It has been hard to get back to regular posting. To break our mental block, we decided to go through each day in our last trip to South India and find a picture from that day to post.
It took us a full day to get from our home in the US to Bangalore, our first stop in India. Bangalore seems like it might be a good place to live but — from a tourist perspective — the most interesting location seems to be the modern international airport. Bangalore was a capital city in times past which has been renamed Bengaluru to help confuse visitors. Today, it is a modern place known as the “Silicon Valley of India.” If you have ever called customer service in the evening for help with an electronic device, it is likely you have spoken to someone in Bangalore.
The first day of our trip was a drive around to see the few remaining historical sites in Bangalore. Being driven in Bangalore is like riding in an amusement park thrill ride. Two or three inches separate cars, trucks, motorcycles, and pedestrians that are bobbing and weaving while constantly blowing their horns (except for the pedestrians, but they would if they had them).
One site we stopped at, which is really atypical of modern Bangalore, was the Kote Venkataramana Temple. The guide said we’d be seeing a lot of temples in India (he was right) so we saw this one from outside only. It is part of the Tipu Sultan Fort complex. According to an eBook we bought on Amazon, the tower in the left of the photo represents a mountain where gods live. A god comes down the mountain to a sanctuary, representing a cave, that is reached after passing through the tower. In this “cave” there is an idol of a deity that the god inhabits during worship. The worshiper gazes at the idol; the god, through the eyes of the idol, gazes back at the worshiper. In this way, each benefits. (Note: This is probably 100% wrong, but it is enough to get past American tourists.)
We used Trinetra Tours for our trip to South India (this is the second time we have used them and they are excellent). The welcome letter from the managing director, Tapas Banerjee, included the following:
“I must say that you might find a lot of poverty and deprivation around you. Please do not analyze it at that very point in time. All this, what we think of as sufferings, should help us to see our own lives in a different perspective. Perhaps to realize how lucky we are with material endowments and in spite of this we seek more and more. Also, another way of looking at this issue would be to see these people in their rags so happy and hospitable. Are we the same, in spite of all our material acquisitions?”
We took this photo from the window of a private air-conditioned van on the way to visit the ruins at Hampi. The women are drawing water from a tank and washing clothes as a cow strolls by. Scenes like this were common in our travels and made the advice in the welcome letter resonate.
At the end of our last visit to South India, we spent a week in South Goa. It is an amazing and especially clean part of India. There really isn’t much culture there, but it makes up for that by incredible beauty and, in the case of the place we stayed – The Hotel Zuri, on Varca Beach, amazing luxury. Our hotel had several restaurants with international cuisine. Since not all of the sense of adventure had been beaten out of us in the prior weeks, we ate most of our meals in basic seafood places, called beach shacks, that have been built directly on the beach.
The photo below shows one of the fishing boats on the beach, flying an Our Lady of Health flag, and a beach shack behind it. We originally thought the boats might have been placed on the beach for ambience, but we saw them fishing and pulling in their nets during one of our morning beach walks.
There were half a dozen beach shacks where the path from the Hotel Zuri reached the ocean. We picked the Evisha Beach Shack as the place where we regulary dined. The food was very good and we didn’t get sick, so we kept coming back rather than risk fate. They must have gotten their seafood from Our Lady of Health.
This mother and her children are enjoying the sandy Fort Kochi Beach in the South India state of Kerala. Just after 5 pm, the wind was blowing alternately hot and cool from the Arabian Sea onto the beach.
Enjoying Fort Kochi Beach
This photo was taken on March 17, 2013. Specs are:
This photo shows flip-flops and sandals that have been abandoned on the beach in Fort Cochin in the state of Kerala in South India. To keep the beach clean for the many visitors, someone has collected the shoes into a large pile at the edge of the sand.
This photo was taken on March 17, 2013 with an Olympus TG-1. Specs are f/3.2, 1/640 sec, ISO 200, 9 mm (35 mm equivalent of 49 mm) focal length.
In March 2013, we attended an excellent performance of Kathakali in Fort Kochi in the state of Kerala, South India. Kathakali, a major form of classical Indian dance originating in Kerala, features the retelling of Hindu and other ancient stories by actors in elaborate costumes and makeup. While the traditional form of Kathakali has only male characters, we did see female actors in this performance and in a different performance in Tamil Nadu. In addition to the actors, musicians perform, usually on the left side of the stage.
Before we visited India this time, we saw the picture of the main character on the cover of a book and decided that we wanted to see that actor in that place.
Because of the elaborate makeup, each performance is preceded by several hours of preparation for the troup. For an extra fee, we were able to observe some of the makeup preparation of the major character’s face. This painstaking preparation took an hour or so.
Kathakali makeup preparation
Kathakali makeup preparation
Kathakali makeup preparation
Makeup, made from rice paste and vegetable colors, helps the audience identify characters in the play. Makeup colors are important indicators, with green for noble characters and red for evil characters, while some red among the green indicates an evil inner nature. Below, the “lady” in the red hat is trying to seduce the main character (green face).
Several scenes from the performance are shown below. With his red costuming, the character in the first picture is clearly evil.
The picture shows the major characters at curtain call.
While the performance was given in Sanskrit or Malayalam, neither of which we understand, the story could be inferred from the acting. The costumes were fantastic, the acting was superb, and we enjoyed the performance greatly.