Published: December 21st 2005December 13th 2005
Just had an amazing week with Josey and The Ambassador.
We left Fort Kochi for sun and relaxation on Cherai Beach for a couple of days, booked into a beachside hotel called Baywatch! Great surf, lots of sun and dips in the Arabian sea that was so warm.... needed a few days like this before we set off on our cultural tour of the Wayanad.
We left Kalpetta the main town for this area and headed north into the heart of the Wayanad District. A secluded and much unvisited place I have always wanted to visit.
The first challenge was to find the ruins of a Jain Temple at Panamanani, illustrated in the Wayanad Adventure Guide! Josey had not been in this area for 7 years, last time being with David Bailey, so he was a bit rusty on the local sites. After asking a lot locals and travelling down single track country roads we came across a couple of signs, but confusion lay in present day working Jain temples and the ruins we were after.
Eventually we found a track leading through a coffee and banana plantation. Josey was unhappy to leave the car unattended but unhappy
about us wandering off alone! He led us a few hundred yards up the track and then we spotted them.
The ruins looked really beautiful, subtly hidden and mysterious. Josey hiked back to the car and left us to it. Just as I was climbing over the fallen pillars into the main body of the intact inner sanctuary a local turned up, no English just nosey about us, perhaps the owner of the plantation? Anyway, after a while we were obviuosly not a threat and he left us. I managed to take lots of shots of details of the individual sculptures and friezes of the Gods and Dieties in their full glory. The quality and condition were outstanding considering the way the temple had been neglected over the past 100 yearsand amazing that they had not been pillaged. the whole site exuded a peculiar air of mystery and it was very pleasing to have found it and have it all to ourselves.
Our next challenge was to find the Thrissilery Shiva Temple, again after many directions from locals we found the side road indicating 7km, very rough road through isolated villages, turned out to be more like 17km and just
as we were about to give up and go back there it was leading to temple at the end of the road!
We arrived to the bemused stares of the villagers who were in the process of conducting their puja at lunchtime. Not sure if we were welcome to go inside, but Josey as usual cleared us to go in. Removed the shoes and Mike had to divest his t-shirt also, and we started the clockwise walk of the outside of the rectangular temple. A priest approached us with a bucket of sweetmeats which was part of the puja for us to try, which we did with thanks, tasted a bit like sweet semonlina/coconut.
All sorts of thoughts go through your mind at times like this, especially the one " I don't deserve to be here, sharing this".
It was a stunning temple of perfect architectural proportions and there was a shrine on the outside devoted to Jala Durga, believed to have been installed by no less than the ledgendary Parasurama. Once we walked the circuit we were invited to enter the inner temple and instructed to walk the walk around the shrine to Shiva in a particular directio
marked by white painted arrows on the ground. He invited us to touch the holy rock and receive the blessing by the priest dressed in a white lungi.
He offered us holy water which we drank and passed over our heads and some tiny red flowers which we think by his actions we were to put behind our ears! Once puja completed we paid respects to Shiva and Nandi the Bull God and left. The priest shut up the temple, removed his robes and changed and went home for his lunch.
It was a moving experience and we felt privileged to have been accepted in such a kind way.
I couldn't quite help imagining the reverse at home in the Church of England with Hindus being invited to receive Holy Communium...
There are more photos below