In India: Kerala, Thursday 2012 January 19


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January 19th 2012
Published: October 30th 2012
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Thanumalayan TempleThanumalayan TempleThanumalayan Temple

White can be as beautiful as the many colours of other temples.
We drove for three hours south through rural Kerala to Kanyakumaridistrict and Thanumalayan Temple. Our bus stopped a short distance away, so we could take photos of the high, intricately carved, white tower or gopuram from outside the courtyard. To one side was the pond for ritual washing; this was more like a small lake, bordered by houses and dominated by a shrine. Only men washed in this pond; women washed a few hundred yards away, for privacy presumably. Also outside the courtyard was a large festival car, possibly under construction because although the base looked permanent, the top was comprised of unpainted poles and what looked like a frame for thatching or other roofing. The painted wood wheels were taller in diameter than the height of the male pilgrims walking by, dressed in black.

We walked into the courtyard where other visitors were gawking like us, but many more people were here to worship and walked in a purposeful way to the main temple building. The men were required to remove their shirts; our blushing young male guide said it was permissible to let it hang from one shoulder, and he did so.

Inside he asked one of the
Carvings on gopuramCarvings on gopuramCarvings on gopuram

Never tired of admiring the intricate carvings
temple men to demonstrate the chiming stones, pillars carved from a single block of stone. The man played several of these by hitting them with the heel of his palms. There were a few very slender ones that he played by snapping a fingernail against them. We were invited to do this; I tried - getting a sound required some force. Our guide didn’t think there was any ritual associated with these chiming stones, which begs the question why they were created. Near the exit were the only painted sculptures, this time of Koli, a manifestation of Parvati (Shiva’s wife).

Next we drove a fairly short distance to where the waters of the Indian Ocean divide into the Bay of Bengal (east) and the Arabian Sea (west). The bus left us at the top of an easy descent, lined with shops for food, souvenirs, crafts, etc. Lots of Indian tourists were excitedly milling about, numbers that grew during our visit. At the bottom of the descent was a temple only for Hindus. We joined the drift around the building down to the stony point of land. A terrace was built on the rock foundation, with steps down to the sea.
Festival CarFestival CarFestival Car

Imagine the parade that included such a huge festival car!
This was a memory I wanted, so I rolled up my pants and removed my sandals. Down two steps, and the waves soaked my pants to my calves.

The water felt pleasant and as I lingered taking video to mark the moment, a family with two small boys joined my step. The father was leading, then sort of pulling the older boy to the water: he did not want to go! An older man (relative or priest?) grabbed the boy by the arms and dunked him three times. He howled! Meanwhile the younger boy with his mother giggled as she helped him keep his feet on the step.

To one side (the Bengal side) women were bathing in their brightly coloured saris. (Later an Indian told us that all Indians prefer dark and bright colours compared to white people who like pale colours.

Looking up, we could see the Vivekananda Memorial on a small nearby island. The two statues soared above the ferryboats and visiting people. The queue was 1½ hours, so we didn’t bother. We just reveled in the festive atmosphere washing around us as so many families enjoyed their holidays.

We drove the three hours
Vivekananda MemorialVivekananda MemorialVivekananda Memorial

Thrilling to stand in the waters of the Bay of Bengal,, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea!
back to Trivandrum. Upon being reminded of my desire to buy cotton fabrics, L___ consulted with JK who recommended Pothy’s in Trivandrum. Situated along a busy and narrow street, this proved to be a large department store. L___ decreed only twenty minutes for shopping, when the bus would arrive back for us, as there was no place to park. With speed remarked upon by the others, I bee-lined to the fabric counter, immediately fell in love with a red and gold (colour) figured piece, spied a beautiful lavender remnant which was immediately matched up to another piece the same by the clerk at the counter, and took a few moments more to select a dark blue fabric with light blue and white design. The clerk cut the pieces, noted the prices and pointed me to a nearby desk, where another clerk totted up the costs and presented me with the bill. Yet another clerked carried off the fabric, while the man at the desk pointed me to a large counter across the floor. There they took my money (credit card) and presented me with the fabrics in (frail) paper bags, and added the bonus of a fine re-useable carrier bag.
Taj at KovalamTaj at KovalamTaj at Kovalam

Infinity pool for me!
I was back on the street with time to spare! The quality of the cotton fabric was marvelous, feeling almost like silk. The cost was miniscule compared to Calgary ($3.98 for the lavender, $6.30 for the red, $6.72 for the blue). My mental entertainment on the long bus rides is designing my curtains and cotton clothes based on clothes I see out the window.

Half an hour more brought us to the splendid Taj resort at Kovalam. Very late arriving, we rushed off the bus to the buffet lunch in the open-air dining room.

After lunch, we navigated to the rooms, which were in small blocks built into the side of a hill that rose from the sea. Mine (as for two others) was an upgrade: sitting room with a small dining table and a huge bedroom and large bathroom with both a tub and a walk-in shower. After a rest, I realized I should check out the view from the balcony – and discovered a small swimming pool for me alone! This I enjoyed for the rest of the afternoon: swam a bit and read a bit on the lounge, repeatedly.

The hotel is set in a lush tropical forest. All that we have seen of Kerala is lush, even though at this time of year it is quite dry (no rain during our visit). Flowering trees and bushes are abundant, both “wild” and planted near houses and businesses. I don’t think we have seen any genuinely wild places, only land that is more or less cultivated or inhabited. Purple hibiscus is the most often seen flower, followed by orange flowers unknown to me, and yellow bottlebrush.



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