The essence of Kerala: A trip to Remember
It was February 2023 when one of our friends invited us to the wedding of her daughter being held in Alleppey, Kerala. We all got excited for the wedding and started planning for it. Since the wedding was to be held on Friday, we decided to plan a trip before attending the wedding itself. In this article, I will take you on a journey through this memorable trip to Kerala.
Kerala is a beautiful state located in the southwestern region of India. People visit Kerala for its palm-lined beaches, backwaters, beautiful landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Anyone who loves nature, history, and culture is bound to be attracted to this state, which is also lovingly called “God’s own Country”.
We decided to start our trip from Mumbai on Saturday and reach Kochi the same day by flight. First on our itinerary was a visit to the famous Guruvayur temple, one of the most important temples in Kerala. This temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is believed to be over 5,000 years old. The temple is huge, and I was mesmerised by its beauty. The temple has been preserved for centuries and is adorned with intricate carvings on the walls, ornate pillars, and colourful murals. The devotees chanted “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna” inside the premises, which gave me goosebumps thinking of the amount of faith they had.
The next day, we were to proceed towards Munnar. Before starting our trip, we headed to the elephant park, which was located nearby. The elephant park is home to several elephants that are trained to perform various tasks, such as carrying logs, lifting heavy objects, and even dancing to the rhythm. The caretakers told us how four elephants were taken every morning and evening for a ‘parikrama’, i.e., a round of the temple with the Guruvayur statue on one of the elephants heads. Though it was a pleasure at first to watch these gentle giants, I soon realised that all of them were either chained or had holes poked in their trunks and bodies to make them conform to the trainers and mohouts’ orders. This made me lose interest quickly, and I decided to quit this place at once.
I did try to say something to my friends regarding the torture these elephants were bearing in the formative years of their lives in order to train them to do the trainers’ bidding, but I couldn’t bring myself to it seeing the delight on their faces and the excitement they had to try the rides on our next stop, which was a thrilling experience for them. There was also the issue of questioning the faith of the devotees who wanted the parikrama to continue. And so I just prayed for the beautiful creatures and let them go.
Thereafter, we bought chocolates, which came in so many flavours. I had never imagined that I would find chocolates containing pulp from fruits like mango, strawberry, blueberry, fig, etc. Then there were the dark chocolates and milk chocolates, as well as the costlier ones, which were packed and not open for taste. Before I could lose myself in the heavens, I decided to buy a mix of all flavours and turned my back on the alluring call of the sweet monsters.
As we set out for Munnar, we were greeted with beautiful hills, tea plantations, and misty hills. We stopped en route at the Cheeyappara waterfall, which is a great trekking place and cascades down seven steps. It is huge, to say the least. As we drove up the winding roads, stunning scenery of green hills and valleys, with tea plantations stretching as far as the eye could see, welcomed us in Munnar.
The next evening, we attended a performance of a fusion of Indian classical dances: Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, and Mohiniyattam. The main performance was Kathakali, which is a traditional dance form of Kerala that has beautiful costumes, colourful makeup, and intricate facial expressions. The dancers performed various stories from the life of Krishna, using their bodies and facial expressions to convey a range of emotions. This was immediately followed by a Kalariyapattu performance. Kalariyapattyu is a traditional martial art form of Kerala that is believed to have originated over 2000 years ago. The performance was a display of sword fighting, stick fighting, and other martial arts techniques performed by highly skilled artists. The performances were thrilling and kept us on the edge of our seats throughout.
One of the highlights of the trip was shopping for spices, medicines, and honey in the local markets. Kerala is known for its wide variety of spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper, which are used in traditional cooking and Ayurvedic medicine. We visited the spice garden, where the guide showed us around and explained the uses of the various medicinal plants being grown there. We also visited a honey bee farm where various types of medicinal honey were on display and given for tasting, along with an explanation of the benefits of each of them. I bought some Ayurvedic medicines and flavouring honey, which I am using nowadays.
The next day we proceeded to Thekkady, located near the border of Tamil Nadu. Thekkady is famous for the Periyar National Park, which is home to a wide variety of animals, including elephants, tigers, leopards, and deer. We stayed at the Abhyaranya resort, which is inside the Periyar National Park. Due to a paucity of time, we could not go on a jeep safari, but we did sight a group of Nilgiri langurs, a porcupine, and a large bear from the safety of our resort itself. There were many monkeys around the resort, but they were harmless and did not show any intention to come near us. The next day we went to the hills in a jeep and enjoyed the scenic view. There we saw a herd of wild elephants, wild bison, and deer, albeit from a distance.
Within no time, or so it seemed, it was Thursday, and we set out for the beautiful Alleppey. Our host had arranged for us to stay on a houseboat that evening. The houseboat was a luxurious floating house with four rooms, all with the amenities we would need for our stay. It even had a big woofer deck, which we utilised to the max as DJs, and we danced on the top deck. As we cruised through the serene backwaters, I was mesmerised by the beauty of the landscape, with palm trees swaying in the breeze and the occasional glimpse of local life along the banks. The houses looked like they were built in the middle of backwaters but were actually surrounded by water-filled paddy fields.
The next day was the actual day of our purpose—the wedding, which was a grand affair with colourful decorations, traditional music, and delicious food. The wedding was a great way to learn about the local culture and traditions, and I felt privileged to be a part of such a joyous occasion. Since the bride was like our own daughter, we enjoyed and became a part of the occasion without even trying.
Finally, it was time to say goodbye to Kerala and head back to the airport. As I looked back on my trip, I realised how much I had learned about the rich cultural heritage of Kerala and how much I had enjoyed the natural beauty and hospitality of the people. This trip with my friends was wonderful, and it was made all the more memorable with their smiles, laughter, enjoyment, and simply being together. It brought us closer and has encouraged us to be together for many more such adventures.