Saturday, December 31, 2011

NORTH INDIA IN THE SPENDER OF WINTER



            We reached Agra on a Friday morning. Anyone reaching Agra on a Friday will curse the moment they planned their journey, for Friday is a holiday for taj, the main attraction in Agra. But we were prepared for the dismay as it was known beforehand. Ours was not a pleasure trip but a trip to Udaipur to take part in the three day long national general body meeting of the Confederation of University employees associations. As the rail tickets to Ahmadabad which is the nearest and convenient point to reach Udaipur from Kerala were not available, we decided to take a circuitous route -Agra, jaipur and then to Udaipur. For the return journey we preferred flight from Ahmadabad to Coimbatore which is very cheap. That way we could tour Agra ,jaipur , Udaipur and Ahmadabad. So on Wednesday 14th December 2011 we started from kannur in the Mangala Lakshadweep Express along the Konkan coast. The Mangala Express was a reminder of the neglect of Indian Railways towards Kerala for the compartments were real cattle class. The toilets were filthy and the seats torn out.  The journey through konkan fascinates the traveler only during his first journey, for the tunnels and the rocky terrain have the same look on all the seasons. But after Goa the sight of the fields extending to infinity are a real treat to the eyes. It is a continuum. Mustard, wheat, paddy, jute and several other crops in  multicoloured bloom fill every inch of the earth.It appears that one could walk and walk for days and through the plane fields without seeing a single hill. A reminder of one of ONV poems about a solitary girl in the wheat fields bring forth childhood memories . In winter Payyannur was alike in my childhood. Every inch of the paddy fields were filled with all types of vegetables and cereals. The banana brought from home by satheesan added to the sweetness of the memories
          Agra was trying to rise from the cold, when we reached there. we took accomodaion in the Railway dormitory as we have to travel to jaipur the same  evening. After breakfast we set off in an innova to the old capital city of India -now totally in ruins, ugly and repelling. Hawkers pestered around on the pretest of arranging everything on earth even a visit to the taj on a friday. Thamarkshan and Sasi have not seen taj before -but all others - the international traveller Sahadevan, Ramachandran, Satheesan and I have seen taj several times before. Still we went to taj gate which is open for prayer on fridays. We went to Agra fort and spend some time pondering over the old times when the Mugal kings with their fascination to art and culture constructed such time tested forts and palaces. Agra Fort located on the right bank of Yamuna is one of the most important and robustly built stronghold of the Mughals, encompassing the imposing Mughal style of art and architecture. It was constructed by Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh. Some 4000 builders daily worked on it and it was completed in 8 years (1565-1573).The fort, semi-circular on plan, is surrounded by a  high fortification wall. Double ramparts have been provided here with broad massive circular bastions at regular intervals. There are four gates on its four sides, one of the gates was called “khizri-gate” (the water gate) which opens to the river front, where ghats (quays) were provided .The fort has survived through the onslaught of time, nature and men. The fort spreads over an area of about 94 acres of land. At present, there exist more than two dozens of monuments in the Fort.Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan, his own father, in the fort for 8 years until he died in 1666 and was buried in the Taj Mahal. The barbicans around the two gates and on the riverside were built by Aurangzeb to strengthen its defences. Though Shah Jahan had formally transferred his capital to Delhi, in 1638, he continued to live here. But after his death, Agra lost its grandeur. Aurangzeb remained busy in the regional conflicts and wars. Yet, time and again, he lived here and held the durbar. Shivaji came to Agra in 1666 and met Aurangzeb in the Diwan-i-Khas. Aurangzeb died in 1707 and 18th century history of Agra Fort is a saga of sieges and plunder during which it was held by the Jats and the Marathas and finally the British captured it from the latter in 1803.
         The fort was flooded with tourists. While Indians were seen flirting around, foreign tourists were more serious, all accompanied with guides and some with audio guides. 
Agra Fort


Agra fort






In the evening we boarded the Gwalior Udaipur Express which reached Jaipur at 10 pm. The night was really cold but Sukumaran, friend of Suresh has arranged accommodation in the nearby Hotel, Ashish. After dinner we had a sound sleep after several days of tiresome journey. In the morning we set off to tour jaipur, the pink city of India. Jaipur is a big town with several monuments. Amber fort will bewilder any traveller .

Amber fort
 Such complex structures require very creative architects. India was home to such architectural genius in the past. Now we have bidden farewell to such architects to embrace the British model which is just nothing compared to these super structures. The sight of a solitary Korean girl with a pink umbrella climbing down the  deserted stairs of the fort was a welcome sight. While Indians dread such lone  journeys many foreigners are seen travelling alone. We also went to Junter Mandir were the ancients made very precious astronomical calculations. 
Kankaria Lake -Ahamedabad



Hawa Mahal is a treat to the eye. 
Hawa mahal



There are museums, lake palaces and several other places of importance in jaipur .In the evening we boarded the Udaipur express at 10 pm and reached Udaipur in the early morning. Suresh was waiting for us at the Station. But our local hosts from the University were at the station with a bus. So we decided to go with them and suresh followed us in his car. Accommodations for staff from Universities of Kerala were arranged at Nehru Hostel of the Mohanlal Sukhadia University. The sight of bed sheets laid in a row was very repelling and there was no hot water in the bathroom. Suresh invited us to his home and we went with him and returned to the University soon. Friends from other Universities –Kerala, Calicut, Gandhi, Sanskrit and Cochin arrived. It was a happy reunion after three years. 

Suresh had arranged two vehicles for our internal transit in Jaipur . Stalin, Narayanan, Sadanandan, Subrahmanyan and Murali from Calicut University were with us. We went to city fort first. The imperial history of Mewar looks still alive in the forts of Udaipur. The Forts around Udaipur boast about the legends of glorious past. These ancient forts had witnessed the great battles of Mewar. 
City Palace- Glass work
City Palace- udaipur



City Palace- udaipur



The huge forts had served the Royalty of Mewar. In the present day, the fort stands as the embodiment of the sovereigns of the erstwhile age. These ancestral structures are made of solid foundations that have resisted the weather, cyclones and earthquakes. People from all over the globe come to visit these invaluable structures. The magnificent architecture and splendid work of these forts will leave us in bewilderment about the glorious days of the majestic Kings. The summer palace in Kacholi lake is a miracle. One floor of the palace is beneath water.
City Palace- Inside



The next three days were devoted entirely for the meeting. It was very encouraging to see that there is a common link which connects the Officers of the Universities spanning around the entire nation. Many languages can be heard. Sajjan and Hotta are to be admired for the herculean task they have undertaken to unite the employees . Ramachandran was the first to initiate the discussions. He was elected  to the executive committee. On the first day there was cultural programmes. The traditional folk dances of Rajasthan are a real  treat.
Udaipur
Pacholi Lake
Kalagramam, Udaipur



After the meeting we went to Allahabad in the evening train. We reached there in the early hours. Pradeep has booked three rooms in Nataraj Hotel in Lal Durga  in old Ahamedabad. The sight of the lodge at first depressed everyone. But the fact that there is an Udupi hotel nearby and that the hotel is accessible from all part of the town was very heartening. After some rest we set off to  see the city . We first went to Sabarmathi Ashram. Set up in the year 1915, Sabarmati ashram was the central point from where the struggle for India's Independence was started. Till the year 1930, the ashram at Sabarmati was the home of Mahatma Gandhi. 
Sabarmathi ashram



Bordered by shady trees, the atmosphere over here is very tranquil and peaceful. During the Indian struggle for independence, it was also referred to as the Satyagrah Ashram. The ashram houses a museum, library, auditorium and photo galleries. The museum exhibits the life of Mahatma Gandhi. There is an archive of letters written by Gandhiji. Also, the museum contains the manuscripts of his articles; several films composed on the life of Gandhiji & India's freedom struggle etc. There are plenty of books in the library. Amidst the mad rush of the city, Sabarmati ashram serves as a great retreat. I spun the charka and wrote in the visitors diary as a memoir. 
Sabarmathi Ashram



 Then we proceeded to Kankaria Lake which is a multisided lake that was built by Sultan Qutab-ud-Din in the year 1451 A.D. It is basically an artificial lake with thirty four sides. Lying on the south eastern side of the Ahmedabad city, the lake also has a fascinating island summer palace. People are of the say that Kankaria lake of Ahmedabad was often visited by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir along with his wife Empress Noor Jahan.
Kankaria Lake is one of the most favorite picnic spots of the people of Ahmedabad. Adjacent to the lake, lies a beautiful garden called Nagina Wadi. For people seeking peace, there can be no better place than Kankaria Lake. The pleasing view of the lake, the humming and chirping of birds and the greenery bordering the lake will make you fall in love with this place. You can also avail the boating facility. There is balloon flight and a childrens train running around the lake. Kankaria Lake provides a beautiful view of the sunset. There is also a zoo and children's park located nearby the lake.
In the afternoon we walked through the markets of Ahamedabad . It is a marvelous sight to see lanes and lanes of colourful shops full of men and women with the usual the traffic jams . We made some purchases also.
Next morning we flew from Ahmedabad airport to Coimbatore. From Coibatore we got the fast passenger train to Kannur .

Monday, November 21, 2011

DRESS DISTRIBUTED : PAYYANNUR ARTS AND CHARITABLE TRUST distibuted bed sheets to the inmates of Sreenarayana Vidyalaya at a function held on 20.11.2011 at the Vidyalaya premises. Sri. K. K. Gangadharan , Vice-Chairman of Payyannur Municipality inaugurated the function. Veteran freedom fighter Sri. V. P. Appukutta Poduval was the Cheif Guest. Municipal Councillor Sri. K. K. Krishnan, Sri. A. Kunhambu and Sri. A. K. Govindan Master offered falicitations. Sri. R. Muralidharan, Chariman of the Trust presided over the function. Sri. U.K. Surendran welcomed the gathering and Sri. P. K. Vijayakumar offered a vote of thanks
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Padi river





Padi river flows quietly . The unexpected motor strike has opened up a possibility of visiting padi , my old pal. Walking through the narrow muddy path through the paddy field which is getting ready for the third cultivation , my nostrils imbibed a rejuvenating smell of decaying hey and mud  which immediately took me to my childhood days. 
One of our childhood fascinations was the 'Uoni', the substitute for the wheel used in  southern Kerala used for draining paddy fields. Fastened to a tripod to touch  water, draining water with Uoni was a pleasant experience. Large mollusks with their heap of white eggs and multicolored mussels welcomed the old friend. A group of tiny fish splashed out seeing the intruder. The narrow path was flooded as it was high tide.
Padi river brings forth many memories. The karivellur struggle has reached its climax after the firing at Kuniyan . The uprising at karivellur under the leadership of AV Kunhambu against the landlords who stole  every thing from the people was an event  which will inspire every one.  On those days people starved to death  while the granaries of the landlords were full . With only sticks and stones in their hands, hundreds of common men and women fought with the British Police to desist them from taking away a stock of paddy to  Chirakkal Kovilakam as the farmers who have  cultivated the paddy were dying of hunger. It was through this same river that the bodies of the  two martyrs of the struggle and Comrade AV Kunhambu soaked in blood and considered to be dead in the firing where taken to Valapattanam in a boat. 
Nowadays both kuniyan and padi attracts a number of migratory birds . Two large  pelicans were fishing in the fields. They have probably traveled thousands of kilometers to this tiny hamlet. One of them raised her eyes to me. There were two boys collecting mussel in the river. The unmanned fiber boat which could be maneuvered with a rope tide to the other end was waiting for me.I doubted whether to cross or not when a distance drum beat announced that there is theyyam somewhere on the other side. Now there is nothing to be decided . I got into the boat and pulled the rope. 
The 'Kambrath Ara' from where the drum beat originated was deserted when I reached there. It was learnt that the original theyyam festival was held a couple of days back and what is going on is a special theyyam.  People have become more superstitious nowadays and the number of special theyyams have grown to such proportions that the slot for two or three years to come have been sold out. 
Why such an illogical competition? There seems to be a nexus between the astrologers and temple committees.Sociologically my only answer is a possibility. The new world has taken away all signs of identity each sect of people within a community possesses. Formerly there were purely family functions each tharavadu celebrate alone. Now every one within a community celebrate the same festivals. So the secret wish to preserve once identity propts them to make special occasions in which members of a particular sect alone take place.   
Thus I got a very rare opportunity of witnessing a theyyam in a lesser crowd. But still the artist performing vishnumoorthi did not heed the number of spectotors. The theyyattam was perfect



video

Monday, October 31, 2011

EDAYILAKKAD REVISITED








                     No one will ever imagine that nature will open up a magic world beyond the sleepy road. You will feel you are in another dimension-in another world where the sky, sea and space merge together. The smell of the clear river, the vision of a distant fishing boat and the vapour arising up from the water surface- all have a mesmerising effect on you. The dirty road with potholes end up thus before a panoramic view of the kotty jetty-here we have to start a days journey to Kavvayi Lake ,Edayilakkad and then to Ezhimala Naval Academy.The start is perfect. The sky was a little cloudy and the jetty was deserted when our 55 strong team from Kannur University arrived there. After the initial ice-breaking every one became so excited about this journey. The distant noise of the boat was a welcoming sign. The kids joy found no bounds when everyone got into the boat-the elders were a little scary with tension writ large on there faces remembering the incidents of boat tragedies in the past. Some were furiously locating life buoys in case of emergency. 

The situation was some how got relieved when a couple colleague eased the tension thus
Husband to wife
video
 “Don’t think that I will rescue you with my life if the boat sinks as in titanic- I will find my way back alone”
The wife quipped “I am sure you will not - My ATM card is in my inner wallet”
Kavvayi is the old district head quarters of Kannur. At a time when road traffic was a distant reality every one used the water ways. From Vadakara to Neeleswaram there was hectic traffic on those days .The Ali Raja of Kannur owes the credit – It is he who constructed a canal-Sulthan thode- connecting payangadi and ezhimala waterways. After road traffic became a reality every one forgot this path until the Nayanar ministry reinstated the traffic with KSRTC boats. That too does not last long since the canal required constant dredging.
If you have never travelled through these serene waters you have missed something very great in your life. Tranquillity prevails every where. The boat traverses in between Kavvayi and the numerous islands, Valiyaparamba, Edayilakkad, Ayitty etc. Valiyaparambu is the longest panchath in Kerala with 27 Kms length. At some places its breadth is only fifty meters. The people living here are the most blessed ones. They could rise from there sleep seeing the river on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west, brush there teeth on the riverbank and have a chat with their beloved on the sea shore in the evening



The excitement reached its peak when isolated small islands came into sight. The factual information about a small island dotted with coconut palms in which a single lady- Lakshmy -the female Crusoe of kavvayi -lived long all alone, was very fascinating -Now she has shifted to the main land. She even attended the literacy classes in the main land in her small boat, daily.
Edayilakkad Island is a heaven. Here time stands still. You are in touch with nature. The gentle breeze, the waves of the lake tell you only one thing- You are overloading yourselves. Your solace is in mother natures lap. The beaches are dotted with coconut palms  and the atmosphere is serene. 

Here you could travel across any compound without being raising any eyebrows, because this is the old Kerala culture. Walls came into our lives and compounds only lately. In Edayilakkad there is a sacred forest the 'Nagam' which is inhabited by a number of monkeys. Monkeys wait for you to be fed. You will get eatables for the monkeys from nearby shops.
Edayilakkad is now connected to the mainland by a bund separating the river into two worlds. This could have made a very devastating effect on the sea life.

Our bus was waiting in Edayilakkad. After lunch at Payyannur, we went to the Navel Academy. An Officer entrusted to take us around the academy accompanied us. It is entirely an other world - spanning across 2500 acres, the land has been converted into a new habitat with numerous buildings. Ships and helicopters that took place in warfare welcome the guests. There is also a stable with numerous horses.

The Ezhimala beach is neat and clean. Our photography buffs have a tough time managing a plethora of images simultaneously. The old light house in Ettikkulam speaks vehemently of the ship mishap once occurred in the seas. The breathtaking scene from the light house will be a solace at times of turmoil. 








Friday, October 14, 2011

KOORG-THE MISTY HEAVEN

This pooja holidays we decided to visit KOORG. We had occasions to visit Koorg earlier but this time we decided to take a circular journey –Iritty to Kushal Nagar via veerajpetta and siddapura and then to Madikkeri and back to Payyannur via Bagamandalam. The journey to Kushal Nagar was very tiresome as the roads proved very hostile. But once in Kushal nagar we were at home. Mr. Mani who is a baker there, a close acquaintance of Mr. Surendran has made all arrangements for our stay. Once settled we started off at 4 pm to Nisargadama a park which is some 3 km from Kushalnagar,. It is a beautiful picnic spot housing a deer park. 

The Kaveri winds through thick vegetation circling the park and one has to enter the park through a hanging bridge. A group of small children playing in the water reminds one of natural ways of entertainment in these days of paid water theme parks. There are some bamboo "machans" on trees, but the best part of it is the river is on the back-side. If you want to go for elephant ride at Nisarga Dhama, please remember to buy ride-tickets along with your entry-ticket before you get in. Being aholiday the park was crowded so we decided to move on

Our second destination was the monastery in Kushal nagar for which the town is famous for. Some 3500 Tibetan monks live here. Their Golden temple is indeed a replica of Tibetan temple architecture. A number of lamas could be seen encircling the temple complex. The inside of the temple with three huge sculptures one of Budha and two of his disciples is an owe inspiring sight. We sat for some time observing the monastery and understood that there is no one controlling the crowds . It appears that you are ina foreign territory once you are in the temple premises.


We had a sound sleep at the hostel after our meals thanks to Vijayan who has taken some pains to come all the way from Goa to join us.
Next morning with Peethambaran, I set out for a morning walk through the streets of Kushal Nagar. Like any other town of Karnataka the streets were deserted and the town was very lazily awakening to a busy day.
After breakfast we set off to Madikkery. Abbey falls is in the way. The climate was very fine. The beautiful falls is 8 km from Madikeri . Abbey means "falls" in Kannda. The falls are inside a coffee plantation. Abbey Falls is a breathtaking waterfall where the Kaveri river cascades down a rockface. There is a hanging bridge across the gorge which offers a good view of the falls. As we reached there in the morning some of the brave youths have started to take bath in the cascade. But a policeman who reached late blew his whistle and started to beat the boys mercilessly .After a series of accidents, taking baths in the falls has been forbidden.

We spent some time in abbey and started early on the insistence of Sasi. We reached Madikkeri amidst the dasami celebrations, at 11am. There were processions carrying huge idols of deities on the streets. There is nothing much to be seen in Madikkeri except Rajas Seat and the Fort.
Rajas seat is a picturesque valley view point which the Raja used to frequent for seeing the sunset. The fort is in ruins and houses many Govt. Offices.

We went to Talakavery in the afternoon. This indeed is a heaven. Thick Clouds descended from Brahmagiri, completely covering the pilgrims in a holy ablution. Many were taking the holy bath in the temple pond wading through the water and the bewilderment of a child carried by a couple having a dip in the cold kaveri was enchanting.




Saturday, September 3, 2011






ആരും കാണാത്ത അദ്ഭുത ദ്വീപ്‌ ഇടയിലക്കാട് കണ്ണൂര്സര്വ്വകലാശാലയില്ഡെവലപ് മെന്റ് ഓഫീസര്ആയിരുന്ന ഡൊ പവിത്രന്മാഷിന്റെ യാത്രയയപ്പ് ഒരു പുതിയ രീതിയില്നടത്താന്ഞങ്ങള്സുഹൃത്തുക്കള്തീരുമാനിച്ചു .പയ്യന്നുരിനടുത്തു ത്രിക്കരിപൂര്റെയില്വേ സ്റ്റേഷനില്നിന്നും സുമാര്രണ്ട് കിലോമീറ്റര്മാറി അതിമനോഹരമായ ഒരു ദ്വീപുണ്ട് . കടലിനും പുഴയ്ക്കും ഇടയിലെ ഒരു കൊച്ചു തുരുത്ത്സഞ്ചാരികള്ക്ക് അധികം അറിയാത്ത ഒരു മനോഹര തീരം ആണത് .അവിടെ വെച്ചാകാം യാത്രയയപ്പ് എന്ന് തീരുമാനിച്ചു . ഒരു ഞാറാഴ്ച ഉച്ചക്കുശേഷം ഒരു വാഹനത്തില്പുഴക്കരയില്എത്തി. യാത്രയയപ്പ് കൊഴുപ്പിക്കാനുള്ള എല്ലാ സംഭാരങ്ങളും കരുതിയിരുന്നു ഇടയിലക്കാടിനും കരയ്ക്കും അതിരിടുന്നത് കവ്വായി കായല്ആണ്. വെമ്പനാട്ടു കായലിനെക്കാളും മനോഹരമാണ് കവ്വായി കായല്‍ .ഒരു തോണിയില്ആയിരുന്നു യാത്ര .നിറയെ തെങ്ങുകള്അതിരിട്ട ദ്വീപു കടലിന്റെ അപാര പശ്ചാത്തലത്തില്വളരെ വശ്യ മായി തോന്നി. തോണി ഉലഞ്ഞപ്പോള്പലരും നന്നേ പേടിച്ചു .അകലെ ഏഴിമല നേവല്അക്കാദമി യുടെ വിദൂര ദൃശ്യം യാത്രയിലുടനീളം കാണാം. തോണിയില്വെച്ചുതന്നെ യാത്രയയപ്പ് സല്ക്കാരും ആരംഭിച്ചു പവിത്രന്മാഷിന്റെ സര്വീസ് അനുഭവങ്ങള്പലരും പൊടിപ്പും തൊങ്ങലും വെച്ച് അവതരിപ്പിച്ചപ്പോള്പലരും ചിരിച്ചു മണ്ണ് -സോറി വെള്ളം -കപ്പി .അര മണിക്കൂര്തോണി യാത്ര കഴിഞ്ഞപ്പോള്ദ്വീപില്എത്തി ആകെ അഞ്ഞൂറ് മീറ്ററില്കുറവ് വീതിയെ ഇവിടെ കരയ്കുള്ളു. കാഴ്ച വിവരിക്കാന്ബുദ്ധിമുട്ടാണ് കിഴക്ക് വിശാലമായ കായല്‍. പടിഞ്ഞാറു അനന്തതയിലേക്ക് നീളുന്ന കടല്‍. തെക്കും വടക്കും അപാരതീരം. കടല്കണ്ടതും ഞാന്വെള്ളത്തിലിറങ്ങി. ഇവിടെ തിരക്ക് നല്ല ശക്തി യുണ്ട് കടലില്അധികം ഇറങ്ങുന്നത് അപകടമാണ്. എല്ലാവരും തീരത്ത് ഇരുന്നു പടിഞ്ഞാറു സൂര്യന്അസ്തമിക്കാനുള്ള പുറപ്പാടിലാണ് ആകാശം ചെഞ്ചായം പൂശി യിരിക്കുന്നു തണുത്ത കാറ്റു മനസിനും ശരീരത്തിനും ഉന്മേഷം പകര്‍ന്നു.