By Smrithi Nair:
Haven’t we all come across the God’s own country ad for Kerala tourism with backwater houseboats and Kathakali dancers? A visit to Kerala just made me realize that it’s more than that and in fact is more than anything you could have asked for.
My journey started with humble beginnings- I packed my suitcase with cotton and breezy clothes to suit the climate there and along with it I had prejudiced images of Kerala tugged in my head. After a not so tiring 3 hours in flight I saw a beautiful green landmass underneath me. My jaw literally dropped from the exotic view of this land. The rest ten days were a treat for me and my soul.
This place is an experience waiting to happen as it has virgin beaches with the best hotels, splendid temples, mesmerizing local culture and nature’s bounty in the backwaters. My itinerary was short but had the main essence of the state. First day I was off to explore the beaches. The first beach I went to was the popular Kovalam beach which was crowded with foreigners and hippies which made it a rather ordinary sight.”]The next beach I found was a spot where I could reconnect with myself and could just sit on the golden sand without the mere knowledge of time. It was the Varkala beach, not known to many and not half crowded as Kovalam was a spiritual experience. No books or mp3 players were needed at this place as I was much at peace with the soothing lullaby sung by the waves. This beach is also a place where last rites are performed and the ashes are drowned by the person’s relatives. The first sight of the beach was an 8-year old drowning a small copper pot (known as kalash) in the sea. He was followed by his mother and other associates. It was a rather unordinary sight for a city girl like me. The other side of the beach was where I spent much of my time basking in the sun in deep retrospection of oblivious things. Many times I would loosen myself to relax, meditate or just immerse in the beauty around. I left after the big beautiful red sun immersed itself in the sea. I caught a perfect picture of it on my SLR camera. Well it was one of those days where I had no regrets or qualms but plain calmness.
Returning to the hotel I freshened up and left for a Kathakali and Mohiniattam performance. I personally wanted to see both these arts as I have always fancied watching the expressive faces clad in exquisite attires dancing to soothing but impressive music. Before the Kathakali performance the singer who recites the poem comes and explains the scene enacted followed by the performance. Both the performance were brilliant as I expected.
After a rejuvenating day at the beaches I sought adventure and this took me to Peermade hill station which eventually is on the way to Periyar Tiger Reserve. Peermade is a lovely hill station and an ideal retreat in the Western Ghats. Sprawling gardens of tea, coffee,cardamom, rubber and eucalyptus lying side by side with natural grasslands, pine forests and waterfalls make this an ideal summer resort. The summer palace of Rajas of erstwhile Travancore has become a monument now.
While driving to Peeremede I had already planned the activities I would indulge in for the rest 2 days. I went for trekking, cycling and horse riding. Kuttikanam a place for adventure tourism and trekking is just 3 km from Peermade which became my next destination. Cycling around this area was neither very adventurous nor very relaxing but yeah it was definitely a mix of both and highly pleasing for the senses. After a hectic day of cycling, trekking and an hour of horse riding I went to Thrissanku Hills which is four km away for an evening spree. The rolling hills, the lovely landscape and the gentle breeze made me prefer taking a long walk instead of unwind in my caravan. The hills offered a breathtaking view of the sunrise and sunset which was complimented by a cup of streaming elaichi chai.
Other days spent by like hours in the midst of temple explorations and festivities. I was fortunate to be here in the time of religious festivals. Such large scale celebration is not something anyone has ever seen. The festival I witnessed was the ‘mother of all festivals’ known as The Thrissur Pooram. It had an attendance of more than five lakh devotees with artistes performing for the event and twenty one elephants. It was very spellbound to see the largely chaotic but very organized. The excellent architecture and craftsmanship is exemplified in the temples which cannot be explained in words.
My ten day trip in Kerala flew past my eyes on the last day. Instead of souvenirs,Â I bought a book on Kerala which was almost like an encyclopedia of the place because this was not going to be my last visit. In fact, I will have many more, ten days was just not enough. I wanted to live this place for which even a month won’t be enough.
Anyone can come to Kerala and feel at home. They can connect to this place and oneself. This place enables you to be what you want to be. You can be an adventurer in Kerala with many amazing hill stations and wildlife sanctuaries or can be a discoverer of arts or culture with a myriad of performing arts and traditions to dig into. You can be a foodie and you will find the best gourmet vegetarian meals across the continent or if you chose even lip smacking non-vegetarian dishes. Or you can simply be a tourist and enjoy it all. This place is a melting pint of integrating religions, cultures and traditions at its best. At last I would say one visit to Kerala will not be enough for you. You will be back soon!
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.