Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

Verkala beach

My next-to-last stop in Kerela (and India): Verkala beach is a really nice place to relax.
It’s not the right season and I’ve had 12-hour rain showers, but when it’s sunny the beach is nice.
At night there are lots of fresh fish fished during the day; I’ve had a good Tuna steak and some other good fish.. Too bad I don’t like seafood, because there’s lots of it here.
Nevertheless, I have to leave today.. Starting to make my way back home. I’ll leave to Trivandrum today, taking a flight tomorrow to Mombai, and try to find a way to spend 8 hours there until my 23:00 flight back to Israel.
It’s not easy thinking about going back, especially in a nice place like Verkala…

Kalaripayattu in Kochi

As I said, the state of Kerela has a lot of culture of its own.
Kalaripayattu is believed to be the oldest martial art, from which spawned both Chinese (Kong-fu) and Japanese martial arts. Its origins are from Kerela, and it’s almost the only place in the world where it is taught and practiced.
I went to see a show in the local Kalaripayattu school. I was the only audience member but they still put it on. Bare-hand fighting, sword and shield, two-edged sword and belt-sword techniques were demonstrated, as well and single and double long-stick, and short-stick techniques.
I asked to join one lesson and the teacher, which looks around 55 but turned out to be 76 years old, accepted…
The next day I joined the class and trained with the local students. They train every day, usually from an early age (they say 7 years old is the best age to start). They say the total training, if one trains hard, should take 12 years. I first had to present the teacher with a coconut and leaf for a short ceremony to be accepted as student…
We first did a ceremonious ‘kata’ which was hard on the legs, since in Kalaripayattu one stays very low, almost horizontal to the ground, to keep the vital parts safe. Then some kicking exercises which improve flexibility.
We mainly worked on bare-hands techniques. They have many interesting (and complicated) locks, I hope to remember at least a few of them. Much of the art also uses vital-point striking, of which there are around 108 along the body.
After a while they asked me, and I showed them some Aikido and Kong-fu techniques which they tried… It was really fun. I was invited to return today, but my legs really hurt and I didn’t feel I was up to it. Still, it was really nice; it’s too bad this is not taught much outside India, as it appears to be a very diverse and complete martial art, as well as healing and massage system.

Kochi

I arrived in Kochi (in Kerela) by night bus from Mysore. Took a boat to the Fort, which is an island.
Kochi is a really nice place, people are really nice. It seems like kerela is a really interesting state with a lot of culture – they have Kalapathi, which is their native theatre – shows take 6-9 hours each and characters communicate with hand movements. The makeup and music are really nice.
There’s also a small jewish community and a synagoge (which I saw only from the outside since I arrived there at night). The majority of people here are christian (portougise influence I think), and most of the rest are muslim (Ramadan just finished yesterday and they had some celebrations). It’s interesting to see the christian churches here – a few days ago there was some holy christian day, they had covered the church in colored lights, had a parade with drums and music, and even a laser-show on the church’s front…
The picture is of Chinese-style finishing nets along the short; a crew of around 6 men lower and raise the nets to try and catch fish, though this time of year the pickings are slim…

Mysore

From Hampi (Hospet) I took a night bus to Bangalor. Not wanting to stay there, I searched for a morning bus to Kochi without luck; so I took a bus to Mysore.
Many people said it’s a nice place, but I can’t say I agree. The palace is quite nice, and the zoo is ok, and probably the best thing to do in town is see the flower market, where they sell loads of flowers, which the local girls wear in their hair daily.
The local merchendize is oil, produced from different trees and flowers, and incense. Not being able to resist the pressure, I had to buy a couple of oil bottles…
There is actually a festival in Mysore now, which should end on the 21st with elephant and horse parades, but I will miss it since my flight is the next day.

Hampi


I finally made it to Hampi.
It’s a small town set in really out-of-this-world surroundings, with hugh rock clusters as far as the eye can see.
This used to be a 15th-century town made of stone, with beautiful halls, palaces and houses. The muslim forces destroyed the town in the 16th century, but the area is full of abandoned palaces, temples and houses with nice statues and carvings.

The whole place is relaxing after the long rides I’ve been taking, and it’s a nice place to take walks or just take is easy. I’m staying right by the river and there are coconut and banana fields all around…

Here’s a sunrise for you (it’s about time…)

Bijaipur


I spent a night in Bijaipur before continuing to Hampi. It’s a mixed Hindu-muslim town, but most interesting sights were left there by the muslims.
The nicest thing I saw in town was the whisper gallery; it’s the top part of a high structure, whose dome is the 2nd largest in the world. People in opposite sides of the gallery can hear each other so perfectly that even a page being turned is heard clearly…

Ajanta caves


The caves at Ajanta are better known for their paintings than the statues or carvings. These show evidence of the very ancient Buddhism cultures, starting from the 2nd century BC – over two thousand years ago.
After the 9th century, when Buddhism became much less practiced in India, the caves were abandoned and forgotten until 1819 when an englishman, while on a tiger hunt, stumbled upon them.
Most of the very oldest paintings, showing the life story of Buddha (only about 300 years after his death), have peeled off the walls or were written over in Hindi. Very little remains of the oldest, original paintings. Of the newer, 6th-century paintings more remains, though it’s still evident that much much more was lost than is present. They show in really nice detail and technique the stories of the time, and you can make out the clothes of the time, which do not look that different from today’s.
The complex also has a nice waterfall which I went into since it was Sooo hot…
Altogether I think the Allora caves were more impressive and better preserved than the ones in Ajanta, but it was still very impressive.
Tomorrow I plan to continue to Bijaipur on my way to Hampi.

Aurangabad and Allora

I left Mumbai after three unbreathable days. I took a train to Aurangabad, which is a ‘little’ (>800 k people) city east of Mumbai.
Despite its size people here are really nice, all the children want to say hello and see this strange beast known as a ‘white man’.
Aurangabad is a starting point to visit the Allora and Ajanta cave complexes.
The Allora caves were really amazing. Carved right out of the living rock, most from around the 6th century AD, are Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves. They are very well preserved and represent the shifts in religious practices in India, while all temples exist in one complex, demonstrating the religious tolerance at the time.
The largest complex is cave 16, which is said to be the largest monolithic structure in the world. It is a hugh temple carved right out of the (granite) rock, with countless beautiful statues. It apparently took over a hundred to build and a true genious of architechture to plan and carve this kind of masterpiece from a single piece of rock.

Mumbai


I made it to Mumbai after a disturbing 14-hour bus (which took 21 hours) from Manali to Delhi and another flight.
My first experince of Mumbai was negative since the taxi driver from the airport charged me about 3 times the proper amount for the ride to town. I found a tiny room (room for a bed and 20cm besides) in Kolaba, which is where most tourists stay.
Mumbai was really, really hot and humid. It is less noisy and annoying than Delhi and other large indian cities though. At night you can look across from the seaside walkway to the other side of Mumbai and see a city that looks like Manhatten – large, lighted skyscrapers.
From Mumbai I also took a boat to Elephant island which is even hotter and more humid than the city – after two steps my shirt was soaked. It has some ancient caves with Hindu statues which were quite nice, though I was to see more impressive caves in the next few days…