INDIA (Kerala)

Kerala, the narrow, fertile strip on the southwest coast of India, is sandwiched between the Lakshadweep Sea and the Western Ghats. Its sheltered location has allowed many distinctive customs, art forms and festivals to thrive.

Kerala’s biggest cultural celebration is the harvest festival Onam, when the state celebrates the golden age of mythical King Mahabali Kerala for four days in late August or early September.

Traders have been sailing to Kerala seeking spices and ivory for at least 3000 years. The coast was known to the Phoenicians. Romans, Arabs and Chinese. Kerala was also a trans-shipment point for spices from the Moluccas (eastern Indonesia), and it was through Kerala that Chinese products and ideas found their way to the west.

The Kingdom of the Cheras ruled much of Kerala until the early middle ages. Its fortunes waxed and waned as it competed with kingdoms and small fiefdoms for territory and trade.

Vasco da Gama’s arrival in 1948 heralded an era of European contact as Portuguese, Dutch and English interests fought the Arab traders and then each other for control of the spice trade.

The present-day state of Kerala was created in 1956 from the former states of Travancore, Cochin and Malabar.

I bought elephant adornment, Mama Mary statue and khatakali bodily decors as souvenirs. Khatakali is a renowned stage drama in Kerala. It is based on the Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as the Puranas, the theme explored are all those canvassed in the great stories – righteousness and evil, frailty and courage, poverty and prosperity, war and peace, the terrestrial and the cosmic.

I did not see the play. I saw, however, the principal characters paint their bodies and dress up for the show. I felt awkward viewing the procedure as it is like prying into the private activities of male individuals.

During the second day, I woke up early to have an early morning walk. I saw the old houses with the Portuguese, Dutch and South Indian influence on their architecture. I saw the big fishing nets hauling the sea products.

In the afternoon, I rode the boat to witness the commercial activities in the river.

It took us three hours to reach the airport for our flight to Mumbai. Along the way, I noticed that my flight would pass through Delhi and back to Mumbai which would take six (6) hours. Thanks to my travel instinct for discovering the error and shortening travel time by five hours as it takes only one (1) hour to Mumbai from Kerala. The scenario is indication of the gross negligence of my travel agent.

Be that as it may, I am thankful Lord for the opportunity to visit the place.

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