Blog post by Gayatri Subramanian
People tend to have a long bucket list of places to visit, often dreaming of being to exotic foreign locations. In my opinion if we do more of in country backpacking and less of outside the country that bucket list might get marginally smaller. The geographic and social variation in our country is such, we get to experience a myriad of ecosystems and life styles.
Coming from a family which is in love with travelling to places,there are many fond memories and life altering moments that arise from my travel diaries. Of them all,i hold my visits to Kerala dearest to me.
Our visits to Kerala(which is incidentally my native state) has been in two trips,one when i was in 14 and one quite recently.My grandfather being from Mumbai,Mumbai and Maharashtra have always been my homeplace and native to me too.Quite recently we had discovered of some ancestral roots there and a temple in Kerala which formed the basis of trip no.1 to Kerala. These were the days before economical airlines came into the foray.Trips had to be planned 4-5 months in advance, train bookings had to be done filling those tiny pink forms..spending Sundays at the terminus booking them.
The travel crossing Maharashtra and Karnataka state lines was fairly uneventful,the usual excitement ensuing from being allowed to consume endless packets of chips and other junk food. Most of the landscape got covered into the night,and when dawn broke we were into kerala borders, and the scene of that morning has been etched into my mind. The land as far as my eyes could see covered in palm trees, peppered with the typical rural settlements,their inmates gearing up for farming and milking duties,small children taking joy in little things like running alongside the train waving at the passengers. Where palm trees couldn’t grow there were stretches of paddy fields, the staple diet of most of south India. The time when we had gone, monsoons had just knocked on our doorstep,giving
some respite from the Indian summers. Having abandoned our seats me and my appa were sitting by the door way taking in the fresh country side air and the view. After touching Ernakulam,our first stop was a small place called Ettumanoor, known for its famous Shiva
temple, the Ettumanoor Mahadeva temple. As with all south Indian temples its built in stone with mural paintings in the interior.It is well known for the painting of lord shiva in his dancing pose. A very peculiar thing with all shiva temples is that you are not supposed to take away anything from the temple,unlike other temples where you are given a part of the offerings as Prasad, Shiva temples don’t follow the same. It is believed that if you happen to sit in a Shivan temple you are supposed to dust off your clothes so that you don’t carry even the dust from the temple.
Having paid our regards their,we travelled to Vaikom,another settlement about two hours drive from Ernakulam .It is here that our ancestors once resided as Brahmins.There are two temples here, a murugan temple which happens to be our family deity fondly remembered by my grandfather as Vaikom Vellayudhan (One who carries a Vel), and a Devi temple across the street known as Poonkabhagavati temple. One very interesting aspect of these village temples is that the entrance of the temple opens towards the back of the temple, so you have to walk around the perimeter of the courtyard to face the entrance of the temple. These temples only attract the local villagers, hence are rarely ever crowded, giving the temple a well needed ambience of peace and quiet.
Our next stop was the famous Guruvayoor temple, a Krishna temple known for its elephants.As a kid my fascination was less for the temple and more for the famed elephants seen in the temple. When we reached Guruvayoor near about dusk, I was a bit disappointed and not being able to spot even a single elephant.our hotel was about five minutes by foot from the temple so that we could get an early morning darshan. The next morning we were awaken to the sound of bells jingling, but oddly enough they weren’t the tolls of temple bells,but they were the ones tied around an elephant’s neck. We rushed to the balcony of our hotel and the sight before us was truly breathtaking, lines and lines of elephants had been freshly bathed and being led to the temple to be adorned and tsken out
into a procession. We saw bulls,mothers and calves alike heading towards the temple guided by their mahouts in an orderly fashion.Later we got to know from our hotel manager that these elephants were being brought from Periyaar (Kerala’s wildlife sanctuary) for the festivities. Sadly I don’t remember much about the temple. Since the temple has strict attire rules, I wasn’t
allowed to enter as I was in a Punjabi suit, apparently women have to be in saris and girls in pavadais. Oddly enough I don’t regret it,Ii like to see it this way that the day, He deems me worthy for Darshanam, He will surely summon me. How’s that for being spiritual!!
Our next stop was the most exciting of all, Periyaar sanctuary, located in the Iddiki district, it is a notable elephant and tiger reserve. We were taken on a small jetty across the backwaters, to a particular part which doubled as a watering hole for the wildlife.The thing about these sanctuaries is that spotting any sort of wildlife is a matter of pure luck.Its not orchestrated,its not planned, you just have to hope you are at the right place at the right time. After having spent a good 45 mins on the jetty waiting for one glimpse of the gentle giants, our guide was about to turn around our liner, when suddenly out of the foliage came not one, not two but an entire herd of pachyderms crossing over to the other side of the river.the magnificent beasts were oblivious to the jetty,or maybe they knew of our presence but had simply learnt to coexist. There were two claves happily frolicking in the
water. These animals were no different in behaviour from us. The bulls surreptitiously guarded the herd from any danger,while the mothers stuck around the calves,the innermost circle being formed by the calves.All these was being explained to me by my father. In those days digital cameras were unheard of.Rolls were used conservatively, hence barring a few photos the rest of it formed mental images in our head.Maybe that’s why it flows so easily with words. We bid Kerala adieu with a heavy heart, as it meant the end of vacations for us kids.
This trip turned out to be pivotal for me as it introduced me to my roots. Being brought up in a city, our traditional upbringing was a bit rusted. But instead of giving us a boring backstory on our ancestors, my father did what he knew best, travel. And it has been the best form of education till date. Trip no.2 needs to be a separate story in itself, to do it full justice.