|— Town —|
|• Total||15.42 km2 (5.95 sq mi)|
|Elevation||190 m (620 ft)|
|• Density||2,529/km2 (6,550/sq mi)|
|• Official||Malayalam, English|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
|Nearest city||Kollam City (37 km)|
|Lok Sabha constituency||Attingal|
Varkala (Malayalam : വര്ക്കല ) is a coastal town and municipality in Thiruvananthapuram district situated in the Indian state of Kerala. It is the suburban town of Thiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum city). It is located 50 kilometres (approx. 32 miles) north-west of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and 37 km south-west of Kollam city.
Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea. These tertiary sedimentary formation cliffs are a unique geological feature on the otherwise flat Kerala coast, and is known among geologists as Varkala Formation and a geological monument as declared by the Geological Survey of India. There are numerous water spouts and spas on the sides of these cliffs.
Varkala is also famous for the 2,000-year old Janardana Swami Temple which is an important Vaishnavaite shrine in India and is often referred to as Dakshin Kashi (Benares of the South). The temple is located close to the Papanasam beach, which is considered to have holy waters which wash away sins, and is also an important Ayurveda treatment centre. The temple has an ancient bell removed from a shipwreck, donated by the captain of the Dutch vessel which sank near Varkala without causing any casualties.
Another major landmark in Varkala is the Sivagiri Mutt, established by the social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. The hill-top mausoleum of Sree Narayana Guru is one of the most famous monuments in Kerala. The adjacent hills house the East-West University of Brahmavidya and Sree Narayana Gurukulam.
It is believed that a Pandyan King was instructed by Lord Brahma to build a temple at this very place to redeem him of his sins. But several other myths abound on the birth of Varkala. Another legend goes like this - when a group of pilgrims approached Saint Narada and told him that they had sinned, Narada threw his valkalam ( a loin cloth made from the bark of a tree) and it landed at this scenic village and hence, the place came to be known as Varkala. Narada told the pilgrims to pray for their redemption at Papanasam, which literally means redemption from sins.
Varkala is located at .
Varkala is an important place as far as Kerala Geology is concerned as it exposes sedimentary rocks belonging to the Tertiary age, popularly known in the Geological literature as the Warkalli formation. Warkalli formation along with Quilon formation represents sediments laid down in the Kerala basin that existed during the Mio-pliocene times. Quilon formation of Miocene age is made up of limestones and the type area is Padappakara near Kollam (Same as Quilon) and the Warkalli formation of Mio-pliocene age (type are is Varkala) is made up of alternating beds of sands and shales exposed along the Varkala cliffs. Thin seams of lignite in the shales of the Warkalli formation suggests good vegetation at the time of deposition of the clayey sediments.
Varkala is a well-known tourist destination. The town has excellent telecommunication facilities, an average-rated water supply system, fire station, several post offices and a police station. The town has government-run medical facilities in addition to over 10 private hospitals and clinics. A government-run nature cure hospital is also near the Papanasam cliff. The District Ayurvedic Hospital is located in Varkala.
According to the 2001 census of India, Varkala has a population of 42,273. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. Varkala has an average literacy rate of 88%, with 92% of males and 85% of females literate. 11% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Trivandrum International airport (55 km) is the nearest airport.Varkala Sivagiri railway station is well-connected by regular trains with Thiruvananthapuram and some major places in India. The Private and Kerala State road Transport Corporation(KSRTC) bus depot is near the railway station.
Main Road Destinations 
Varkala- Anchuthengu -Kadakkavur - Chirayinkeezhu - 15 km
Varkala- Anchuthengu -Kadakkavur - Nilakkamukku - Mananakku - Attingal - 20 km
Distance Chart (Shortest Distance) 
Kanyakumari - 138 km
Kochi - 180 km
Kozhikode - 375 km
Coimbatore - 410 km
Tourism started thriving by the end of last century at the Varkala beach(Papanasam), which was earlier famous for Vavu Beli, a Hindu custom performed at the beach. Another beach is at Tiruvambadi, one kilometre away and en route the old palace. There is a helipad close to the beach. Scores of ayurvedic massage parlours line the promenade above the beach.
Sightseeing Highlights 
Varkala Beach 
Varkala Beach or Papanasam beach is a haven for sun-bathing and swimming. It is one of the most popular tourism destination in Kerala. The evening views of the sunset are worth lingering over. The cliff and the beach houses a lot of resorts, restaurants and other shops. The cliff has a long stretch of small shops which goes on for over a kilometer. The black part of the sand on the Varkala Beach contains Thorium-oxide which is a radioactive substance. Thorium and Thorium-oxide and its isotopes are found all over Kerala and can be identified by its black colour.
Sections of Varkala Beach (Papanasam Beach) are used by Indians to scatter the ashes of their cremated dead relatives into the sea. Devotees believe that the strong religious properties of the water will extend to the souls of their most recently departed. Despite this burial activity, the sea is popular with swimmers both locals and foreign tourists.
Kappil Lake 
Kappil Lake is about 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) north of Varkala Town. This serene estuary meanders through dense coconut groves before merging into the Arabian Sea. The bridge over the lake is quite a vantage point to view the backwater stretching white and grey to the distant blue horizon. Boating is another great way to browse this tranquil waterway.
Anjengo Fort 
Anjengo Fort is a fort near varkala. It is a place of historic importance as well as beautiful natural setting, Anjengo is an ideal destination for those who don't mind walking around and explore what is in store.The historic significance tagged to Anjengo comes through foreign powers like the Portuguese, the Dutch and finally the English East India Company. In the year 1684, the English East India Company chose Anjengo to establish their first trade settlement in Kerala. At Anjengo, one can find the remnants of the old English Fort, which was targeted several times by other foreign powers, who were at that time fighting each other to get a firm footing in Kerala. The Fort is now under the protection of National Heritage Monuments. There is also a cemetery inside the fort, which most probably would be having the remains of the occupants of the fort, and the oldest among the burial sites dates to 1704. The beautiful Muthalapuzhi lake is situated in Anjengo.
Varkala Tunnel 
Varkala Tunnel is a popular tourist highlight. It was a 924 ft long tunnel built in 1867 by Sir T.Madhava Rao the dewan of Travancore, and took 14 years to complete. Varkala Lighthouse is another tourist highlight in the vicinity.
Ponnumthurut Island 
Ponnumthurut Island is a beautiful spot you can reach by cruise boat. There is a sivaparvathy Temple on this island.
Religious centres 
Janardana Swami Temple 
Janardana Swami Temple is a very important Vaishnavite shrine and attracts thousands of pilgrims. The temple is about 2000 years old. Facing the temple is the Papasnanam beach where devotees take a bath in the belief that the sacred waters will wash away their sins. A large bell washed up from the wreck of a Dutch merchant vessel is kept on display at the temple.
Sivagiri Mutt 
Sivagiri Mutt is a famous ashram in Varkala, founded by the philosopher and social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. Sree Narayana Guru's tomb is also located here. The Samadhi (the final resting place) of the Guru here attracts thousands of devotees every year during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days 30 December to 1 January. The Sivagiri Mutt, built in 1904, is situated at the top of the Sivagiri hill near Varkala. Even decades after the guru breathed his last here in 1928; his samadhi continues to be thronged by thousands of devotees, donned in yellow attire, from different parts of Kerala and outside every year during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days - 30 December to 1 January. The Sivagiri Mutt is also the headquarters of the Sree Narayana Dharma Sangham, an organization of his disciples and saints, established by the Guru to propagate his concept of 'One Caste, One Religion, One God'. The Guru Deva Jayanti, the birthday of the Guru, and the samadhi day are celebrated in August and September respectively every year. Colourful processions, debates and seminars, public meetings, cultural shows, community feasts, group wedding and rituals mark the celebrations. The Universities of Kerala's MBA's college IMK is located near Sivagiri.
Sarkara Devi Temple 
Sarkara Devi Temple is a famous old temple situated near Varkala at Chirayinkeezhu. The temple is famous for the kaliyoot festival on the Malayalam month of kumbham (March).
Sree Saraswathy Temple located in Venkulam, Edava is a VidyaDevi temple famous for Navarathri Sangeetholsavam and Vijayadesami Vidyarambam.
Kaduvayil Juma Masjid 
Kaduvayil Juma masjid is situated on NH47 in between Kallambalam and Attingal, is famous sunni pilgrimage centre which is attracted lacal Muslims and Hindus.There are various charitable organisations run by this trust such as Hospital, CBEC school and conevention centre
Kasi Yoga Anushtana Kendram 
Kasi Yoga Anushtana Kendram is a Yoga Retreat Center Located at Varkala. Its also a training Center for Yoga and Retreat.
Varkala has a moderate climate, with heavy rains during June–August due to the southwest monsoon. Winter starts from December and continues till February. In summer, the temperature rises to a maximum of 32°C and 31°C in the winters. Record high temperature in neighboring Thiruvananthapuram is 39°C. Annual average rainfall is 310 cm.
Janardana swami temple entrance
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Varkala|
- http://www.karthikaplaza.com/varkala.html | Details of Varkala
- http://www.indiatravelphotos.com/kerala/beach/varkala-beach.html Legend of Varkala
- Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Varkala
- "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
- http://www.dazzlingindia.com/travel/about.aspx?destination=Varkala Climatic Conditions
- "Assembly Constituencies - Corresponding Districts and Parliamentary Constituencies". Kerala. Election Commission of India. Retrieved 2008-10-21.