Nila had always fascinated me. I always used to notice it every time when I was passing by through the trains. During my journey to Coimbatore during my college days, right from Kuttipuram, towards Pattambi, through Shoranur and Ottapalam, Nila used to strike a peculiar chord in my heart. In the summers it was barren. But the monsoon and rains usually made sure that the Nilahad the vehemence and ferocity at its full strength.

Img 1: The Nila – during the peak of summer
Image © Nidheesh Narayanan
Img 2: The Nila – during monsoon.
Photo from almost the same spot where Img 1 was taken. See the difference in the volume of water flowing down the river.
Image © Nidheesh Narayanan
Then, slowly I started to dig a bit deep into history and literature to find something more. There was nothing much up on internet, except for the information that Wikipedia provided. Here, there were just the basic geographic details and certain environmental issues highlighted – nothing more.
So, I had to look for alternate sources to enhance my knowledge. I found the perfect resource in books of significance like Malabar Manual by William Logan and Aithihyamala by Kottarathil Shankunni, both which gave meticulous information about the impact that Nila had on the growth of culture in ancient and medieval Kerala, especially with its temples, the Maamankam festival, the countless wars fought near its banks and the growth of various art forms across its path.
Armed with the perfect information and knowledge, my respect and admiration for Nila grew leap and bounds. Then it was the wait for the perfect opportunity to walk to the banks of the river that shaped the cultural psyche of the Malayalee.
It was during those days that after my stint at Bangalore, my job took me to Thrissur. Technically, the Nila did not flow through Thrissur, but it was just an hours’ drive away from the cultural capital of Kerala. And working in Kerala, we do get the perfect holidays in the shape of hartal and bandhs to take care of our special travel needs like this. Since offices were closed on hartal days, thanks to the extra ordinary political mileage of the average malayalee, I decided to use one such day to explore Nila.
Starting off from Thrissur town on my bike, early morning, passing through Vadakkancherri and other places through the rural heartland of Thrissur, via the famous Kalamandalam, I reached the Cochin Bridge at Shoranur, which passed over the Nila. Beyond the toll booth, there was a small road down from the side of the bridge that went down right to the river bed.
Down there, I could feel another genre of vibes taking over me. The cool breeze, that flowed over the river and gently grazed over my face, the nippy sands of the riverside, the feel of the warm and cold waters of the beautiful NilaRiver over my toes made me feel the presence of divinity all around.
This was one place I had seen in countless Malayalam movies. It was a perfect, picturesque painting of nature, and there was nothing that was stopping me taking off my clothes and shifting into swimming trunks, and then walking slowly and steadily into the river. And once there, it had a timorously awesome feeling to it.
There, with my eyes closed, feeling the tranquil and timid waters of Nila all over me, I could feel the voices that were heard over the centuries at its shores, of the galloping horses of the various wars, of the conch blows of the countless festivals, of the resonance and tone of the various hymns, poems, and dance that were composed over its beauty, buzzing in my mind.
It was like the Supreme Being was giving the perfect aide memoire of our roots. Few hours later, swimming around, I could feel the sunset behind my shoulder. It was time to come out of the waters and back home. My tryst with Nila had ended for the day, and it was quite and experience.
There are rivers that may give us the most overwhelming, awe-inspiring, breath-taking and kickass moments. But here, it is calm, quiet and peaceful. There is only one Nila, which will give a totally different notion for that awesome feeling. It gives a truly special touch to being Alive, being Awesome. Because, it’s our culture, our heritage, our history that makes us truly feel – Alive is Awesome.
This post is written for Cinthol’s new Alive is Awesome marketing campaign.
Click here for the link to Wikipedia’s page on Nila.