Dec 7, 2007

Kerala - God's own country

If God loves coconut trees, then he/she must be residing in Kerala.

That was my very first thought after we moved out of the Kochi airport after being glued to the window for some 15 minutes the very moment the plane started to descend. The vast stretch of coconut trees, small streams flowing and the red thatched roofs – all made for a very picturesque site.

My friend had invited me over and I wasn’t very sure of how this ten day break in Kerala would turn out to be. Of course, now I am overwhelmed with the warm reception I received, the comfortable accommodation and the taxi arranged for me. Thanks V! I owe much to you:-) and it was really an amazing experience.

As we drove to kochi, I could not help getting amused by the huge bunches of bananas hanging practically in every shop, the many men in their lungis (wrap arounds) half-folded up to their knees sitting outside their shops doing nothing really, the churches, long queues of women clad in colourful sarees waiting at bus stops and huge hoardings advertising in Malayalam for gold jewellery.

We reached the guesthouse near Marine Drive where we got to relax for a few hours. The sunset we saw on the way was simply mind-blowing. In the evening, we took a jetty to visit Fort Kochi. The ride was nice.

Next day, we headed for Varkala. Varkala, is a quiet seaside destination and is known for its cliffs adjacent to the Arabian Sea. The secluded beach, the small shops and the eating joints are full of foreigners who seem to be having a grand time either surfing in the sea, relaxing in the sun or learning more about yoga or enjoying the exotic Kerala massages. We took a quite lunch at one of the small restaurants there and then finally, we headed for the sea. My mum busied herself collecting shells whereas I was totally enjoying the sae to the full. Later, we headed to the cliff again.

Sunset at Varkala, Kerala Took this picture from the Varkala cliff. It’s a site that I still cherish in my heart.
Caught this cat while I was climbing up the steps of a restaurant at the Varkala cliff for lunch.

It is believed that a group of devout pilgrims approached Narada, and confessed to having sinned. Narada threw his valkalam (cloth made out of the bark of a tree) and it landed at a place near the seashore. This place was thus given the name 'varkala'. Narada directed his devotees to offer prayers at the beach where the valkalam landed. This place then came to be known as 'Papanasam' meaning redemption from sins. We did see at least two people offering coconut etc to the sea. It is only later I understood the significance.

We reached Trivandrum in the night. The next day, we visited the Padmanaswamy temple, which permits only the Hindus to worship the Gods in the temple. Thankfully, my mom was carrying a cotton saree that I could wear to the temple else I would not be permitted inside. I cannot describe how much enchanted I was with the beauty of sculptures, the huge idol of Vishnu – parts of which can be seen only through the three small doors, the courtyard with hundreds of sculptures of apsaras offering flowers to the Gods, the devotees singing prayers that sounded divine and the many many other idols . It’s was surreal and for a moment I really did feel transcended to another era altogether.

I took some time out to visit the Chitra art gallery that displayed many of Raja Ravi Verma’s paintings. Also, I visited the museum there and enjoyed seeing the artefacts. There was this one sculpture of shiva that reminded me of medusa. In the evening, we headed for Kovalam.
The Kovalam Experience

Kovalam is another beach on the Arabian Sea. Kovalam means a groove of coconut trees.
Kovalam had a charm of its own. We reached there to see the setting sun spreading its shimmering reflection in the otherwise blue water of the sea.

A few moments later, it hid behind an azure veil giving way to many
silver clouds and a beautiful full-moon smiling at us. We sat at the one of the eating joints and spent an hour listening to the music of the waves. It was soulful!
Next day, we headed for Kanyakumari. It was a place I knew I had to visit. Kanyakuamri is the southern most tip of India and it is here that the three seas meet: the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian sea.According to the local lore, Kanya Devi, an avatar of Parvati, was to marry Shiva, but he failed to show up to the wedding. The princess Kanya Devi is a virgin goddess who blesses pilgrims and tourists.

Vivekanand Rock, Kanyakumari
The Vivekananda Rock Memorial is built on a rock that protrudes from the ocean. Itt marks the place where Swami Vivekananda meditated and evolved his philosophy.

Munnar is breathtakingly beautiful and can really be called a haven of peace and tranquillity.

Munnar has everything that one can imagine! It has the unending expanse of tea plantations, green rolling hills, flowing waters in the streams, vast stretch of Eucalyptus trees, exotic species of flora and fauna in its dense forests and more...

You just have to go there and experience it!