightly be called the face of the fishing industry in Kollam. The fishing harbor here, though not huge as Neendakara, is really impressive. The nearby fish market is in fact one of the biggest in Kerala. Two people carrying a huge tuna from the boat to the market is truly an amazing sight. At this day-market at Jonakapuram, huge baskets of fish are auctioned off daily. One could even buy lots of fish for just Rs 100 from here. The fish available here are fresh as ammonia and other chemicals are never added to make it look fresh.
Kollam is known for its fish delicacies, and the natives of Kollam always love piping hot rice with a bowl of spicy fish curry. Fish export is another important industry of the district. 60% of fish like pearl spot, crab, lobster and scampi which are exported are caught off Kollam. The tiger prawns found here is one of the favourites of the seafood lovers all over the world.
Thankassery and Mulankadakam
The Portuguese, Dutch and the British vied to establish their rule over Thankassery. The water paths made here by the foreigners have almost disappeared. It is said that these waterways where the main center of the infamous pirates of Thankassery. The Thankassery fort and the lamp post attract a large number of tourists every year.
The public cemetery at Mulankadakam is where the renowned Malayali actor Jayan rests in peace. Though a memorial is not built there for the legendary actor, the people of Mulankadakam say that Jayan continues to live on in their hearts. However, a memorial for the legendary poet Edappally Raghavan Pillai, who came all the way to Kollam from Kochi to commit suicide, has been built as a result of the efforts of the literary enthusiasts in the district.
Neendakara is known for its huge and equally lively fishing harbour. One has to pay a fee of Rs 35 as entry fee to see the activities inside the harbour. Huge machines crush large blocks of ice and rows of buses are parked outside the harbor to take fresh fish to states like Karnataka. There is a factory run by the Matsyafed outside Neendakara. The Kaitosan obtained from the shells of prawns are used to make Kaiton tablets. These tablets, which are high in demand, apparently absorb the fat deposits from the stomach.
The regal beauty of Ashtamudi Lake can be enjoyed from the Guhanandapuram bridge. The rows of motor-driven Chinese fishing nets add to the charm of the lake. A memorial building of renowned ‘Kathaprasangam’ artist V Sambasivan can be seen at his ancestral home, near the Guhanandapuram higher secondary school.
It really must be the incredible beauty of Kollam that prompted literary masters like Azhakathu Padbanabha Kurup, Thirunalloor, D Vinayachandran and Kureeppuzha Sreekumar to write extensively about their favourite place.