St. Francis Xavier's Rotting Corpse

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Asia » India
May 25th 2009
Published: May 25th 2009
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Fi and I have been traveling around the Southern coast of India for the past few weeks. The area has obvious traces of its colonial past all over the place. The buildings, food and even the look of the people is a mixture of (in height order) Dutch, Portuguese, Jewish, Chinese, and of course Indian influences.

In Alleppey, a town in the Kerala Backwaters, we spent a day and a night out on a private house boat. The photos of the kid jumping into the water and Fi paddling around come from there. The whole area has more canals than roads and is a huge breeding and feeding ground for migratory and water birds. It's crazy beautiful.

At the North end of the backwaters is a large town called Kochin. We stayed in one of it's burroughs called Ft. Kochin. It is famous throughout India for its long history of religious and cultural tolerance, and it was after all a fort at some point. So we were lucky we wound up there for the release of India's election results. The campaigning and voting had been going on for well over a month and it was nice to have it over and done with. The fellows with painted faces on the bike are celebrating the victory of the largest, most secular party in India, called the Congress party. They were the ruling party and, in what was supposed to be a close election, won a landslide victory. Handing out candies to strangers and setting off enormous homemade fireworks were the order of the day. We also saw a Kathakali dance production which defies description. I'll have to act it out in person. The program invovles something like 28 different hand signals combined with facial ticks, costumes, lots of makeup and dance routines. The typical performance lasted between 6 and 9 hours in its heyday. We saw a one hour performance and I wanted more. I didn't bring my camera which turned out to be a huge mistake. My bad. Sorry.

Since Kochin we've since headed up to Panaji and Old Goa. Really they're more of the same of what we've been seeing with a stronger Portuguese and Catholic influence. In Old Goa the highlight of the major Catholic Temple complex was of course St. Francis Xavier of Jesuit missionary fame's rotting corpse. You can see the casket in one of the photos. He's in a glass case and is an example of the "incorruptible flesh" miracles popular with enthusiastic Catholics of the day. Perhaps his flesh was once incorrupitble, but today it um....well, I'm glad it's in a sealed case. His right arm is missing as it was stolen and scavenged for talismanic lucky charms carried by European Catholic missionaries heading out to China and Japan many moons ago. You can't see that side of the corpse, obviously.

That about covers things. We're currently renting scooters and rushing around the state of Goa searching for the fabled beautiful beaches that are supposed to be here. I'm inclined to believe after a couple days of searching that they're mostly hype. Then again we've got a pretty high standard when it comes to beaches these days.

Also, can you believe Noh Moo Hyun is dead? The former South Korean President commit suicide a day or two ago by jumping off a cliff. He was under investigation for corruption. Pretty minor corruption by Korean standards actually. Very surprising.

Hope you enjoy the photos and we'll have another entry up soon.

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