At the confluence of the Periyar River and the Arabian Sea in Kerala lies a nondescript town called Kodungalloor. Archaeological excavations carried out in and around this region have thrown light on the existence of an ancient port near Kodungalloor.
It is said that in the days of yore, at least one ship left each week from the shores of Egypt for this ancient port near Kodungalloor. Those ships used to go there laden with gold and return back laden with ‘black gold’, as pepper was known back then. In 1213 BC, pepper from Kerala, brought in one of the ships that had set sail from the port, was said to be stuffed up the nose of Pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt upon his burial. Greek, Chinese and Arab merchants too are believed to have frequently visited this ancient port.
Today, people from Germany, Switzerland and Italy, among many other countries, visit that same place to soak up the sun and relax through ayurveda at Nattika, a sun-kissed beach about 25 kilometers from Kodungalloor.
Earlier last month, I packed my bags and headed there for a weekend. I put up at The Nattika Beach Resort, a luxurious resort that hugs the Nattika Beach. Incidentally, the Cochin International Airport is hardly 50 kilometers from there. The Nattika Beach Resort has 24 thoughtfully designed cottages (all of them overlooking the Arabian Sea), a multi-cuisine restaurant, a swimming pool and an ayurveda centre.
I spent the better part of the day soaking up the sun on the Nattika Beach. So there I was, soaking up the sun that forenoon, when a fisherman started suddenly waving his hands with a frisson of excitement. I sauntered down to find out what it was all about. My eyes lit up when I came across a group of dolphins cavorting in the azure blue waters of the Arabian Sea.
The scene was more than beautiful. But behind that beautiful place lay an even grander history…
Kodungalloor was the gateway for three religions to India, namely, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In 52 AD, it is believed that St. Thomas, an apostle of Jesus Christ, landed here along with his followers. The oldest church in Asia was founded by them, nearby as well. A few years later, the Jews fleeing persecution from the Roman Empire too arrived here.
In 622 AD, Cheraman Perumal, the legendary king of the Chera dynasty from Kodungalloor had an unusual dream: he saw the moon being split. Later, when a group of Arab merchants, who were on their way to Sri Lanka, met him, he mentioned his dream to them. They, in turn, told him about their religion and the miracles that Prophet Muhammad had performed. Before long, Cheraman Perumal had left for Mecca. There, he met Prophet Muhammad, embraced Islam and spent some years in Mecca.
On his way back to Kerala, he fell ill and died in Oman. On his deathbed, he wrote to his people asking them to build mosques in different parts of Kerala. In 628 AD, Malik Bin Dinar, one of the 13 followers of Prophet Mohammad landed in Kodungalloor. The following year, he built there, what happens to be the very first mosque in India. Incidentally, people of all faiths visit the mosque today because of its historical significance.
The following day, after having spent the previous one leisurely strolling along the beach, I paid a visit to a church tucked away along the backwaters of Azhikode. The church is modeled after the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It was built to commemorate the arrival of St. Thomas in Kodungalloor. Enshrined in a glass case there, is a piece of bone from the elbow of St. Thomas’s right arm.
Back at the resort, it was time for an ayurvedic rejuvenation session. It is said that nothing you do can recharge your batteries like an ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy can.
Ayurveda happens to be the ancient system of medicine that had evolved in India around 600 BC. Kerala happens to be the land of ayurveda. I slipped into an ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy called pizhichil at the ‘Green Leaf’ accredited ayurveda centre at The Nattika Beach Resort. Lukewarm herbal oils were dropped all over my body in a rhythmic way for about 90 minutes. It indeed recharged my batteries.
Droves of people from across the globe go to soak up the sun at Kovalam, a sun-kissed beach near Thiruvananthapuram. While Kovalam is arguably one of the most famous stretches of beach in Kerala, there are quite a few lesser known ones where one can bask in the bliss of solitude. One such happens to be the Nattika Beach. I am sure that any beach lover (and history buff) would love it as much as I did.
- Sanjay Sivadas