Thursday, 30 December 2010

Mount Abu

It was in the super hit movie ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ that I heard about Mount Abu for the first time ever. Some of the main scenes including the climax of the movie were shot in this location. Mount Abu which is a hill station located in Rajasthan is a major tourist attraction for travelers from the neighboring states such as Gujarat, Delhi etc. During monarchial rule, it served as a summer retreat for the kings. 

Unexpectedly, in 2003 I got a chance to visit Mount Abu. This happened while I was on an official trip to ‘Caine Energy’, one of our multinational clients for oil excavation related work in Rajasthan. Since the work was delayed, for the first week we stayed in a heritage hotel in Jodhpur named Sriram International. We didn’t have any work during the day. And what work can we possibly have in the night but to sleep!!

I had some of my colleagues for company – Joseph Simon from Kaloor, Velu from Coimbatore, Rajan nicknamed Raygon from Thiruvanthapuram and Abdul Gafoor from Madras. In two days we did a complete sightseeing of the Jodhpur Fort and Palace. We were now in a dilemma as to what next. It was then that our Rajasthani driver, Sivaratnam mentioned to us about Mount Abu. It would be a minimum travel of 4 hours. Though we were hesitant initially, we finally decided to go.

As the vehicle was about to reach Mount Abu, we were able to see other tourist vehicles. Most of the vehicles were from Gujarat. In a distance we could see Mount Abu.  The reason why we were able to see the vehicles descending and ascending the hill so distinctly was because there were hardly any trees or foliage that would hide the sightings. In 20 minutes we reached the top of the hill. We got bored after taking a quick round there. Everywhere we could see the commotion of tourists. However, there wasn’t any much scenery worth mentioning out there. With no prejudices, let me say it was hardly any competition to places like Ooty or Kodaikanal. In a nutshell, it is a small barren hill resembling a bald head!  The temperatures were as high on the hill as was down in the plains. How can it be a hill station without even having a cool climate?

We had heard that the sunset view from Mount Abu is very beautiful. We decided to see it and crowded at the Sunset point waiting for the sun to set. As the skies became overcast, we lost that opportunity as well. We who had planned to spend an exciting night there and travelled all the way up with our bag and baggage did not waste any further time and headed down hill in less than 3 hours. On pondering it became clear to us why so many tourists frequented the place.  This was the sole hill station in and around that part of the world. There is a saying in malayalam which means that no matter how poor you are, you must still celebrate Onam with whatever little means you have. This was an illustration of just that ‘Be content with whatever you have’.!

The plight of our driver was pitiable. He wouldn’t have thought even in his wildest dream that he would have to atone for his recommendation and drive us back from the hills so soon!!! 
Translated from my Malayalam blog ' Chila Yaathrakal ' by geetham. To read the Malayalam version, click here.

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Sahib and the house boat

It’s been more than a while since ‘House Boat tourism’ has become a huge hit in Kerala. Though a houseboat trip has been on the agenda for a long time, owing to multiple reasons it never happened. Finally, in July 2002 we arranged a pleasure trip on a houseboat through a local travel agent based in Alapuzha.

We started from home in the afternoon. We were to stay in a house by the banks of the Vembanad lake in Muhamma. A house … you may suspect, the house belonged to one of my friends or relatives. But no, this house belonged to an Austrian ‘Sahib’(sahib is a colloquial reference to a fair skinned male foreigner; in kerala sahib is pronounced to sound like ‘sayip’) !

What?? An Austrian - having a house in Muhamma? Don’t be astonished. Yes, it is true.

The ‘sahib’ is close to 55 years of age. But he has one problem. His body is paralyzed downwards completely except for his head. Though this is the case, the sahib does most of everything that a normal person of his age would do. The one major dependency he has is that he needs help to be positioned and navigated on a wheel chair. The house and property is designed in such a way that the wheelchair can be comfortably operated both inside and outside. There are no steps anywhere, even at the doors. On wheeling down the verandah slopes to the dancing backwaters nearby, you can see a structure consisting of an iron post to which a pulley and rope is attached. Using this arrangement, the sahib along with his wheelchair immerses in the water up to the level of his neck and ‘swims’!

Forget all this; there is much more remarkable information about the sahib. He continues to be employed even in this condition. And that too, it is not a run of the mill kind of commoner job. He is a responsible sitting judge in Austria!! At first I found it difficult to believe this. How is it that with this immovable body and its immense limitations, he is able to manage the affairs of the court and pass judgments?

He prepares all his judgments using a computer. Someone has to switch on the computer for him. After that a head band is tied to his forehead resembling that worn by the cine-actor, Balachandra Menon. When a key board appears on the screen, the sahib starts to move his head. When a beam of light emanating from the head band hits the alphabets on the keyboard, a pull down menu comprising of words start to appear on the screen in the combination of the selected alphabets. Moving his head, the sahib chooses the words he requires. Very easy, isn’t it?

Oops, apologies....I haven’t still told you the name of the sahib, right? His name is ‘Wolf Gang’. Isn’t it a rather impressive name?

It was a young man from the neighborhood who was assisting Wolf Gang till very recently. Sometime back, Sahib married a local Malayali lady aged around 40 years and from then on, the young man’s work has reduced to only housekeeping and security.

It was a charming little house with a tiled roof; having two bedrooms, verandah and other facilities. The interior décor has been done using only Kerala style handicrafts. Huge ‘nannangadi’s, utensils made of ‘churakka’ used by toddy tappers etc are some of the items which we can see displayed inside the rooms. On the green lawns extending right till the lake, we can see a multi-layered lamp made of black granite stone right in the middle of the property. On certain special days, all the layers are filled with oil and the lamp is lit!

During the winters in Europe, Wolf Gang heads to Kerala. His paralyzed body is unable to withstand the harsh winters. During the period he is not here in Kerala and when the tourism season sets in, the 2 bedrooms are rented out as home-stay facility to visitors through some tour operators. So that explains how I was able to arrange our stay there as well.

Whatever it be, there is no better example I have seen than Wolf Gang to prove that nothing is impossible if you set your mind on it.

The young assistant of Sahib prepared dinner for us. He had collected the order from us previously during the afternoon itself.

The next day in the morning, a houseboat came and parked in the jetty right in front of the house. We spend the whole day on the houseboat gliding on the waters, sightseeing on the Vembanad lake and the canals of Alapuzha. Considering that it may not be of any particular interest, we decided to skip a stop at Pathiramanal. It was definitely more worthwhile and interesting to be able to directly see and experience the beautiful sights of life passing us by on either sides of the canals and the finishing point of the famous Kerala boat race.

There were 3 crew members aboard the boat. In the afternoon, the boatmen stopped at a nearby island to buy fresh fish and they fried the fish and served it with rice for us in the afternoon. Secretly they also managed to procure some beer!! The usual practice is to catch fish from the boat itself using a fishing rod. However, that day no fish had bitten the bait and hence the purchase!

Sometime in between, the waves became rough owing to two motorized ferry boats passing very close to us, almost capsizing our boat. I have to admit we did panic a little.

At night, we slept on the boat itself after anchoring right in the middle of the lake. We slept peacefully listening to the humming music of the frenzied mosquitoes circling outside the mosquito net spread over our bed. In the middle of the night, our one and a half year old daughter woke up with a jolt from her sleep and started to cry seeing the unfamiliar surroundings. After some time, she went back to sleep feeling tired.

The next morning, we drew up the anchor and set off on our return journey to Wolf Gangs residence. By lunch time we headed back to Ernakulam.

We departed experiencing a rare fulfillment of having seen and known so much more than merely having had a delightful houseboat journey.
Translated from my Malayalam blog ' Chila Yaathrakal ' by geetham. To read the Malayalam version, click here.

Friday, 20 August 2010

To the Globe Theatre

After having seen the imaginary line and descended the observatory hill, my next destination was the Globe Theatre. The Globe Theatre is the world famous arena where Shakespearean plays were staged right from the times of Shakespeare.

We had reserved a ticket much in advance for a 7:15 show for the famous Shakespearean play ‘As you like it’. My better half and her colleague, Deepthi had agreed to wait for me after their office time with the tickets for the show at the London Bridge station.

There was some more time to 7pm. The Canary Wharf station and nearby locations had caught my attention earlier while I was travelling on the DLR line. I decided to get down there, roam around and do some more sightseeing before heading for the Globe Theatre.

The face of London had a different appeal in this part of the city. Most of the buildings were glass walled skyscrapers almost kissing the clouds. Three of the tallest buildings in the UK are situated in Canary Wharf; huge commercial office complexes and shopping malls could be seen in plenty. The trains made their way amidst tall buildings which appeared to stand one next to the other as if touching each other. From the train, you can see the Thames and its channel like narrow tributaries. The trains forged ahead crisscrossing the river at many places. Though at most places in London, the tube trains ran through underground rail, in this part alone on the DLR, the trains travelled above ground level atop flyovers and over head bridges. It occurred to me that the attitude and expressions of Canary Wharf resembled that of an ultra modern girl!

People sat having food at eat out restaurants on the banks of the river enjoying the cool evening breeze. I think it is the westerners’ alone who revel with such gaiety in the myriad blessings of nature, be it by the sea, creek sides or in the brilliance of the sun! After walking in and out of the station and through the shopping malls along with the horde for some time I returned to the station.

Though there was a big crowd at the station, mostly office goers awaiting the trains to head home, it failed to deter me as I was at one point in my life used to the hustle bustle of the Mumbai suburban train journeys. I got into the first train that came and got off at Tower Bridge Station. In a little while, my wife and her friend located me waiting for them outside the station.

We had intended to walk to the Globe Theatre. We can reach the theatre by cutting across the South Wark Bridge and walking for about 10 minutes in between the buildings and along the banks of the Thames. As all the sign posts along the way displayed directions to the Globe Theatre, it was unlikely that we would lose our way to reach our destination.

While walking to the theatre, I was reminded of my younger days of theatre appreciation. During my hey days, I have seen up to two professional dramas on the same day. Even much before we started to see actors such as NN Pillai, Rajan P Dev, Saikumar , Vijayaraghavan etc on the celluloid screen, I have had the chance to enjoy them on stage, their faces greased with makeup. Prior to those days, I had myself smeared paint on my face for small drama events at school.

But this was my maiden trip to see a professional English play. And that too, a Shakespearean play; in a world famous theatre where the writer himself had donned the costume of his characters and made his presence felt on stage. This thought was more than enough to give me goose-bumps!

An American director-cum-actor Sam Wanamaker is the founder of the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare himself was a partner during the early days of the theatre. The initial Globe Theatre was built in 1599. In 1613, the theatre was destroyed in a fire. Though the theatre was reconstructed and it started functioning at the same place during the very next year itself, it closed down in 1642. The current theatre named Shakespeare’s Globe is a renovation of the Globe Theatre of yore. It was in 1997 that the new theatre was inaugurated. The new theatre is located about 230 meters away from the position of the original.

There was a small crowd in front of the theatre. We converted the online internet bookings to tickets for the show and entered the theatre.

Photograph Courtesy

Different types of tickets are available. It costs approximately GBP 35 for seats with good visibility from the upper, middle and lower galleries. For those seats on the sides and those blocked partially by the pillars inside, the tickets cost comes down to approximately PDS 15. If you are ready to watch the play standing in the open pit before the stage, you can do so for a mere PDS 5 per person.

One is permitted only to stand here and not sit to watch the play from this yard. The yard has a capacity of 700 such standing audiences. In fact you can have the best views of the stage from the yard. If it were in our country, the seats closest to the stage would have been the most expensive. Anyway, for a middle aged person like me it was beyond my thinking to stand at a stretch and watch the play for over two hours.

The seats were all made of wood and had no back rest. Those sitting in the last row had the privilege of leaning on the wall behind them. Luckily, our 15 PDS worth seats were on the right side of the stage on the very last row. The circular shaped theatre was full of seats except for the stage. The center of the theatre was open to the skies in the middle.

Photograph Courtesy - Google

Without much delay the seats were all occupied. Being summer, though it was 7 o’clock in the evening the theatre was bright with sunlight. For the first time in my life I was about to see a play without having to listen to the announcement of the organizers about switching off the lights and opening the doors of the auditorium.

Shakespeare’s ‘As you like it ‘which we saw was directed by Thea Sharrock, designed by Dick Bird, composed by Stephen Warbeck and choreographed by Fin Walker. The main cast of Orlando played by Jack Laskey and Rosalind by Naomi Frederick along with 20 other talented artistes kept taking turns appearing on stage in the sequence of their performances.

The announcement that cameras were prohibited inside truly disappointed me. Would it be right to steal a few pictures without anyone noticing?

I haven’t read ‘As you like it’. But my better half who is a postgraduate in English Literature knows it all. To shield my ignorance I had quickly gone through a synopsis of the play on the internet before starting from home.

The actors took turns to appear before the microphones hanging in the air in front of the stage to deliver their dialogues. Even without the microphone, all including those sitting at the farthest nook and corner of the stage could hear the dialogues of all the actors very clearly. But what was impressive was that none of the actors were screaming at the top of their voices to be heard. Anyone inside with small children who chanced to cry were obliged to leave the place immediately due to this. Even if the child stopped crying, they were still denied permission to enter the theater again. Tickets are required to be purchased for children over 3 years of age.

The drama progressed on stage without any interruptions or hiccups. Before the interval a remarkable feud was presented on stage. The 3 minute scene where the hero Orlando strategically attacks and defeats a comparatively larger opponent was staged very naturally. One could hear the sound of displaced wooden planks when both the actors crash land on the floor during their fight. The over-sized opponent landed with a thud into the midst of the 5 pound spectators. We had noticed a little while ago that the stewards had built a make-shift safety barricade there to avoid any danger to the audience. On an average around 30 stewards volunteer for every stage event at the Globe.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. ……………………..


Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
As You Like It, 2. 7

These celebrated lines from the play have travelled across boundaries, far and wide beyond this stage to reach a world audience. I count myself truly blessed to have been able to hear these famous lines uttered directly by the Shakespearean actors themselves. With all my heart I treasure these precious and memorable moments I was able to spend inside the Globe.

In this drama authored by Shakespeare who said that the entire world’s a stage, actors entered and exited the stage not only through the side and middle doors. Some of the actors were seated amongst the audience and some of them made their appearances on the stage from amidst the spectators. The manner in which the drama was presented in this theatre seemed to bear testimony to the author’s words that all the world is indeed a stage!

Another interesting incident occurred just before the interval – imagining the pillars to be trees in the forest; Orlando stuck up notes scribbled with love poems addressed to his ladylove, Rosalind on all the pillars of the theatre including those pillars which stood between the audience area. The rest he scattered it into the middle of the audience. During the interval, I was tempted to either grab one of those love letters or pluck any one letter stuck on the pillars and make it my own. I felt there wouldn’t be any better souvenir that I could collect from this theatre. Many of the spectators had already started their efforts to materialize what I was tempted to do. Most of the letters were already in the possession of other spectators by the time I got up from my seat to make a hesitant dash for it. The rest of the letters which were littered on the floor were picked up by the theatre staff. I was about to return with unmistakable disappointment when suddenly luck decided to favor me and I noticed one of the letters still stuck on one of the pillars; I immediately took possession of it without inviting much attention.

For a rent of 1pound you can get cushions to rest on the wooden seats. The play resumed by the time I got 3 cushions and returned to my seat. Sunlight faded as the night descended making it dim inside the theatre. Lamps were lit inside to make up for the loss of natural light. Every moment passed to great satisfaction. Except for the use of archaic language which was a lil hard to digest, every act and scene progressed on stage very smoothly and in a convincing style. The transition from one scene to another was seamless in spite of not having any curtains being drawn at any time during the play. This play deserves a special mention in my life as a truly unforgettable lifetime experience!

In the climax, the scene where the hero plants hot kisses on the heroine was presented in an unpretentious and spontaneous manner. Such an explicit scene was a novelty for me. Such scenes would never have escaped the axe of the censor board in our movies even if it was essential for the context or storyline.

During the times he was alive, it was Shakespeare himself who acted as the character ‘Adam’ in this play. In the scenes where the characters were supposed to be singing, it was the actors themselves who rendered the songs. It is imperative to mention that on this stage it wasn’t the theatrical or technical excellence but the stellar performances of the actors which was outstanding.

Towards the end of the play, a song and dance sequence set the stage ablaze. From amongst the audience a rhythmic clapping of the hands arose to the tune of the music. Along with this, I also noticed that cameras had started to flash from various corners of the theatre. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I too pulled out my camera and captured a few scenes. To avoid the risk of being caught, I had switched off the flash and thanks to insufficient lighting and regular issues I face in handling the camera trying to capture moving objects; I had to be satisfied with just a few dull and shaken pictures.

Finally the actors bid adieu and departed from the stage. I stood there in an emotional state of someone in a fantasy world who had just burst out of a soap bubble. It felt like an illusion. I couldn’t believe that what I had witnessed was true. Though the play was over, I did not feel like leaving the theatre. We lingered there for some more time taking pictures and looking around.

Finally when on my way back to Peterborough sitting inside the deserted night train, it crossed my mind that it was highly unlikely that I would have another opportunity to watch a play in the Shakespeare’s Globe again. And if it were to really happen, it would not be anything short of a miracle in my life!
Translated from my Malayalam blog ' Chila Yaathrakal ' by geetham. To read the Malayalam version, click here.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

In search of an imaginary line

There are several imaginary lines such as the equator, prime meridian and other longitudes and latitudes which cuts across vertically and horizontally through the earth. I set out on this journey to catch a glimpse of one of the most significant of these lines, namely the prime meridian or the 0°0'0'' longitude.

From Peterborough, a small countryside city in England where we lived in a rented apartment at that time, I boarded the National Express Train and reached the main London Kings Cross Station. From there I changed over to the Northern Line on the famous London Underground-referred to fondly as the Tube. The Tube crisscrosses beneath the bustling city and serves as the Transport Nervous system of this great city. At London Bridge, I changed for Canary Wharf Station on the Jubilee Line from where I finally changed to the over ground DLR line. All the way till I reached ‘Cutty Sark’ my final destination on this route, I kept racking my brains trying to dust out whatever little facts and details I could recollect from the pages of my junior school geography textbooks.

In this context I am compelled to borrow the words of the famous Traveler, Santhosh George Kulangara who said that it is futile to travel without an understanding of the history of a place. I would modify his words and say that in this journey what mattered was not an understanding of history but that of geography and astronomical sciences.

I only knew that I had to walk to my destination once I disembark at Cutty Sark but had no clue about the way or directions. On stepping out of the station, towards the left side I could see the River Thames flowing through the heart of the city, in a splendid display proclaiming its grandeur and legacy. Numerous boats, both small and big were gliding through the river.

Most of the boats transported both local and foreign tourists on sightseeing tours. A river cruise on the Thames is a must-see experience for any tourist who visits London. There are some boat cruises which operate from Cutty Sark too. I stood there for some time amidst the crowd who were waiting their turn to board the boats, enjoying the cool breeze and the beautiful sights of the Thames.

In some distance across the river, I could see the millennium dome and the Greenwich Power Station. The ancient dome on the side of the river easily catches the attention of anyone. The dome marks the entrance to the underwater Greenwich Foot Tunnel which would take you across to the opposite bank of the Thames. When I saw this well constructed and maintained underground tunnel built in 1902 at a time when technology was not so advanced and having survived over a 100 years, I was suddenly reminded of the pathetic plight of our very own Mullaperiyar Dam in Kerala.

It was only towards the end of the journey that I realized why not knowing my way around was actually a blessing in disguise. Had I known the directions accurately, I may have reached my destination directly. But my ignorance of the right track helped pave my way through certain quaint streets which breathed of forgotten history, in and out of some magnificent age old monuments and buildings making my experience an unforgettable one.

Walking ahead along the banks of the Thames, one would reach a vast courtyard housing a complex of Barrack style structures including the Trinity College of Music and the Old Naval College. It is the Royal Greenwich Hospital which was built as per the wishes of Queen Mary, the 2nd for wounded soldiers and officers of war which was later converted into the Old Naval College. Today those buildings function as the Greenwich University and Trinity College of Music.

I proceeded in through the huge walls, enjoying the sweet music of instruments emanating from the music college carried by a gust of gentle wind. On one of the pathways, I saw a plaque erected in memory of the Tudor palace built by Henry the 7th. It was here that Henry the 8th, his sisters Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were born. The Royal hospital was built by demolishing the Tudor palace known as the ‘Palace of Placentia’. The remains of the Tudor palace build in 1427 were unearthed as a result of recent archeological excavations in 2005. When one reminiscence that this was a royal courtyard on which at one time walked many kings and princes, you feel as though you have been transported back in time into a bygone historical era.

On one side of the hospital building is a painted prayer hall and chapel. The altar and the roof of the chapel were adorned with paintings that announced a royal splendor. A gleaming golden pipe organ inside the chapel is a major attraction. Such pipe organs are not really a rare sight in the ancient churches of England.

Though I managed to see the sights inside the Old Naval College, I hadn’t still reached my main destination. Coming out through the east gate of the campus and moving with the flow, I joined in the direction in which majority of the crowd was going. The prime meridian is passing through somewhere there. But since it is an imaginary line, to ‘see’ it, one must reach the Greenwich Observatory Tower. A map displayed by the roadside came of aid. I was standing at one corner of the Greenwich Park. You could reach the Observatory Tower by crossing over the park. But there were other spectacle to relish stretching in a line before you can reach there.

Amongst them were the Queens House, the Museum Gallery and the National Maritime Museum which narrated stories of the British Maritime feats and encounters of the 16th to 20th centuries, studies of the tides and waves and their impact on daily lives.

The Queens House constructed in 1616 is one of earliest classical buildings of Britain. In 1805, George, the 3rd consecrated the Queens House for the charitable activities of the Royal Navy Asylum. Today, apart from being used as an exhibition gallery for fine arts, it is also utilized as a venue for luxury weddings, corporate events and other private functions.

Heeding to the call of my hunger pangs, I stepped into the park. I normally do not waste any time for food during such journeys. My strategy is to see as much as possible within the limited available time. It is only during dinner that I usually spend the time to relish the local delicacies of the land. I decided to sit down under the shade of a tree on the glistening royal green lawns outside the Queens House and devour the packed sandwiches and juice that I had thoughtfully carried with me.

After polishing off the sandwiches and savoring the visual delights of the huge paintings inside the Queens House, I stepped in to see the Maritime Museum. Cameras were prohibited in both these buildings and hence I could only capture those sights straight into my mind. I then stepped out to see the Titanic Memorial Park. This was a narrow garden stretch along the walls of the park, filled with flowering plants previously unknown to me. The plants belonged to the genre of memorial flowers such as the rosemary, purple sage, Irish golden dew, peace roses etc. This park was inaugurated by a 15 year old survivor, Ms. Edith Haiman to mark the 83rd anniversary of the Titanic Tragedy that occurred on April 14th 1912. It is interesting to note that that Ms.Haiman lived till her 100th year before she joined her Titanic fellow travelers in her final journey.

I could see visitors playing cricket, baseball and other games on the lawns of the Greenwich Park. You can reach the Observatory Tower by walking up the slopes of the tree lined path which ran amidst the park. There was no dearth of half naked white people smeared with tan oil and sun bathing on the grass. This is summer for them, but for someone like me who is used to working in the scorching heat of the oilfields in the Gulf region, this 28 degrees temperature can never qualify for summer.

A long line of school students seemed to be moving towards the observatory tower. Like an obedient student, I joined the end of the queue and holding the iron railings along the pathway, I too started to ascend the small hill on which the Observatory was situated.

There was a huge crowd before the Observatory Tower. The initial sight at the entrance of the Tower was that of the 1852 circular shaped Shepherd Gate Clock with a 24 hour dial and some plaques depicting measures such as the feet, yard etc. It took me sometime to realize why the visitors were lining up even after entering inside the gate. They were not queuing to get inside the Tower. The queue was outside itself extending towards a steel structure which was in the form of an incomplete model of the globe. One by one the visitors were taking turns to stand with their legs apart on either side of the metallic strip marked on the ground below the globe tilted on its axis, shaking hands with each other and taking photographs.

Suddenly the realization dawned on me!

This was the Prime Meridian, the 0°0'0'' longitude. The famous imaginary line has been depicted in the form of that metallic strip on the ground!!!

Like the equator divides the North and South, the Prime Meridian is that imaginary line which divides the East and the West. To be more precise, on one side of the metallic strip on the ground is the East and on the other side is the West. When the sun’s rays come directly over this line it is considered to be 12 noon. For us in India, during the summers we are 5 hours 30 minutes ahead of the Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT).

It is amusing to see the visitors standing with their legs on either side of the Meridian and clicking away. It is definitely not such a trivial matter to be able to stand over the prime meridian with one leg in the east and the other in the west!!

In the night, a green laser beam light emanates from the observatory parallel to this line and cuts across the Thames falling on the city of London. If one can manage to hang around there till darkness descends, you can witness this beautiful display.

Even though the prime meridian passes through Great Britain, France, Spain, Algeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Antarctica, it is this spot in England which is of utmost significance. The reason for this is an ancient telescope known as the Airy Transit Circle, housed in this observatory located 154.70 feet above sea level. It was this telescope which determined the Prime Meridian from 1884 till 1920. Like many other telescopes inside the observatory, this ancient telescope is also used to determine the Prime meridian by very meticulously observing when and where the clock stars cross the North South markings on the instrument. Till the 19th century, there were various other Meridians also which were used on maps and geographical charts. It was decided to mark all the longitudes, east and west from Greenwich following an International Conference in 1884.

This instrument was constantly in use by scientists during the time and was used to make more than 600, 000 observations. This ancient grandfather telescope which is functional till date stands magnificently reminding us of its glorious yore, filling a room inside the observatory. This observatory consisting of telescopes, various instruments used to conduct experiments and the museum has once been a victim of a bomb attack. This incident which hit Britain in 1894 may have been the first terror strike on Britain. Though it was proved that the 26 year old French man, Martial Bourdin was behind this attack, the motive for the attack still remains a mystery.

Despite a strict warning prohibiting photography inside the tower, many visitors continued to take pictures on their cameras. Hearing the clicking sounds, an official came running to the spot and tried to prevent this. But somehow it didn’t really seem to be such a grave offence. However, I was denied sanction in spite of requesting permission to take a few pictures. In my mind, I longingly captured the forms and sizes of all those telescopes that I have never seen before and proceeded to the lower floor of the adjacent building called the Octagonal House .

This building consisted of a museum which told the trying stories and discoveries of eminent astronomers such as John Flamsteed who at some time cooperated and some time questioned the likes of Sir Isaac Newton , succumbing to ill-health and battling the rain and shine while meticulously following the celestial bodies in the skies for the enlightenment of generations to come. Due to some strife with Isaac Newton, it was inside this very central courtyard of the building that Flamsteed who was the first British astronomer, collected and publicly burned down the copies of his own book called the Historia Coelestis Britannica What irked Flamsteed was that Isaac Newton and another colleague Edmund Halley had jointly published this book without his permission and worse still, they did not mention Flamsteed’s name on it.

Why Time? Why Longitude? The museum does give some very elaborate answers supported by facts and details to these questions. The Shovell Ship tragedy was one of the main reasons for this. On October 22nd 1707, on the way from Gibraltar to Britain , the famous naval officer, Sir Clowdisley Shovell along with over 1400 fellow sailors on board the ship collided with a rocky formation near the Isle of Scilly and within minutes sank to the bottom of the sea. The main reason for this accident was attributed to the inaccuracy in determining the longitudinal angles and position of the place, as well as the ignorance of the sailors.

Over time, the naval fleet of Britain, considered to be the Empire where the sun never sets expanded, leading to a situation where most of the families in Britain had one or the other members or a relative who was a sailor or a part of the Navy. Those days if a there was a ship wreck, it would only be after a few months or years that a formal intimation would reach the families. Sometimes this information may not reach them also. It was during this time that efforts were initiated by British Scientists to determine longitudes accurately and uniformly to correct the inconsistencies on the map and hence prevent such disasters. It was only then that I realized this inseparable connection between the longitudes and time. A Longitude is measured in degrees ranging from 0° at the Prime Meridian to +180° eastward and -180° westward. Each degree of longitude is further sub-divided into 60 minutes, each of which is further sub-divided into 60 seconds.

Some of the rooms in the lower floor of the museum served as the dwelling of John Flamsteed for over 30 years. His possessions such as his bed, mattress, table, chair, bed chamber etc is a part of this museum now. After seeing the sights on the lower floor, moving up to the octagon room one can see the 32 inch astronomical quadrant and models of a few huge telescopes.

There is a movie show every one hour in the relatively new planetarium building just behind the octagonal house. I bought a ticket worth 6 pounds and joined the crowd to see the sights of the ‘Peter Harrison Planetarium’ which was commissioned by the Queen on 22nd May 2007. The planetarium has a seating capacity of at least 200 and has a spherical overhead screen with a 360 degree view. After explaining that there is no need to switch off the mobile phones as the theatre was in a thick metallic enclosure, an official sitting amidst the audience started operating a special projector to begin the show.

Leaning back and looking up, I watched the 40 minute movie ‘The Ice World’. I felt proud and pompous having had an opportunity to comprehend that the earth we live in is such a lovely blessed place within the solar system. The movie gives a great message that we are all passengers on the spacecraft called Earth voyaging through the solar system and hence it is our responsibility as voyagers to ensure that this spaceship continues its journey forward without drowning or destruction.

Again, I walked towards the Hexagon building . There is a medium sized coin operated talking telescope situated there. I looked through the telescope and enjoyed the splendid views in the vicinity of Greenwich. The faraway sights such as the Van borough Castle, London City Airport, Post Office Tower, Power station, One Canada Square, Millennium Dome, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, NatWest Tower and all seemed to be within my arms distance.

Near the telescope, I suddenly noticed a few people parting a dark curtain and entering a small isolated room. It is inside this room that the science behind the invention called Camera Obscura with which we walk around casually in our hands called the camera is revealed. The Latin term Camera Obscura means ‘Darkened Chamber’. It is the experimental knowledge that light passing through a small hole in the wall of a dark room can display the inverted image of the world outside that led to more experiments with glass pieces and lenses which lasted for centuries thus resulting in the invention of the dark room called camera which you can carry in your hands.

Once my eyes got adjusted to the darkness inside the room, I was able to see a white table in the center of the room. Moving images of the colorful sights such as the Greenwich Park, Queen’s House, Maritime Museum etc that I had seen earlier through the talking telescope started to appear distinctly on the table top. At that moment, I felt as though as I was standing inside a camera. It was 5:30 in the evening when I finally stepped out of that historic dark room used by John Flamsteed to study the movements of the sun. I could still see a long queue for taking photographs outside the Observatory Tower in front of the Prime Meridian!

I had set off to merely see an imaginary line but I was gratified now having gained such a beautiful experiences and insights. It was now time for my return. My return was not back to home but to the famous Globe Theatre which stages Shakespearean plays in London.

En route to the Globe Theatre, my better half will be waiting for me with the tickets of ‘As You like It’. Holding abreast the enormous wealth I earned from the world of science and technology from atop that small hill, I walked swiftly to reach another fascinating world.... a world of fine arts.
Translated from my Malayalam blog ' Chila Yaathrakal ' by geetham. To read the Malayalam version, click here.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Ramassery Idli

A journey to eat Idlies !!! That too... on getting up at 4 in the morning for it. Amusing, isn’t it?

This trip was inspired by an article published in the Sunday supplement of a leading local newspaper.The feature was about a small village called Ramassery in Palaghat district of Kerala, famed for a unique type of Idli named after it. The article described how the idlies were prepared using a special type of oven, custom made earthen vessels and natural firewood. That was more than enough to tempt me. Thanks to the write-up, despite not being so much of an Idli freak, my mouth watered. I pledged to gorge on it someday. But I was never able to manage enough time to make an exclusive trip only for this purpose.

A few years went by. In 2004, my better half got a job transfer to Bangalore. We stayed there for over two years. Being an oil field employee, those days I had a schedule which allowed me one month vacation after every 2 months of work. Hence it was a routine then to make a trip to Ernakulam along with my wife and six year old daughter during my vacations. Those trips were usually by car. I really enjoyed those long drives which lasted over 10 hours. It was on one of those Bangalore- Ernakulam journeys, that I saw a sign board in a passing shot on the Palaghat highway which rang some bells inside my head.

‘Ramasserry ‘

On the left side, there was a small road going inside approximately 5 km before the road turning to Pollachi. It must have been past 2’o clock in the afternoon. We were always in a hurry to reach home once we passed the Walayar check post. Besides, it wasn’t the best time of the day to eat idlis. So I made a plan then itself. During the return journey, my breakfast will be the Ramassery Idli.

On our return journey from Ernakulam, we usually take a breakfast halt at the Indian Coffee House located on the Trissur-Palghat stretch. This time, we started our journey at 4:30 in the wee hours of the morning. No harm in starting a little early considering that we were heading to an unfamiliar place!

Before eight we reached the major turning to Ramassery. From there, we followed a scenic village road. After proceeding about 2 kms, we started to have doubts if we had lost our way?

To make sure we were on the right track, we stopped and asked a ‘mundu’ clad villager passing by,

“Is this the way to Ramassery?”

Prompt came the answer

“Is it to eat the Idlies??? Just go straight ahead and take a turn to the right!”

I couldn’t help feeling a little embarrassed. People have understood that we were on a quest this early in the morning only to eat Idlis!!!

Anyway, on the brighter side, at least now we could be sure that we were on the right track and that the idlis were indeed famous in this part of the world. When we turned to the right, we could see teasing smiles on the rustic faces of the womenfolk who were gathered around the Panchayat tap to collect water. Everyone has understood our motive!! It seemed obvious to them that a Karnataka registration car in their locality at that time of the day could only mean that the passengers have come lured by the magic of the idlies.

Questions started to gather in our minds. Have we become a mockery in front of these simple villagers? Is it better that we beat a retreat?

But NO…... How can we simply return like that? Let’s see how far things go… no matter what; we will eat the Ramasserry Idlies today!

We travelled another 1 km before we parked the car outside the wall of a temple on the left hand side. On the opposite side, we saw a local tea was a typical Kerala style Tea stall which we would tend to jestingly refer to as Bhagawati Vilasam Tea shop !

We entered the tea shop and placed an order for idlies. They informed us that it will take some time if we wanted to have fresh idlies. To make two idlies it would take half an hour.

While we were waiting for the idlies to arrive on the table, I made a casual entry into the kitchen. I could see that the cooking was in full swing on four or five special stoves made of stone. The idlies appeared differently shaped. They were flat like an ‘appam’ and larger in circumference than a normal idli.

On befriending the waiter, I gathered some more information regarding the famous Idlies. You also get to buy these idlies in some hotels and eating places located on the highway. But all of it is prepared and distributed only from this shop. This explains the hectic activities inside that small kitchen. The idlies were prepared throughout the day.

Naturally, a question may form in our minds. Will the idlies not spoil in the course of the day if all of it is not consumed? But the answer is an emphatic NO; these idlies will last up to one week without any change in taste and without getting spoilt.

I was then reminded of what I had read earlier in the newspapers. A prestigious hotel group had once attempted to recreate the magic of the ramassery idlies at their modern hotel and thus earn some glory and money. They hired a lady who worked as a cook in the Ramassery tea shop and tried to prepare the idlies in their five star kitchen. But their efforts went waste. It was a moment of realization that Ramassery Idli’s cannot be prepared on a gas stove and in high end steel utensils.

We relished the idlies which were distinct in their form and taste. On an experimental basis, we also bought a special chutney powder along with some packed Idlies to take along. We took them to Bangalore and consumed the Idlies within three days. We can vouch that the idlies did not lose their freshness or taste. Somehow we were hesitant to stretch the idlies beyond that.

On our way to join back onto the highway, we could still feel sneering glances of the villagers which were targeted at the gluttonous idli-eaters. But we did not feel any shame or embarrassment this time.

Instead we felt a sense of accomplishment as though we had succeeded in achieving something great in life.
Translated from my Malayalam blog ' Chila Yaathrakal ' by Geetham. To read the Malayalam version, click here.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Thirunelli, known as Southern Kasi, is 30 km from Mananthawadi in Wayanad district, Kerala. Its main attraction is the famous temple of Lord Vishnu. I am a person who likes to have my temple and prayers in my own mind. Nevertheless, if time permits, I visit the Thirunelli temple during all my trips to Mananthawadi. The natural beauty of the locality is what draws me to this place. Besides, I enjoy driving through the forest roads shaded by huge trees and bamboo clusters. Mighty elephants take charge of these roads in the night.

It’s not difficult to find your way to Thirunelli. A little ahead of Kattikulam is the road to Thettu. Take a left from there, and the winding road takes you to Thirunelli. Very close to the parking lot is a big building, which is the Panchathirtham guest house.

On my first trip to Thirunelli, this guest house was not there. It was opened in 2002 to facilitate pilgrims from far-off places. The guesthouse is like a landmark in the sense that one can get off the bus on seeing this building. There are no other big concrete buildings in the 30-km journey from Mananthawadi to Thirunelli, and, hence, it’s hard to miss it.

From the frontage of Panchathirtham, I could see the hills and a part of the temple. Alongside, a bunch of clouds wander as if they lost the way. Or did they come to visit the temple, too?

A flight of rock-cut steps leads to the temple. Remove your footwear and climb the steps to reach the rear of the temple.

The space around the temple is paved with neatly cut, long sheets of stone. Walk on these tiles and reach the front of the temple. Resplendent with ancient temple architecture, this beautiful shrine magnifies the splendour of the hills.

Legends galore
Legend has it that the idol was consecrated by Lord Brahma. Lord Vishnu in his four-armed form is the deity in Thirunelli.

Vadakkan Aithyahamala (The legends from North) refers about Thirunelli as follows:

Lord Brahma had a long-standing wish to conduct a ‘yaga’ (a holy sacrifice) on the earth.
His search for a holy and outstandingly beautiful place suitable for the yaga brought him to Brahmagiri. For a while, the Lord rested at this place brimming with extraordinary purity and heavenly beauty. He noticed a small hill and a lush Indian gooseberry tree on top of it. On reaching there, he was surprised to find Lord Mahavishnu in his magnificent form in the place of the gooseberry tree. However, Lord Vishnu vanished all of a sudden. This abrupt disappearance disappointed Lord Brahma. At the same holy spot where he saw Lord Vishnu, he consecrated Lord Vishnu’s idol with his own hands. This unusual incident brought surprise to all the three worlds in the universe. Praising this event, musicians from heaven sang, dancers performed, and the gods showered flowers.

Thirunelli is flanked by four hills, namely Brahmagiri, Udayagiri, Narinirangimala, and Karimala. The place is believed to have visited by Parasurama, Srirama, and Srikrishna - three other incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Whatever the legends are, I feel bad when I see the board ‘Entry restricted for non-Hindus’ in Thirunelli also, like many other temples including Guruvayur. While the Temple Entry Proclamation was for lower caste Hindus, a similar proclamation is yet to come for the entire humankind.

The local hearsay mentions that the Thirunelli temple was built by a Coorg king and that before the construction was completed, Thirunelli, which was part of Coorg, became a part of Wayanad. This veracity of this is not yet confirmed. The beautiful, but incomplete-looking stone pillars around the temple are believed to be destroyed during Tipu Sultan’s warfare, though there are arguments against this as well. The chances of these pillars getting destroyed during war can’t be dismissed because history states that there had been war between Pazhazi Raja and Mysore army.

On the rocks
Water required for the offerings at the temple comes from the forest. The stone pillars that support the stone channels of water form an interesting visual.

A long time ago, the Lord of Kolathunadu along with his wife came to visit Thirunelli temple. As it had rained the previous day, the courtyard was full of slush, which stained the Lady’s feet. When she requested water to wash her feet, the servants gave very little water. The Lady wondered if there was no water in the temple’s well. The servants replied that the temple had no well, and since the nearby streams were being used by people for taking bath, the water from the streams was not suitable for the temple’s consumption. Hence, water had to be brought from a distant stream at Brahmagiri.

The lady, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, got the above-mentioned structure constructed for easy availability of adequate water for the temple. The stone pillars and channels were built by expert stone masons, under the supervision of her brother and a specialist in Vastu architecture Vayikkara Valya Nambyathiri.

Wash away the sins
The steps on the north-west side of the temple leads to a sacred pool called Panchathirthakulam. Lord Srirama’s footprints are believed to have been imprinted here. The footprints shown below might be representing this belief.

The legend is that Lord Rama, on his way to Coorg from Lanka after winning the war, performed special rituals for his deceased father Dasaratha at Thirunelli. It’s believed that since then devotees started performing rituals for their ancestors, at Thirunelli.

The pathway ahead of Panchathirthakulam takes you to the Papanashini river. Papanashini translates to ‘the destroyer of sin’. People from far-off places visit Papanashini to perform yearly rituals for their forefathers and immerse the burial ash. They make this long journey in the belief that a dip in this river will relieve them of their sins. Though the river overflows in monsoon, I have never seen enough water to take a dip during summer.

According to another legend, Garuda passed Thirunelli, when he was taking the pot of nectar (Amruthakumbham) to free his mother from a curse. He circled over Thirunelli thrice to pay respect to his master Lord Vishnu, whose idol consecration was taking place at that time. A drop of elixir fell from the pot to Papanashini and thus it got the divine power to purify sins.

Yet another legend is about Parasurama, who could not get absolved of the sin of killing his mother Renuka as demanded by his father Jamadagni, even after washing his blood-stained hands in various holy waters. In the end, he came to Thirunelli, and the blood stains disappeared completely after a wash in Papanashini. Papanashini got its name from this incident, and its powers became famous.

Our ex-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s ashes also were scattered in Papanashini. Thirunelli became famous in North India after this, and the number of tourists from North India has increased over the years.

I like to visit Thirunelli on a less crowded day, see the places, pray at the temple, and wash my hands and feet in Papanashini.

Beyond Thirunelli
If you are absolved of your sins, you can carry on your journey to other beautiful places in Wayanad. ‘Pakshipathalam’ is not very far from here. But, it’s not possible to go there by a vehicle. You need to go walking through the forest. In other words, you need to ‘trek’. Pakshipathalam is a perfect place for birders. The trek is extremely difficult during monsoons. Leeches are the main hurdle. I intend to visit Pakshipathalam after the rains. Anyone who likes to join me is welcome.

Photo courtesy: Ajay Joy and Hari Mananthawadi

Translated from my Malayalam travel blog 'Chila Yaathrakal' by Mrs.Bindhu Unni

To the Jain temples.....

Wayanad- I may have to accept that I never felt the similar liking to any other district in Kerala, which I had felt for it. My every trip to Wayand is exciting, usually with visit to new places, fresh views or even a new piece of information from the places I had already visited. I ever used to carry any such sort of novel experience from Wayanad, when returns to Ernakulam. As there are so many places still left to be seen in Wayanad, I am sure, I have to climb up Thamarassery churam (mountain pass) many times.

I would describe my last trip to Wayanad, as something remarkable, probably would even compare it as something significant as, Columbus discovered America!

During the trips through Wayand, I had often noticed the road signs to Jain temples. However, then I used to be in the middle of a long journey to Bangalore or Ernakulam and due to the same reason, never had an opportunity to visit them. They had always kindled the curiosity,like how Jain temples could be here. I used to reassure myself that I would visit them once, when time in hand.

In this visit to Wayanad, I may miss the natural scenary due to heavy rain, atleast I could use up the time with temple visit, couldn’t I? Discussed the wish with my friend from Manathavady, Hari,who always used to accompany me in the Wayanad trips. Before I even finish saying it, Hari agreed to it. Ramesh Babu, Hari’s friend (now mine too) is a Jain. The answer to my doubt, if there are any Jains still living in Wayanad or atleast in Kerala, Ramesh Babu explained with statistics, which was a revelation for me.

Over 1400 Jains are living in Wayanad itself. The famous people like Virendrakumar M.P, is just a few of them. I was hearing all those facts open-mouthed. Am I the ‘frog in the well’? It is a realization that I don’t know much about Kerala state, despite that I had been living here, what a shame.

A strong feel developed that it will not be appropriate to postpone the trip to Jain Temples. At least effort should be made to understand about Jainism and Jain temples in Wayanad, should visit a few of them. Hari promised to make all the arrangements for it.
The Jain temple tour has started from the temple next to Vimal Jyothi working women’s hostel in Sultan Bathery, as I had to go to Bathery from Ernakulam.

It is believed that the Jain temple was built in 13th century and now protected by ‘Archaeological survey of India’. It is said that, Sultan Bathery had 12 Jain streets in Kidanganad, which could be still evidenced in the village documents! The streets were called ‘Hannardubidi Basadi’. It is painful to realize that in Sultan Bathery, which was home for many Jains in the past, there is no more any Jain family left.

The Mysore invasion during the end of 18th century, fight between British and Pazhassi raja, the growth of shaivaism and vaishnavism etc were all said to be the reasons for the decline of Jain population, which resulted in the lose of protectors for the Jain temples. Later on, many Jain temples were transformed. Jain temple in Ernakulam district, devi temple at Thirucharanamalai in the place called Chitharal, Kanyakumari district etc are a few examples for the transformed Jain temples.

Even if the temple is in the protection of ‘Archaeological Survey of India’, the temple which is 800 years old could not be considered as properly taken care of. The measures taken would be just sufficient to make sure the building is not left to fell apart, and a guard was appointed.

The attempt to get more information than written in the notice board, from the guard, Soman Nair, had turned out to be a boomerang to me. He was in the frustration of a transfer order to Mattancherry Palace. When he came to know that I am an Ernakulam native, he had more questions to ask me, than I could probably ask him. A shower of questions like what is the distance from Mattancherry to Ernakulam station?, Does the buses are frequently available? How long it would take in bus? Somehow, I managed to convince Soman Nair that Ernakulam is a ‘smart city’. Entered inside the temple and enjoyed the sculptures in Vijayanagara style. Walking through the stone paved circumambulatory passage once or twice, took several photos.

In 18th Century, when Tippu Sultan invaded Malabar, this temple named ‘Kidanganad Basadi’ was used to store the armament and the town got the name Sultan’s Battery, which later transformed to Sulthan Bathery.

While the journey from Bathery to Manathavady, I just tuned away to Pulppally. Had heard there was a temple for Seetha-Lava-Kusha, felt to visit it too. Went there, just roamed around the temple premises, bowed infront of the closed door of deity. It was already 4 o clock when I had returned to Manathavady road. As it was raining heavily and was late than anticipated to reach Manathavady, visiting the rest of Jain temples was postponed to next day.

Next day I was fondly invited to the house of Ramesh Babu, at Puthiyadam, for lunch. I enjoyed the gourmet vegetarian lunch with many dishes which I never had tasted before. The taste of the Mysore style lunch still lingers to tongue, which had a variety of dishes such as pappadams,made from ripe and unripe jack fruit, one or two different pickles,two types of kondattams ( dried vegetable crisp).Ramesh Babus’s mother and wife gave me a parcel of some of the kondattams and jack fruit pappadams when I left, as they had ready my mind.

The important Jain temples in Wayanad are
1. Hodangadi Basadi (Manathavadi)
2. Puthiyadam Adeeshwara Swamy temple (Manathavady)
3. Sri Parshwanatha Swamy temple (Anchukunnu)
4. Parshwanatha temple(Palukunnu)
5. Sri Chandranatha Basadi (Puthangadi)
6. Varadur Sri Anathaswamy te,ple (Panamaram Meenangadi Road)
7. Hanarudibidi Basadi (Sulthan Bathery)
8. Santhu natha Basadi(Venniyodu)
9. Puthur Vayalile Uma-Maheshwara rock temple (It is now a hindu temple)
10. Sri Ananthanatha Swamy Basadi (Kalpatta)
11. Chandranathagiri (Kalpatta-Myladipara)
12. Kuthirakkodu temple (Thirunelli)
13. Echirakkolli temple-Bavali (it is now a Vishnu temple)
14. Swamykallu-Jessy Estate (it is now a Vishnu temple)
15. Edakkal Cave temple
Most of these temples are now Hindu temples. Many do not have any worship or even care. The common features in the temples such as Hoysala (Hoysala kings were Jains) script engravings, the age of temples, the structure of the idols, peculiarities in the hood of the snake idols, style of sculptures, are characteristic evidences to support the argument that all of them are Jain temples.

In 12th century, while the reign of predominant Hoysala kings in Karnataka, Wayanad was a part of it. Many historians such as Sri O.K Johny had observed in their studies that many of the Jain temples in the Hoysala rule were transformed to Vishnu temple after Bitideva, a Hoysala king had converted to Vaishnavism .

When we three came out after lunch, rain was drizzling. As it would be a vain attempt to wait for rain to stop, we ignored rain and started the journey as planned. The first destiny was Sri Chandranatha Basadi temple at Puthangady. It was at a distance of 10km from Puthiyadam.

Hari stopped the vehicle when it was about to reach Puthangadi, infront of an abandoned temple, inside coffee plantation. Clearing the bushes and climbers, we walked inside.

Beautifully engraved walls and pillars of the temple were almost near to devastation. Through the fissures in the rock roof, water was dripping in. Inside it was deep darkness and silence. The temple is not in the above list. But without doubt, could say that is a Jain temple. This would be Puthangadi Janardana temple, which was mentioned in some texts.

Lighting match stick, Ramesh Babu went inside, followed by Hari and myself, to observe the sculptures in the wall and roofs and the idols inside. The only visible things were cobweb and the temple was almost at the edge of falling apart. However it seems that renovation of the temple would not be very strenuous.

In the light which comes through the cracks in the roof, we saw some gods and goddess, who were peacefully hidden inside. After taking some pictures, we came out. While roaming around the temple we could find many more gods inside the bushes.

Felt an unexplainable anger to our rulers who left these temples which are the evidences of the heritage and beliefs to the face of destruction, instead of renovating and properly conserving them. Why God, none of them, Devasom board or Tourism board or Archeology department, does not feel to revive you? How you could tolerate such avoidance in your own country?

There is one more similar temple in Puthangadi. The signboard by Kerala tourism board, stating Jain temple, stands besides the road as a guide. The temple is a bit far from the road, inside a coffee plantation. When went near, it was evident that this temple also have the same odd fate of denial. Somebody had eaten a jackfruit there, leaving the waste just infront of the sanctum.

It was heartbreaking to see the bitter state of these temples. Even if rituals or recitals are not performed at least these ones have to be protected as cultural heritages? Ignoring all these, where we are heading to, in the race of the surviving struggles of life? One more add on question to the million unanswered questions!

Rain has become stronger. We haven’t reached Sri Chandranatha Basadi temple yet. Time would be enough only for going there. Probably darkness would spread by the time we finishes it. Hari turned the car.
(To be continued)
I would not say it is a study about Jain temples. I have tried just to assimilate and include some information along with the sights I had seen. I never intended to hurt any one’s beliefs with this post.
Amritavarshini (Platinum Jubilee Smaranika 2008)- Ananthanadha temple Kalpatte, Sri O.K.Johny- historian,manager book development, Mathrbhoomi printing and publishing company, Sri V.V. Jinendraprasad, Sri.Rameshbabu, Sri.Hari, Kannur medicals, Mananthavadi.

Translated from my Malayalam travel blog 'Chila Yaathrakal' by Miss Anu.