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Traffic circle in Varkala
Traffic circle in Varkala
Varkala is located in Kerala
Varkala is located in India
Coordinates: 8°43′59″N 76°43′01″E / 8.733°N 76.717°E / 8.733; 76.717Coordinates: 8°43′59″N 76°43′01″E / 8.733°N 76.717°E / 8.733; 76.717
Country India
State Kerala
District Thiruvananthapuram
Talukas Varkala Taluk
 • Total 15.42 km2 (5.95 sq mi)
Elevation 190 m (620 ft)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 40,048
 • Density 2,600/km2 (6,700/sq mi)
 • Official Malayalam, English
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 695141
Telephone code 0470
Vehicle registration KL-16
Nearest cities Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam
Lok Sabha constituency Attingal
Varkala beach
Natural spring in Varkala

Varkala 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.

Varkala Maithanam
Varkala cliffs

Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea.[2] These Cenozoic 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. In 2015, Ministry of Mines, Government of India and Geological Survey of India (GSI) have declared Varkala Cliff as a geo-heritage site.[3][4]

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).[5] 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.



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 Sage 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.[6]


Varkala is located at 8°44′N 76°43′E / 8.73°N 76.71°E / 8.73; 76.71.[7]


Varkala is an important place as far as Kerala Geology is concerned as it exposes sedimentary rocks belonging to the Cenozoic 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 area 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 assembly constituency is part of Attingal (Lok Sabha constituency), and current MP is Mr. Sampath. Current MLA of Varkala Municipality is Mr. Joy V.[8]


Varkala is a well-known tourist destination. The town has 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.

Varkala is an important hub for neighbouring places Attingal, Kadakkavur, Chirayinkeezhu, Kallambalam, Paravur and Kilimanoor.


In 2001,[9] Varkala had 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.

According to the 2011 Census of India,[10] The Varkala Municipality has population of 40,048 of which 18,312 are males while 21,736 are females.

Population of Children with age of 0-6 is 4479 which is 11.18% of total population of Varkala (M). In Varkala Municipality, Female Sex Ratio is of 1187 against state average of 1084. Moreover, Child Sex Ratio in Varkala is around 981 compared to Kerala state average of 964. Literacy rate of Varkala city is 93.57% lower than state average of 94.00%. In Varkala, Male literacy is around 95.43% while female literacy rate is 92.04%.

The people of Varkala are generally employed in the service sector. A large number of them work outside India, mainly in the Middle East, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Varkala has a ratio of tourists to residents is 1:3.



Trivandrum International airport (55 km) is the nearest airport. Varkala Helipad at Varkala Cliff.


Varkala Sivagiri railway station is well-connected by regular trains from Thiruvananthapuram Central and major places in India.


Varkala is at a distance of 11 km from National Highway 47. Private buses and KSRTC buses ply through NH 47 and Varkala.


Varkala Promenade

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.


  • District Ayurveda Hospital
  • Govt. Taluk Hospital, Temple Road, Maithanam.
  • Govt. Nature Cure Hospital, Helipad.
  • SSNMM Hospital, Puthenchantha.

Sightseeing Highlights[edit]

Varkala Beach[edit]

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.[11]


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.

Paravur: Land of Backwaters, Estuaries and Beaches[edit]

Main article: Paravur, Kollam
Paravur: The land of estuary, beaches and backwaters

Paravur is another municipal town with estuary and backwaters, situated 13 km away from Varkala. One could easily enjoy the beauty of this blessed land by travelling on the way towards Pozhikkara, Thekkumbhagam and Kappil. Paravur is in Kollam district, sharing borders with the Thiruvananthapuram district. Paravur has an array of backwaters and lakes surrounding the town. But with the advent of roads and others means of transport the inland waterways have been neglected. But renewed efforts are under way to start linking the waterways to an ambitious inland waterways system being sponsored by the state government on the lines of what once existed.

Paravur Lake attracts a good number of tourists. The lake meets the sea and in between a small stretch of road which divides them can be viewed on the way.

Kappil Lake[edit]

Edava-Nadayara Lake: A scene from Paravur Thekkumbhagam

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Religious centres[edit]

Janardana Swami Temple[edit]

Janardhana Swami Temple Pond
Sivagiri Mutt

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[edit]

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.

Sarkara Devi Temple[edit]

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[edit]

The Sree Saraswathy Temple, located in Venkulam, Edava, is a VidyaDevi temple famous for Navarathri Sangeetholsavam and Vijayadesami Vidyarambam.

Kaduvayil Juma Masjid[edit]

Kaduvayil Juma masjid is situated on NH47 in between Kallambalam and Attingal, is a famous Sunni pilgrimage centre which attracts local Muslims and Hindus.


Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies Varkala's climate as tropical wet and dry . It has heavy rains during June–August due to a southwest monsoon. In summer, the temperature rises to a maximum of 32 °C (90 °F) and 31 °C (88 °F) in the winters. Record high temperature in neighbouring Thiruvananthapuram is 39 °C (102 °F). Annual average rainfall is 3,100 mm (120 in).

Climate data for Varkala
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 29.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 26.1
Average low °C (°F) 22.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 19
Average rainy days 1 2 3 8 10 19 17 14 11 12 8 3 108
Mean daily sunshine hours 9 9 8 8 7 5 5 6 6 6 6 7 6.8
Source #1:[12]
Source #2: Weather2Travel[13] for sunshine and rainy days


  1. ^
  2. ^ | Details of Varkala
  3. ^ "Declaration of Geo-Heritage Sites". Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  4. ^ "Varkala cliff to be nation's first geopark". The Hindu. 2012-07-07. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  5. ^ "Varkala". 
  6. ^ "Varkala Beach". Kerala Tourism. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Varkala
  8. ^ "Assembly Constituencies - Corresponding Districts and Parliamentary Constituencies" (PDF). Kerala. Election Commission of India. Retrieved 2008-10-21.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "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. 
  10. ^ "Census of India 2011". Retrieved 2015-09-24. 
  11. ^ "Kerala". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  12. ^ "Climate: Varkala - Climate graph, Temperature graph, Climate table". Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Varkala Climate and Weather Averages, Kerala". Weather2Travel. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 

External links[edit]