Nila: The Nile of Kerala

Image of Bharathapuzha or NilaBharathapuzha, river nicknamed Nila that originates from the Anaimali Hills in Tamil Nadu, is the floating heritage of Kerala and one of the tourist attractions of Kerala tourism. The second longest river in Kerala flows through Palakkad, Thrissur and Malappuram districts before draining into the Arabian Sea near Ponnani.

Bharathapuzha, famous as Nila, is undeniably the most stunning and heritage river of Kerala. The second longest river in Kerala, it originates from the Western Ghats near Annamalai hills in Tamil Nadu and flows through Palakkad, Thrissur and Malappuram before draining into Arabian Sea.

The river bed of Nila is an ideal habitat for migratory birds, especially seagulls. Large flocks of seagulls can be seen bathing in the river. Open billed storks are one of the local migrants that can be found along the banks of the river stretching from Trithala to estuary of Bharathapuzha at Ponnani.Birds prefer certain pockets such as Perassanurkadavu, Kankappuzhakadavu and Kuttippuramkadavu.

Train passing across Nila in ShoranurThe twin rail bridge across Nila, linking the districts of Thrissur and Palakkad, is a heritage marvel and one of the most picturesque rail bridges. People like walking over the rail bridge to experience the panoramic view. The bridge has a few balconies from where one can take pictures of trains moving over the bridge. Kerala Kalamandalam is located on the banks of Nila in Cheruthuruthy.

Thirunavaya is a village located on the banks of Nila famed for its Mamankam remains. According to lore, lotus cultivation started in Thirunavaya during the reign of Zamorins’ of Kozhikode. The flowers meet the daily day religious necessities of the Navamukundha temple in Thirunavaya.

Thootha River merges with Bharathapuzha River at Pallipuram near Pattambi with all its medicinal and magical effects. The rail bridge across the Thootha River links the districts of Malappuram and Palakkad and is a gorgeous spot for photography. The merging points are an abode of migratory birds.

Varikassery ManaVarikassery Mana in Manissery is located for kms west of Ottapalam a few kilometers away from the banks of Nila.Nalukettu is the main building of Varikkasseri Mana and the elegant poomukham (portico) is the prime attraction of this heritage mansion. One of the centuries old aristocratic Brahmin houses in Kerala, it is popular as a lucky spot of film shooting. Notable film shot here are Devasuram, Aaramthampuram, Valyettan, Rappakal etc.

Purathur Estuary is a major water bird census spot formed by the confluence of Arabian Sea, Bharathapuzha and Tirur River located near Ponnani.Purathur has other attractions like the Ponnani light house, harbor, park, mosque, etc.Padiinjarekkara beach is also located nearby and the ferry ride is an added attraction in this coastal hamlet. The Chamravattom regulator cum bridge built across Nila in Chamravattom is few kilometers away from Purathur.

Aattuvanchi Flowers

A large number of small islets can be sighted on the course of Nile covered with cluster of flowers call Aattuvanchi.The color of the flowers of Aattuvanchi is white and when sun rays falls on it the color changes. The grass flowers create the view of a stunning garden with water flowing through the gaps. The movement of small country crafts through the river covered by Aattivanchi flowers is a picturesque sight. During the monsoons the flowers would be submerged and the period after the rains is the best time to view the grass flowers. The riverbed becomes totally dry during the summer season.

Best spots

Image of Aattuvanchi FlowersWhen one crosses the river by ferry from Kuttippuram to the nearby Kumbidi one can see large stretches of Aattuvanchi flowers and flock of migratory birds around. The bus ride from Kuttippuram to Tirunavaya also enables to view the Aattuvanchi flowers in plenty. The views of the grass flowers in the riverbed from Navamukunda temple banks are splendid.Nila Park is Kuttippuram and old rail bridge at Pallippuram are also perfect spot to view the Aattuvanchi flowers.

Abode of winged visitors

Besides being an attraction for visitors, the sand beds of Nila filled with Aattuvanchi flowers attracts flock of water birds and migratory birds every year post monsoon and it’s is an inimitable sight for the ornithologists and eco tourists.

The flowers offer ideal shelter for many birds species such as munia, prinia, cormorants, egrets, pratincoles, storks, terns and sand pipers. Pollination is done by the birds by transferring the seeds. In Karakkad near Shoranur, even peacocks are spotted in the paddy fields on the river banks. Some of the birds make their nest inside the thick shrubs and some collect the dry grass for making nest.

Discover Nila on rail

The ideal mode of transportation to view Nila closely is railways. Board the train from Palakkad or Ottappalam station of one is coming from eastern side and from Thiruvavaya if coming from north. As the train moves slowly, it enables travelers to view the panorama better. You are lucky if you had got a window seat to view the Aattuvanchi and experience the delightful sights of the river.

Paradise for shutterbugs

Image of BharathapuzhaThe sunset view from the sand beds of Nila is eye catching and fascinating. The Aattuvanchi flowers dance during the evenings to the rhythm of the breeze and it is a sight one should never miss to watch.

The river has already been featured in many Malayalam movies. The evergreen romantic song Eenthinuveroru sooryodayam from Mazhayethum Munpe, which starred Megastar Mammootty and Shobana, was completed here.

The movement of trains, flocks of birds, village life, fishing, ferry ride, sunset and sunrise are ideal to watch from the sand beds f Nila.Even though the Aattuvanchi flowers are distracting the natural flow of water; it is still an attraction for tourist.

The second longest river in Kerala flows through Palakkad, Thrissur and Malappuram districts, creating ideal nestling destinations for migratory and indigenous for birds along the way. The season of migratory birds in Kerala that begins in early October and lasts till April. Most of the bird sanctuaries in Kerala are connected by the common thread named Nila. Here are the five ideal spots along the Nila where you can get the best view of winged wonders.

Purathur Estuary

Kerala BirdsPurathur estuary near Ponnani is one of the famed birding zones in south Malabar region. Formed by the confluence of the Bharathapuzha,Tirur Puzha and the Arabian Sea, it is the biggest habitat of Seagulls in Kerala.A canoe cruise is the dideal option to spot both shore and water irds.A few years ago,Purathur was proposed as an Important Bird Area (I B A) under the norms of Birdlife International.

Kuttippuram

The long sand beds in Kuttippuram are ideal for Gulls, which arrive in Kerala from Eurasia September onwards, as they spend majority of the time in the middle of the sand beds. Different varieties of Seagulls are spotted here like the Lesser black backed gulls, Great black headed gulls, Yellow-legged gulls, Brown headed Gulls etc.Besides these, Lesser Whistling Teal, Lesser Sand Plover, Cattle Egret, Little Cormorant Pond Heron, Little Egret,Whimbrels,Godwits,Shanks,Sandpiper,Plovers,Terns,Painted Storks, Herons and much more are sighted here.

Seagulls are long distance migratory birds that attive in Kerala during winter from Eurasia and stay here till the end of April. Their most preferred spot is the sand beds of the Bharathapuzha in between Perassannur and Kuttippuram stretch as the natural pools and riparian forest are suitable ecosystem for a variety of birds. You can sight thousands of these gulls, including the white headed and black headed once.

Seagulls at Perasannur - Kuttipuram stretchThe widespread sandy stretch from Perassannur to Kuttippuram is the most ideal habitat for seagulls I winter. Gulls flocks into this stretch from Purathur estuary via Chamravattom and Thiruvavaya through the river bed. They are mostly found in the little shallow pools in the sand bed. In flocks, the gulls walk and run in the sand beds, swim, wash its feathers and dry its body. The sight itself is very refreshing. Gull feed on fishes and it s fun to watch the act of preying. Varieties of seagulls are spotted including the black backed gulls, great black headed gulls and brown headed gulls to the name a few.

The ideal times for gull watching are mornings and evenings. The cautions birds move in flocks and rest in distant sand flats. The shrubs in the sand beds offer an ideal shelter for bird species such as munia, prinia, cormorants, egrets, prtincoles, storks, terns and sandpipers. Most of the birds, including the migratory ones, are using riverbed and riparian vegetation as it’s the preferred habitat for feeding, roosting, nesting and breeding. A canoe cruise can provide you a closer look at these birds, which attract a lot of eco tourists and ornithologists as well.

Tirunnavaya

The Valiyaparapoor Lake in Tirunnavaya offers stunning views of lotus cultivation.The lotus farms attract vast varities of water birds,cormorant being the notable one.Moorhen,locally known as thamrakozhi or neelakozhi,is also spotted in the lotus field. The small islets in the Nila rivers bed covered with grass flowers located close to the Navamukunda Temple is an abode of little cormorants.

Thutha Rail Bride

Kerala BirdsThe rail bridge across the Thutha River near Pallipuram where the river merges with Nila is a gorgeous sight for bird watching and photography. An Abode of migratory water birds, Thutha also attracts indigenous winged visitors like cormorants and king fishers

Chembikkal – Mini Pamba – Kuttippuram Stretch

For passionate bird watchers, Chembikkal is the beaven.One of the beautiful hamlets near Kuttippuram, Chembikkal’s sand bed offers resting space for flocks of cormorants, egrets, ibis and lesser sand plovers. The cormorants swimming in the water for long catching its prey by going under water is sight to behold. The Kuttippuram Bridge can be seen from the river bed, which has crystal clear water in which visitors can take a dip.

Not much far from Chembikkal are the Mini Pamba and the School Ghats where one can spot black headed, white headed and brown headed sea gulls. These large birds resemble ducks while swimming. Seen only in flocks, se gulls feed on fishes and other aquatic creatures. A calm walk along the sandy stretch is wonderful experience.

SeagullThe Bharathapuzha river bed is the largest roosting site of seagulls in Kerala. The birds prefer to spend long hours in water on order to cool its body, amuse and relax. The very cautious creatures maintain a distance for human beings and stray dogs. As trains pass through the neighboring tracks frequently, the winged creatures fly away by making loud voices. By dusk, seagulls return to the Purathur Estuary through the river bed.

The birding tourism prospects of the Bharathapuzha have not been tapped yet. A circuit can be introduced by linking spots like Purathur estuary, Ponnani, Chamravattom, Tirunnavaya, Chembikkal and Kuttippuram. Morning and evenings are the ideal time to spot large flocks of birds including the indigenous ones.

From Kuttippuram School Ghats, cruises in small canoes take one across the river. Visitors can take a stroll along the sand beds and closely watch the birds. A good camera or binocular will make the trip worthwhile.

Karakkad

Karakkad is famed for hordes of peacocks. Peacocks are usually sighted in flocks, elegantly walking in the paddy fields located close to the river banks. Open bill storks are also spotted in large numbers on the river bed.

The other spots ideal for bird watching on the banks of Nila include Thrithala, Velliyamkallu, Chamravattom, Kondayur and Thavanur.Don’t forget to keep a binocular or camera for the best view. And what are you waiting for?

Perasannur

Rural spots have a perennial charm due to its gorgeous landscapes and rustic life. A lesser known scenic village located on the bank of the Bharathapuzha, Perasannur near Kuttippuram in Malappuram district is such a place. The village lies close to Palakkad district and the beautiful Mankeri Hills.

The sleepy village has extensive green fields, which are nourished by the Bharathapuzha.Tapioca, plantains and vegetables are cultivated on the river banks and during evenings, the sights of villagers watering the plants, herds of goats and cows make the village a true heaven. Villages spend their evenings by enjoying the magnificence of the river and engaging the fishing using small canoes. The river is their life and livelihood.

The age old, tiny railway station of Perasannur also has historical significance as it is associated with the extension of rail line from Kuttippuram to Pattambi.The station that lies between Kuttippuram and Pallippuram is the smallest station in the Shoranur – Kozhikode rail line in terms of infrastructure and amenities. It also offers a better and closer view of the river.

The sand beds of Bharathapuzha in Perasannur are an abode of migratory birds’ too. From September, migratory birds like gulls flock on to the sands beds of the Perasannur – Kuttippuram stretch. Mornings and evenings are the best time to spot the birds. A 20 minute canoe cruise to Kudallur offers an unparalleled experience listening to fellow passengers sharing their day to day life. It also offers an opportunity to click post card like pictures of the Nila.

Only a few passenger trains halt at the Perasannur railway station, which is just half an hour away from Shoranur.

Getting There

By Air : The nearest airport is at Calicut Airport,60 kms away.

By Rail : The nearest railway station is Kuttippuram,a short distance away.Long distance trains ply from Kozhikode,68 kms away.

By Road :Kuttippuram is on  NH 17 and two hours away from Kozhikode.Thirunavaya is 7 kms away from Kuttippuram.Buses ply regularly connecting the two towns..

Where to Stay

It is better to stay at Thrissur or Palakkad or Kozhikode to explore the Bharathapuzha and Aattuvanchi flowers.For details of hotels and resorts in Thrissur or Palakkad or Kozhikode , see accommodation listing on http://halokerala.com/hotels/thrissur/ or http://halokerala.com/hotels/palakkad/ or http://halokerala.com/hotels/kozhikode/.

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