Nestled within the enchanting backwater landscape of central Kerala, Malarikkal in Kottayam is a petite parcel of land that extends a perennial invitation to visitors, unveiling a diverse tapestry with each passing season. In the monsoon, the village surrenders its terrestrial identity to become an unending expanse of water while the sun orchestrates a symphony of hues upon an endless sea of water lily blooms here during the spring. Come summer, the blossoms trade their pink veils for the lush green paddy saplings.
The destination, which took off as a locally owned tourism enterprise with a tourism festival in January 2018, has now kick-started works to develop itself as a destination all year round. As part of it, a three-day festival that celebrates village tourism and showcases the local tradition, culinary culture, and art forms, has been on at Malarikkal for the past two days.
The festival is being held on a 2000-acre paddy field in the village’s interior, which serves as the theatre of the famed water lily festival, said Shajimon Vattappally, Secretary of Malarikkal Tourism Society. “The entire lily bulbs are now gone, but visitors keep streaming in to enjoy the sunsets, which cast a warm, golden glow upon an interminable network of paddy saplings,” he explains. To welcome guests, bamboo benches and other facilities are set up on the sideways of the Malarikkal tourism road while a food festival, which primarily serves the local delicacies that use freshwater fish, too is being held in the evenings.
The event is organized jointly by Thiruvarp Panchayat, in association with the River re-linking programme, Malarikal Tourism Society, J Block - Tiruvaikkari Patasekara Samiti, cooperative banks at Kanjiram and Thiruvarp, besides a collective of the local fishermen. Thomas Chazhikkadan MP, District Panchayat President K V Bindu, etc are inaugurating the various conferences to be held in connection with the festival while Dr. Latha P Cherian of Tiruvalla Marthoma College, who authored a book on Meenachilar, too is being honoured.
Water sports circuit
Malarikkal forms a critical part of the proposed water sports tourism circuit in the backwater landscape of Kottayam, said K Anil Kumar, coordinator of the event. “As a land lying next to Kumarakom, it has the potential to develop as a village destination,” he pointed out. While the opening of a bridge recently has solved connectivity issues from Kottayam, the location of Malarikkal along the Alappuzha-Kottayam canal, a major boat route, also adds to its potential. As part of developing tourism entrepreneurship among locals, the residents here are being trained to help the visitors explore the area the most, and the focus is also given to marketing Malarikkal as a destination.
A video reel shot in Malarikkal and released last month has so far garnered over 1.30 crore viewership. The growth of the Malarikkal, according to Anil Kumar, coincides with the restoration of the water bodies that crisscross the region. “Putting this huge network of water bodies into effective use was the only way through which could keep them in a good condition over a long time. Hence, a decision to promote it as a countryside tourism destination has been made,” he says.