50. Happy Donut Days

@Outwood, West Yorkshire, England.

There is no better destination to write a half-century post on; located in the centre of my life in England was this wonderful place where I spent most of my time in England; where I wandered around enjoying each and every moment, or most of them, at a temperature which was far below my record low and yet high compared to the standards of the area and freezing enough but still enjoying every part of it; thinking about the snow which never came; happy to know about a wonderful place which I never heard about before that day; there was beauty all around; there was the beautiful life; even when sitting idle and eating so many donuts and chocolate muffins along with drinking tea as usual and eating ice cream as if it was something which came down directly from the heavens as snow; watching strange television programmes which made the telecast back at home even stranger on my return home; being at the right place at the right time when there was need for change; all these explain what was Wakefield for me. What is more important than being at a place where your brain and heart works the best? There could be more answers as long as more scientific theories are being invented, but as long as I am concerned, there is only one answer which is not prone to changes and I know it.

My adventure would officialy start at the Outwood railway station; not because I want to place my head on the rail and sing songs on death and damnation; not because I could run along with the train or had that kind of a belief that I was going to be Flash or Johnny Quick and could reach the end of the railroad and make fun of the train; the train might have had its poetry in motion and could have been the subject of a paradox which would have worked so well for a future poem; the ultimate negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life never happened as the yellow, red and blue coloured train was so beautiful and so were the cars parked outside the railway station; for I had to survive to pose in front of the train as well as the railroads and the railway station with those trees on the background which gave the perfect feeling of being at the right station which never happened before; it was still cold and walking all the way to the railway station and back was my feeling of walking in a refrigerator even as there wouldn’t be space for that walk inside that machine; the time at the railway station was fun even with nothing specific there; that would have been a strange feeling for people who see that every day, but not for me who just arrived.

Outwood had a library and it was great to have it so close; for those books which I had with me were ‘The Canterbury Tales’ and ‘King Lear’; even as doubt remain about the latter if it was ‘Indulekha’ or some random poem collection for none of them really got into my head when I was there; so much was there to look for and so many things to find and understand; during that time, there was no time for any reading even if there was time for the library visits; the books were good and so were the DVDs and it was great to see them both for rent and sale even as the latter had only a few in the list; it is still better to be at a place where there is value for books and its readers; where so many books of Anthony Trollope were for sale; where there is an amazing car parked on the outside and nobody cares as they go into the library; when minding your own business is the thing to do and still not staying away from helping others; what books can do to you is more than just awesome; for the books are the guides even as guidebooks are not the books to read; what literature gives you is the best of everything; for the arts field is the way to go and libraries are study rooms which are created for the people with that hunger which is unparallel to anything or anyone who asks you to eat.

There was that park, as we had that morning walk even as the evening walk too guided us to the very same place; there except for that swing, everything was so complicated for me even when the smallest of kids had no problem with those, even the ones who weighed more than me; considering the fact that I weighed ten kilograms extra at that time, that would have been too heavy and in my case, my laziness prevented me from doing anything which was good enough to move the muscles; there was also the photography though, as the place was so beautiful with those greenery which had slight effects of autumn; the trees in different colours and the rays of the sun coming through those branches and leaves gives a feeling which raised to me to that world of unknown greatness which was just below the garden of Eden; for I wanted to do more than just eat a donut and look out for tea; the view was magical and I took photos and thought about being there more often; there is the Lake District and whatever beauty surrounding it; there is just beauty everywhere and there is no wonder if William Wordsworth wanted to worship nature and someone else wanted to praise it even better; for the feeling is unexplainable and when someone can do that with ease in poetry, there is nothing better.

The Outwood Parish Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, belonging to the Doicese of Wakefield; the first church I visited in England, in the United Kingdom and in the whole of Europe or I would say outside Asia; saluting that church which had the beauty of simplicity in such an extent that it affected my words and nearly destroyed and I failed to explain that feeling; a church that old and that beautiful existed only in my deams until then and at some point, combined with sunlight in a wonderful manner, it surpassed my own dreams which were often exaggerated; and I couldn’t get my eyes off it until I looked around the cemetery which was attached to the church; for I have never seen so good tombstones and crosses; the celtic crosses were the best and all of them contributed to the beauty of the church building from a distance; how much do I wish to be buried at such a beautiful graveyard where people would come and take photos; there is no good in being at a good state when dead as they would say, but I would see no change in life and afterlife except for the pain which eats from the inside and the outside as long as the body exists; I would die and hope to see a celtic cross on my grave which would be carved out of stone and it should have other marks on it which should denote my life; that would be too much to ask for, but what is life without dreaming and believing? Where would world be without faith and hope?

When the life is without objective meaning, purpose, or value, one has the desire to travel long and cross huge water bodies and reach a place which is of such a value for him even as it is nothing for the rest; he is the traveller and the wanderer; a man of adventures with stories to tell from beyond anybody’s imaginations; not to forget the tea that would guide him till the end of his life; for tea was made for him and he was made for tea as it is a process which works both ways; for he is the modern version of Ulysses or Odysseus; which is why it little profited his soul to stay at his home and be surrounded by the barbarianism of science; for he was also made weak by time and fate, but strong in will and good enough to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield; he would still sail beyond the sunset and the sunrise and keep doing so until he die; for it is never too late to seek a newer world even if it is as imaginary as Utopia; his pain has lived with him and has kept eating him from one side, but never did he surrender; the evil world has lived around him in different forms, trying to tempt him and deviate the path which he so proudly followed; he hasn’t given up yet and hopes to move on until the end of days even as he wonders if it will be due to the Global Warming or the Mullaperiyar Dam break a.k.a damnation.

Diving out —>



49. Remembering Lochinvar

@Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland.

It was a privilege to be at the birthplace of the famous Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, Sir Walter Scott, the author of great works such as Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady of the Lake, The Heart of Midlothian, Waverley and The Bride of Lammermoor. But what attracted me the most was the wonderful story of “young Lochinvar”, excerpted from Canto V of the poem ‘Marmion’. Walter Scott’s Lochinvar was the symbol of adventures, second only two Tennyson’s Ulysses who could not rest from travel; his journeys which always attracted him towards adventure and even the old age couldn’t stop him. But Lochinvar is more of a man of chivalry and unmatched courage along with love beyond horizons, as mentioned by the poet, “So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war”. The man who crossed the Eske river with no Ford; the knight who rode all unarmed and alone to reach his lover Ellen who was to be forcefully married to “A laggard in love, and a dastard in war” by her parents, finally escaped his lover. His novels like Ivanhoe and Rob Roy also created an interest these type of things even as they depicted the social conditions of that time in England and Scotland. It was due to this man that Edinburgh became so important from that literature point of view for me; it was also a city of long history and therefore it also evoked interest from that side.

I would start with the Scott Monument, a Victorian Gothic monument to the same Scottish author, located so much near the railway station which was another place to visit even if there was no reason for it, and train watching wasn’t on the list. I had never seen a better railway station even as it was complicated for me just looking at it; I felt as if having an outdated brain at that moment which would make it appropriate to come back to the monument to Sir Walter Scott. From a distance, it looked like an undead rocket ship which transported monsters into outer space for their further development into aliens, or may be the fallen angels from heavens are banished to another dimension in this space ship fuelled by the elements beyond the science of planet Earth. That would sound strange, but that was the closest to what it looked like for me at the first sight. But I wouldn’t deny that the beauty of that monument struck me more than anything else in the city; it was so special that I had to sound too strange to describe it. The monument is still a wonderful Gothic structure which has so much of detailed architecture at each level. It was only due to the lack of time that I couldn’t do a closer examination; nothing else can stop someone from being so near it and experience the feeling.

Then there was the Edinburgh Castle, a fortress which reminded me of Age of Empires II: The Conquerers. It was the closest I could get to the game in a non-religious manner as finding the similarities to worship places was further easier just as the wonders shown in the game. I wouldn’t consider it the perfect sample of the game, but it was surely the best of it’s kind I had seen anywhere in the world. Right from its appearance on the coat of arms of the city of Edinburgh, it came alive as I saw it in real, first dominating the skyline of the city and later being a perfect defensive structure which I wished to be the defender of my soul against everything which stands opposite to truth and righteousness, as it looked stronger than the strongest thing of defense which did enlighten my eyes with a view. As one of the most important fortresses in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was part of many historical conflicts, mostly related to the Wars of Scottish Independence and those consistent conflicts between the kingdoms of Scotland and England. It had it’s role to play in the long history of the island most of the time. It is not just a castle; it is a symbol of many things, and for me it is the symbol of righteous defence which stretches beyond this dimension and reaches that point of perpetual reality.

St Giles’ Cathedral a.k.a the High Kirk of Edinburgh was next; or the first one to be added to list considering the importance of visiting another different church. This beautiful cathedral is dedicated to Saint Giles, the patron saint of Edinburgh as well as of cripples and lepers, outcasts and the poor; with countless churches and monasteries dedicated to him all around Europe also supported by various tales about him during the Middle Ages. It has one of the best crown steeples and beautiful stained glasses and strong pillars which seems to show the power of faith and belief. There are some corners of the church building which were so beautiful that paying to take photos was not that bad a thing; there was no fee for entrance though. There were so many visitors for sure; considering the fact that this church is smaller than what was seen in Liverpool, York and the other popular structures of England which would stun people, it was once again proven that size doesn’t really matter. But that should only be partially true as it was proven on many occasions on the long run; still by considering smaller periods of time for an evalutaion, it can be proven the way it is expected to. There is always the tampering to prove oneself right and every critic will try to do the same as long as he or she is bound to that title; but there is no denying the beauty of this church.

St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral is the major Roman Catholic Church and there were so many buildings which looked like churches all around the area and it was surprising to see that most of them didn’t even come a little close to the sanctity which one would associate with a church building. But being in a historic city has its own hallowed experience which it carries in it’s soul. Walking through the stone-paved roads and between those buildings with many legends which still fly with the wind and also a few others which lay forgotten. There is magnificience which breathes life into the tourist as long as he or she is not attacked by a one-sided mentality which is usually placed by some of those selfish people who always thinks about the profit side of every action; this way of thinking always results in the ignorance of art and literature and makes Humanities an unimportant division in the eyes of those hypocrites who relate themselves to modernity with their spoon-fed collection of scientific theories which are of no value to a world which is to be destroyed by the same field. They are the ones who try to degrade the best forms of arts and make themselves the clear abominations in front of all forms of righteousness. They might not enjoy the place, as this is a marvellous city and to view it from a point of selfish materialistic barbarian hidden in the visage of that vanity called science, is pure blunder.

To add to it, there is always that case of pure evil which is inherent on the undead, as seen in most of those zombie movies; their aim is just to satisfy the hunger or thirst, or whatever they have for human flesh and blood. The same has happened to humanity even before turning into the blood sucking creatures of the night who rises from the grave. If we add a little more nonsense to it along with kid’s stuff which is not suitable for children and the also every available thing which is so senseless that the whole genre is affected, we could even call their life part of Twilight series. There is so much hidden radical behaviour and sucking goodness out of others, which is so common about these people who run around with that kind of selfishness which would make the toughest cavemen cry and Count Dracula would commit suicide for eternity. There is no wonder about the fact that Dracula has lost his fame; we have these people who can suck the happiness and beauty out of the lives of people, and I would be astonished if I find the old vampire surviving in this situation of fake people living in their fake worlds creating a kind of poison in the atmosphere which is very unlike the world of conscience which the Count lived in. Where is the sense in these pathetic people to enjoy the beauty of this historic city? There is no good that they do for this world of history which lives in almost every building of Edinburgh and I hope they don’t have a chance to make this great place less important.

Diving out —>


48. Awaiting Dam Break

@Idukki, Kerala, India.

It has been some time since I visited Idukki and its wonderful arch dam, the largest of its kind in India and one of the highest in Asia. Even as one had to look at all the beauty around the dam and all those water and greenery, what would demotivate at that point of heavy inspiration from nature would be feeling that the Mullperiyar Dam is to break and all the water is to come that way into the Idukki Dam and cause its destruction along with our death; it was a feeling which existed long ago and it still exists, but now in a more powerful manner such as to stay in the brain even when one manages to sleep. It is that thought of death which brings in the need to bring the Fountain of Youth back into the play, even if one has to ask for the service of Captain Jack Sparrow and his own wonderful rival, Captain Hector Barbossa; but that legendary spring that reputedly restores the youth of anyone, is to be more of something which grants immortality or the people who drinks it, a few lakhs of people will need it to survive that possible dam break; even those buildings will need to be coated with the water from the spring, as long as it doesn’t have any problem in giving that much water, and may be it can take the place of the water in Mullaperiyar right at the moment when it is to break. What else can save us from a catastrophe like this? The use of Gyges Ring can keep us as invisible dead bodies; water should have avoided the invisible bodies, but unfortunately it is a force of nature.

Leaving that literary and mythical combination of Greek, Roman, New World and Eurasian elements, one would wish for the Chalk of Fate, but as it can only change the action which was made by the owner of the piece, its useless would be proven, considering the fact that all those base things concerning Mullaperiyar Dam occured so long ago and dead men use no chalk. Anton Gorodetsky’s idea of finding that thing was always supposed to have served him alone, not even Svetlana Gorodetskaya. What would all those magical artifacts do in an age of science? Nothing much as long as their availability is concerned. If it was something which was to happen in those early ages, that would have saved all these troubles and people could have just prayed more and stood by their faith; but as the current world stands, perverted by science, but still affected by corruption and selfishness, I would wonder what the end results would be. There was a time when one could have believed in magic, fairies, unicorns, satyrs, centaurs, dragons and wyverns. But that age has gone by, and what remains are horrible vampire stories which are made into movies featuring only those creatures which would remind us of vampires infected by powers of mutation, all those powers except common sense and intelligence; and are still watched by people for reasons unknown; these reasons which are not that morally good for sure.

As Idukki Dam stands between the two mountains; Kuravanmala and Kurathimala as if connecting two lover who were separated for an eternity, the possibility of those fictional lovers being separated is there, with Mullaperiyar Dam being the villain. But going deep into this problem, is that dam the sole villain? Nope, it is just a candle which burns and ends its life just for the sake of humans, especially on the other side of the Western Ghats for which the dam was built. The villains are each one of us who don’t protest against stretching the dam to an extent that it has to be ashamed of its own existence and its failure which would make it a mass murderer. Hasn’t a dam got emotions considering them as part of nature built by creations of God? If it is so the blame would finally come to Mullaperiyar, passed on by Idukki as well as the other smaller dams, but what would it do then, as a devastated structure? The last resort is for humans, which would be suicide; they can also go to churches, temples, mosques and synagogues, but what about a dam? Where does its pilgrim centre lie? The Idukki Dam which was constructed along with two other dams at Cheruthony and Kulamavu together making an artificial lake and enjoying the beauty of nature and supplying humanity with all the goods, serving people for such a long time; what has it done to deserve such a fate, something of secondary destruction; it is ridiculous considering the fact that it is an architectural marvel and its soul is deep; it exists also within the people of Kerala; for the grief would live within the souls of people in case of any destruction.

Watching Dam 999 in 3D would make the situation closer to the realisation of the destruction, even as it wasn’t that great a movie; the 3D was still better than movies like Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which lacked the sense of the original; the movie was the closest to Kerala and almost all those things related to the Mullaperiyar Dam seemed to come more alive with it, even as the romantic side of the movie was so weak that one would have had to blame a lot in the first half. The dam is always there in the movie and depicted as the same dam only by the clues which are given in the movie; one wouldn’t have to think much about it though, as it is not something which would need a Sherlock Holmes or even Sethuramayyar CBI. Even as it is based on the award winning short documentary “DAMs: The Lethal Water Bombs”, and a tribute to the Banqiao dam disaster of 1975 that claimed the lives of 2,50,000 people in China, it can still be viewed as an anticipated calamity for the Mullaperiyar Dam in Kerala, more than anything else. It successfully establishes an objective correlative; Hamlet might complain and even go on a hunger strike with his father ghost figure and Ophelia, but it exists there, and thus that parallel universe is created in the movie in which I could predict whatever awaited me with an eye of foresight which still eludes a few people in the state and so many of them all around India including the national media. This catastrophe which could affect four to six districts and millions of people and their dreams; all the effort taken in the development of these towns and cities; that would be so absurd.

This story of a dilapidated colonial dam is made somewhat strange by the addition of Navarasas, Ayurveda and some horrible romance; this romantic thing is not even comparable to whatever happened in the Twilight series; both should be considered equally strange just by the frequency of the nonsense in love, but Twilight at least have the vampire excuse to make; it got fans, so even if Edward develops wings and flies to the sky and Bella becomes a crocodile and go doing the submarine stuff under water, they will agree as the strangest nonsense happen with that series called Twilight. But when these strange emotions come into Dam 999, its far away for necessity. It lacked soul and failed to invoke any kind of emotion in the viewer, partially due to the lack of acting and also due to the use of English language in such a way as to convey something which could only be conveyed through some Indian language, in this case – Malayalam. The foreign actors were slightly better. may be because they could speak in their mother tongue. If they had stuck to the dam-related thing throughout the movie without that much traversing through human emotions and stuff, it would have been and would have surely served its purpose; but then it would have been banned in Tamil Nadu; for it is scary for some people, only God knows how it is so; I always thought people have evolved enough to look at movies as works of art which is a creation; in this case, some people surely are faint-hearted while watching movies, but can still manage to turn a deaf ear to the cries of people fighting for their lives.

Mullaperiyar is a reality and the movie is not; this is something which needs attention, but this fictional event in Dam 999 is something which is going to happen to the Mullaperiyar Dam; there is no denying it; people can surely deny it like the villain of the movie Ashish Vidyarthi did in the movie and enjoy the deaths of so many people just because they are from a neighbouring state and speak a different language. When they claim that, like a dam, each character in the movie holds back their emotions for various known and unknown reasons and finally the colonial dam breaks and so does the dam of human emotions, but what is the use of that delayed outburst? Everything has to be done at the right time and what is the point of shedding crocodile tears after the death of millions of people along with all the infrastructure, flora and fauna? What could be the reason? Is it because some other city is also developing at such a pace that there is a hidden jealousy in this development and need to halt it? Is it the lack of concern for humanity as a whole or the lack of nationalism? Is it because of the confidence that the world will end in 2012 and the dam will be void? All of these make 2012; we create 2012, not just by the global warming and related stuff, but also by these small things; all these disasters are part of it; may be on that day of the end of the world, they will occur together. Who needs nuclear bombs? Who needs nature to intervene at a large scale, when just small tremors as enough for Mother Earth to get rid of those creatures who have been bothering her with their ridiculous inventions of science? Thanks to their own creations called dams.

Diving out —>


47. To Further South

@Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, India.

Nagercoil, a former part of the kingdom of Travancore and now the twelfth largest city in Tamil Nadu, located close to the tip of the Indian peninsula, is a place which one has to visit for sure if having a journey to Kanyakumari; as they are so connected and close to each other; this muncipality being the administrative headquarters of Kanyakumari District. Nagercoil has been part of the Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms, this town became more important during the reign of Marthanda Varma, the king of Travancore whose capital was Padmanabhapuram, just about twenty kilometres from Nagercoil; even as the capital was later shifted to Thiruvananthapuram which is about sixty five kilometres from Nagercoil, it was still an important town second only to its capital city. Even as Travancore was like a vassal state to the British, it was still among one the best in terms of administration; with Nagercoil being an important city of the kingdom, it developed further and it was not halted by the interference of the European powers or the transfer of power from the British East India company to the British crown itself; thanks to its location and the importance it gained in the map of Travancore; even after independence, it has continued as itself; even as Kanyakumari became more popular due to its beautiful views of sunset and sunrise along with other attractions.

St. Francis Xavier’s Church, in the Kottar locality of Nagercoil is a beautiful church built in a crucifix form; not that big a structure even with an extension on the frontside, but importance due to its historic significance related to the visit of St. Francis Xavier and his friendly relations with the king of Venad at that time. The church is currently painted yellow with the roof red in colour, along with a tower; but the church bell is located in the front, at the top of the church itself. The influence of European missionaries have been pretty high and it did help Nagercoil in achieving a high rate of literacy, thanks to the foundation of several educational institutions, as it can be seen from most of those schools and colleges in the town which are named after these missionaries. The London Missionary Society (LMS) and the Church Missionary Society (CMS) have also done valuable services to the society along with the Salvation Army; the medical field also improved considerably, with support from the Travancore administration which was always concerned about the welfare of the people even from the first king itself; not to forget the time when the kingdom was just small divisions of land ruled by weak rulers.

Padmanabhapuram Palace and Udayagiri Fort are not to be considered seprate from Nagercoil, as they were all part of the same kingdom; but that would be a story of Kerala History Twist, as mentioned before in on the of the recent posts, not that far behind in time. Getting back to worship, there is also the C.S.I Home Church which is an old structure with its front going up as clock tower and in the end forming a small dome structure as well as a tower. It is a small worship place of peace and serenity and a few more kilometres from there, we can see another C.S.I church, this time on the other side of the road, with beautiful mountains on the background as if the church is part of the natural beauty, forming a situation of paradox between the religion and nature; as people of the earlier ages did worship nature, that wouldn’t come as a surprise; but with the religions being more organized, people have the opportunity to think otherwise and the option to prove it. The name of the church was written in Tamil which made it impossible to identify it other than the abbrevation C.S.I which was the only thing written in English at a place which looked more abandoned than anything else.

There was the Krishnancoil temple located within the suburbs of Nagercoil; to reach there was difficult considering the fact that there was a bridge which allowed only one-way traffic at a time and there was the need to wait for the traffic to one side to finish before getting onto the bridge; there was so much of traffic. The pond adjacent to the temple is a beautiful thing with a mandapam kind of structure in the middle, surrounded by water; there was not much of water around there when I looked, but it was still enough to keep people away from walking all the way to it. There was the same architectural beauty of the temple in that mandapam on the centre of the water body. The temple’s name was written only in Tamil while the name of the book stall on one side of the temple was written in English and Tamil, which makes people wonder which one is more important. The temple was of the usual South Indian style which one see in Tamil Nadu; the surroundings were not that clean but the temple was worth the trouble taken to reach there. There were tourists from outside India who were trying to take the best picture of the temple, but I took more photos for myself in lesser time showing that the more you take, higher is the chance of getting a better photo among the ones you have; this has been proven by me throughout m last few journeys.

Thiruvithamcode Arappally or St. Mary’s Orthodox Church is a church which is located not too far away from Nagercoil; the last of the seven and half churches established by Apostle St. Thomas. It is supposed to be built by St. Thomas and is believed to be the oldest standing church structure in India. It is a small structure made of stone in the front, with extensions towards the back which seemed as if they were new additions. There is also the St. Thomas Heritage Centre which works mostly as a museum which displays the old church related items and other historical details even as it is not really open all the time, may be due to the less number of visitors. There is also a two-storeyed church being built on the way to town from the church and it seemed to be dedicated to Velankanni Matha as the picture was seen; thus it was proven to be Roman Catholic. There was also a church of Salvation Army, with a nursery and primary school attached to it; another church was there and both of the churches of Salvations Army looked almost the same. When passing through Thucklay, there is another church, built in a beautiful manner, even if not that big, it had all the features of a monastery church even if there wasn’t any monk anywhere near it. There was a C.S.I church and a Roman Catholic church dedicated to St. Antony, both on the side of the road, contributing to the church count.

There is another church on the way from Nagercoil to Trivandrum, where there is a water fountain which is believed to have quenched Devasahayam Pillai’s thirst; someone who was executed by the king and is believed to be martyred and the Tamil Nadu branch of the Catholic Bishops’ Council in India has already recommended him for the process of beatification to the Vatican; there is a small new church with a statue of St. Michael on its top, built right next to an even smaller church which seemed to be ready for demolition or may be it is in a bad state and will be renovated. There was nobody outside there to ask any questions about the place though. There was a church on the top of a hill as recongnized from the cross on the top of the building which was visible from a long distance; but the taxi driver knew not much about it, or may be I just understood him wrong as he spoke too much Tamil. There was Christ the King Church which was white from the frontside and was dark on all the other sides as if it was not just one structure; adding to the number of white coloured churches I saw in Tamil Nadu. Nagaraja Temple was a significant part of the trip and just as the name suggests, there are many images of snakes on the structure and for a change, it didn’t look like the other temples of the area from the entrance itself; it had more Keralite character; may be it was more of the old Travancore style; as the temple gives its name to the city, its significance is clearly visible.

Diving out —>


46. For Those Blessings

@Velankanni, Tamil Nadu, India.

A journey to Velankanni is always a spiritual tour which is planned for a long time and sometimes accompanied by relatives or friends. But this one was so quick that even I had doubts about what I was planning to do; but not all the trips work according to the plan, and in my case most of them has deviated from the original route on many occasions leading to not too bad results, not much of any catastrophe to boast about. Even this trip would deviate on the way back, even as going to Velankanni was fixed as we booked tickets in a bus due to the difficulty of getting tickets so soon and also for reaching there straight; there was no railway station at Velankanni at that time and one had to stop at more than one place to get there in case the journey started in a train. It was a journey of more religious character to that small town located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal three hundred and fifty kilometers south of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu and twelve kilometers south of Nagapattinam, the nearest railway station. There was no time for preparation though; except for charging the batteries of the digital camera and mobile, and there were also books taken to read on the way even as reading while travelling in a bus is still considered bad by many people, but not by me.

The most important Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to Our lady of Good Health; the most popular Marian pilgrim centre had been in the list of the places to visit for too long, even as I had visited the place before and a few photos were taken, but that was very long ago and everything was so different at home and also at Velankanni years after that visit. Considering the fact that I visited three hundred and ninety four churches in those two years, also calculating this one, and the list was already too long at that time, there was the need to include Velankanni to the list; otherwise it wouldn’t be fit to be called a list, as there is no other Christian pilgrim centre in India which attracts so many visitors, as it stands as the most popular Christian shrine in South India. The other famous Marian pilgrim centres would be Vallarpadam, Koratty and Kuravilangad, but Velankanni’s popularity is unmatched, with three attributed miracles; the apparition of Mother Mary with Infant Jesus to a shepherd boy, the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor, and the rescue of a group of Portuguese sailors from a violent sea storm. It is fit to be called the ‘Lourdes of the East’ considering the frequency of visits from the devotees even during a time when it is not the season and the temperature is nearly unbearable.

The journey to Velankanni was pretty much horrible. There was that air-conditioned bus which was not of that good condition, and for which there was the need to wait so much that they kept telling every minute that it is coming in five minutes which would total to more than fourty five minutes or so, and considering the fact that we reached there early, it was such a bad decision to make an early exit from home. The bus had a problem with its air conditioning right where I was supposed to sit. It got so cold that I felt the need to be a polar bear or a penguin; even an abominable snowman would have been enough, no matter how bad or fat it looked. They never even understood Malayalam and kept shaking the head as if everything was so clear that I won’t have to worry at all. After eating not that good food at some random restaurant, there were Tamil movies, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa and Kovil, not the type of movies which I liked, and not really interesting for me, but they were quite easy to understand; may be because there was not much story in it except for the usual Romantic nonsense; they were not that bad, but still they lacked truth and these mindless Romantic movies were never my type. But still, I could say I watched two more Tamil movies as I slowly fell asleep watching the latter one.

The night in the bus was more horrible than a night at the museum in Kerala where the exhibits would not be taken care of. The person sitting right at the front of mine had his seat set in such way that I was like being caught between a rock and a hard place; or I would say the devil and a crocodile – doesn’t make that much sense, but for some reason, that came to my mind and I hope it got nothing to do with his face. I was stuck for such a long time until I was able to get out during a point when they stopped for taking some parcels out of the back of the bus. It was a great relief and an escape from the torture of being sandwiched between the seats of the bus and getting frozen at the same time. The double trouble was to continue very soon, but that break brought enough strength to me and I could continue being stuck between two seats. The life became good only when the bus reached Velankanni after enough delay and I could jump out of the evil place at which I was being held a prisoner like Jonathar Harker in a Dracula castle, without all the good things in it. The end of that bus ride made me decide something; not to travel in a bus for a place which is more than five hours away, especially not in an air-conditioned bus, not at all in a bus with people not speaking Malayalam or English.

The beautiful Basilica with Gothic style of architecture, painted white; that was not too far away and the pilgrimage started right after a cup of tea. As the Holy mass is conducted in many languages many times, there was the confidence to attend at least one of them and fortunately in was English. As the church is open from early in the morning to late in the evening, there wasn’t really the need to rush into it instead of looking around and enjoying the beauty and peace of the world around the Basilica. Even when it was not the season for pilgrims, there were still so many of them and it would have been so difficult to be there at the right time of pilgrimage; surely not for me who is not into that much of a crowd which prevents even a glass of tea at the time of need. There are also three shrines, some distance away from the Basilica, as well as pond and a fountain. A new church is also coming up near the Basilica, named the Morning Star, which is so different from any other structures seen in India, as it is not only huge, but one of its kind; almost fit to be called an architectural wonder. The need for the new church always existed, considering the fact the Basilica is filled even during the time when less people are expected; it can be imagined how difficult it would be during the fest and other celebrations.

It was the hottest time to visit the place, but the desire to visit was what kept me going, along with enough tea on regular intervals. The beautiful Basilica, the peaceful environment along with the inherent beauty of the sea and its coast was enough to make it a good day and the trip a great one. When the belief is as strong as the pillars of the church and faith as powerful as the sea, along with everlasting hope, makes life wonderful at Velankanni. For a place which was so severely hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the tsunami which followed, there had to be faith, belief and hope; with the blessings of Our lady of Good Health, the world around will only get better. As September 8 is commemorated as the feast of Our Lady of Good Health and the celebration starting on 29th August and ending on the day of the feast, blessed will be those crowded days. This is definitely a unique place of worship, and the belief of the people is stronger than the tempest and whirlwinds; all the storms which comes from the sea shall pale in comparison to the strength of faith, for it is the ultimate power; it is the route to salvation right here on Earth as well as in the afterlife.

Diving out —>


45. A City of Temples

@Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India.

Wandering through the city of Kanchipuram will take one back to the time of the Pallava kingdom which ruled the northern Tamil Nadu region and the southern Andhra Pradesh region along with some parts of Karnataka and a very little area of Kerala. The Pallavas captured Kanchipuram from the Cholas somewhat around the reign of the fifth king of the Pallava line and it was elevated to the status of the capital even as the best examples of Pallava architecture is seen at Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram which could be visited on the same day of visiting Kanchipuram even if both are on different routes; both are accessible from Chennai itself and when Mahabalipuram is more historical than spiritual, Kanchipuram works the other way around; but both elements are present in these two cities in a tale of two cities which one will make up while visiting both on the same day. The Pallava kings ruled Mahabalipuram from Kanchipuram; therefore the latter should have been more important in a historical manner, but the roles have been twisted here with Mahabalipuram being a place which became popular for the architecture of Pallavas and it became the place of high significance of Tamil History; attracting so many tourists even from outside India as it gave rise to such an archeological interest. But Kanchipuram has taken a route which has more pilgrims than random tourists.

As some of the Pallava architecture, especially those of Mahabalipuram are modelled on the Buddhist viharas or monasteries, there has been discussions about the Pallava king bringing the sculptors and artisans back to Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram as spoils of war. Compared to Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram has more of the South India architecture, basically Tamil. The Cholas drove the Pallavas away from Kanchipuram during the tenth king of the Pallava line, but the Pallavas re-captured Kanchipuram during the fourteenth king of the Pallava dynasty and held on to Kanchipuram till the end. After the fall of Pallava dynasty, the Kadava dynasty also claimed descent from the Pallavas; such was the fame of this dynasty which ruled in the South. Ever since gaining prominence after the eclipse of the Satavahanas who ruled most parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashrashtra stretching upto the north of Tamil Nadu, Pallavas used to be that great a dynasty that they are still considered among the greatest of them all in South India, along with Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas. All the early Pallava royal inscriptions are either in Prakrit or in Sanskrit language though. The governance of Kanchipuram has been much studied by the later historians as the Pallava administration also had its own specialities even if not too different from the later kingdoms which came later.

As the word Pallava means “branch” in Sanskrit, while Chola meaning “new country”, Pandya meaning “old country” and Chera meaning “hill country”, the Pallavas are considered to be later offshoot of Cholas, who made Kanchipuram their capital and its glory was that it was the capital of the largest kingdom in South India of that time. When the major cities of Cholas were Cholapuram and Thanjavur, that of Cheras with their ancient capitals which were less known, followed by what is now Kollam and Kodungallur in Kerala, and that of Pandyas happened to be Madurai and Korkai, Kanchipuram had to be that wonderful a capital as the Pallavas were too strong a force for the Southern world around them. None of those big dynasties which preceded them gave that much importance to Kanchipuram before Pallavas; even the Kalabhras had their capital at Kaveripattanam which is not known as Puhar. Kanchipuram is one of the oldest cities in South India, and was a city of learning for Tamil, Sanskrit, and Pali even before the Pallava rule, but it was during this rule that the city came under the spotlight and most of the big temples which symbolize the city and gave it the name temple city, were built during the reign of this dynasty even as there were changes made to those complexes later.

Xuanzang or Huan Tsang, the famous Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and a highly skilled translator who travelled to India is supposed to have visited Kanchipuram too; how could someone forget this name which was always in those history books? Even in the Malayalam movie ‘Malappuram Haji Mahanaaya Joji’, there is mention for him which would remind so many people who studied History from Kerala syllabus about him, as he is one of the most seen figures in the text books who is from outside India, along with Napolean, Abraham Lincoln, Mao Tse Tung and George Washington along with those leaders on both sides during the First and the Second World Wars. But for some strange reason, South Indian History never had so much importance during the school days; they were so much ignored, and thanks to universities like Annamalai university which teaches the South Indian History as they added the History of Tamil country to the syllabus. It is the lack of this awareness of our history which keeps the sites like Kanchipuram unnoticed except for religious purposes; it is the same reason why people outside India come to visit Mahabalipuram more than the people of the same nation; they are even eager to know the history and culture of this part of the world rather than the local residents, which is a clear fault from the parents who hesitate to send their children to study arts; it is as if they have found a method in science to take all their wealth to the other world when the die.

While Huan Tsang is comparitively more known, the less known fact is that the founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma was born here, and so was the famous Sanskrit writer Dandin who wrote Dashakumaracharita, a Romantic prose in Sanskrit. The former might more known these days, with the movie 7aum Arivu, which is too fictional a story though; that would be something I call preverting history upto such an extent that the history would no longer be proud of you and your ancestry will abandon you. The mixture of science with history is the worst thing which can happen, considering it from a viewpoint which is free from all these influences of modernity. History has the soul which science lack, the soul which is related to religion, spirituality, literature, art and architecture; the combination will clearly remove that soul of history and make it just foolishness which will benefit science in return, but will drain history of its essence. History and Literature has to operate separate from science; they can have actresses who can’t act and talk about DNA, TNA or whatever they want to, but I wish they left history alone as it is; let the dead people live in peace being whatever they used to be, lets not make them a laughing stock just for the sake of some inferior entertainment which last only about two and half hours, as history is forever; when they exist as clear literary works and also when they surround you.

Varadharaja Perumal Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu was the first temple we visited and the most interesting of them all, as confirmed by the taxi driver himself. This one was originally built by Cholas as extended during the ages. The second one was Kanchi Kamakshi temple dedicated to Kamakshi, one of the forms of the goddess Parvati; the structure which looked kind of same for me even if smaller in comparison; to be honest almost every temple looked somewhat similar from the outside except for the size. Sri Ekambaranathar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was the third, looking similar from the front once again, but almost as big as the first one and the surroundings were better too. Considering the large number of Vaishnava and Shiva temples which existed there and after looking at their architectural similarity, I would refrain from describing them as it was a complicated procedure. There was actually the need for closer examination to enjoy the true beauty of ancient architecture, but as the temples were many and the time was limited due to a visit to Mahabalipuram earlier on the same day, it was an impossible task and should be left behind. There were two churches on the road between the two cities Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram too, but they were just white structures which were not that huge, just like those usual one one see around Tamil Nadu. There were also some mosques and Islamic shrines which were build when Kanchipuram was under the Islamic rule. A special mention has to be made for the Kanchipuram silk sarees, but that is not of ay use to me; but it is still a silk city too.

Diving out —>


44. A Konkan Far Cry

@Mangalore, Karntaka, India.

There was so much about Mangalore for which I wanted to visit the place, but there were reason which would held me back, most important of them being the communal clashes, most prominent one among them being the 2008 Anti-Christian violence and the desecration of holy places, statues and books. I wouldn’t prefer to be at a place of violence, whatever may be the reason. I would have rather gone to the Buddhist monastery at Coorg and spend a long time there other than being among hooligans who destroy property, as nobody has the right to destruction. But when I visited the place, it was more peaceful than anywhere else. All those hatred seemed to have been blown away for then, may be waiting to come back during the next whirlwind of that lack of religious tolerance which will serve as an excuse to destroy property for the vandals and attack people for the sadists. As the fact still remains that people are basically born evil, religion has to decide if it is to make them good or bad, but it is still in that perception and the intellectually inferior people will always keep religion as an entity and place it above God and justify their actions with it. But at the end of the day, all the destruction is more of the devastation of art, literature and architecture; the churches, temples, mosques and synagogues are examples of architecture while Bible, Quran, Gita and Torah being literature and all those statues and pictures are art which are to be respected unless we are going into an age of barbarians.

There is a large contrast between religion and these wonderful works of art; never does science get desecrated in these situtaion. It is always the art and literature which suffers; the architecture which is vandalized, just because some people don’t understand its value or are too adamant to accept them. If such a thing could happen in London without the help of any organized religion, I would expect the same thing to happen in a nation where there is so much importance to religion; this importance, which I thought would help people has been backfiring since a few years ago. When someone like Tipu Sultan captured nearly one lakh Christians and destroyed twenty seven churches including Milagres Church, there was a permanent loss of life, but there was the huge loss to architecture as well as all the art and literature which was inside those churches. From what is learned about him, there is not much wonder, and as he was allied with the French of that time who were not really the angels, I wouldn’t have expected a much better performance. The current Milagres Church is fine, but as reconstructed from what was destroyed by Tipu, it can’t be considered that original thing which was to contain the soul of the time; this has enough size, but I would wonder how it looked like before its destruction. To add to it, there are no good tea shops near the church; no king is responsible for that though.

The suffering which the arts field suffers still continues, not just in the form of vandalization, but also because it is being avoided by the common man who ignores the arts specialization for science, commerce and it’s professional courses. Just like it is said that people who lives outside India knows better about the nation and it’s art forms, the people of our current world has been so much behind the cash they can earn by studying something which does not make them a better person with a good attitude towards the other mortals as well as the society; no wonder there are not much morals left in this world, they were all flushed away by science and the profit motive world of commerce. They might still believe or not believe in a supreme power and might or might not go to temples or churches, but at that point, they all will clash and the science will gain the upper hand due to their education without human values and their viewpoint might be just the same as all those hooligans who destroy property. They might be the people who already destroyed art by making fun of them and for them, the religion will be different from spirituality; it will be a mask which they will wear to provide help for all the evil they commit and plan to come up with even worse things. At that moment when religion becomes the ultimate excuse, even God will abandon these people forever leading to perpetual damnation.

Still, the first thing I noticed at Mangalore was the City Centre Mall, as it had Cafe Coffee Day, a change from eating Ghee Roast and Masala Dosa so many times a day. I would surely prefer the malls back at Cochin though. There was the small, but still kind of beautiful St. Rita Church and the Church of Holy Cross of Hospet a.k.a Igreja da Santa Cruz Hospet, an ancient church; the only church that escaped the procedure of the demolition of churches by Tipu Sultan, may be due to its location; it was not easy to reach there even as there were roads leading there. Chauta Raja of Moodbidri also played a part in saving the church in one of the greatest acts of religious tolerance at a time of wars and hatred. It looked quite old as it is, and it was more like made in Kerala style with some Gothic elements added to it in lesser amount. It also looked like a traditional Kerala style house with verandahs on both sides of the main entrance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see houses in this model in Kerala, as I have seen the most complicated structures already, which are of such large size that they should have rather been castles or forts than houses. But the church still remains small enough not to inspire people looking to build those large palaces for them to live alone in a season of riches.

St. Joseph’s Seminary and the church related to it forms another big structure; mostly on the upwards direction exists the church building. It has somewhat a Gothic appearance even as it lacks many properties due to its simiplicity. The Church of the most Holy Rosary or the Rosario Cathedral which was earlier destroyed by Tipu, now stands as a wonderful building. It was after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington defeated Tipu that the re-construction of the church was to take place. It is significant that the Duke would go on to defeat Napolean, the leader of the French too, who were allied with Tipu. A Napolean-Tipu alliance attack was not to be, and the new building will go lots of changes until it reached the current form with a dome and bell tower. St. Antony’s Jacobite Syrian Cathedral came as a surprise for me, not just because I didn’t expect it there, but also because of its name. It was certainly new and there was no question about its beauty. With its looks and the surroudings with lots of coconut trees, gave the feeling of being in Kerala again and the inside of the church building was even more sensational with the roof being the best part, even as there was not too much area inside considering the fact that it looked bigger and more stretching from the front. St. Aloysius Chapel inside St. Aloysius College is another architectural marvel, mostly from the inside, the Jesuit brother Antonio Moscheni painted and made it so good that some people even compared it to the Sistine Chapel of Vatican.

Shri Gokarnanatha Temple is one of the most beautiful temples which I have ever seen; even as it is not that huge and imposing structure as the Thanjavur, Kanchipuram or Mahabalipuram temples, there was so much of peace and spirituality which existed with the renovation’s modernity; for a temple which was originally built by the greatest social reformer of South India and the leader of Reformation in Kerala which transformed the state in such a way that it came close to what was mentioned in relation to the festival of Onam; something which is believed to have existed during the time of the king Mahabali. As this temple was built by the great Guru who always stressed the need for the spiritual and social upliftment of the downtrodden people and the man who contributed to the fall of the caste based evils in Kerala, this has more importance than what is viewed by just a common man’s view. As one enters into the temple between the two elephant statues which stand on both sides, he is entering into a world of art and architecture which is powered by not only tradition, but also modernity. There is that combination which clicks; the visit to Shree Mangaladevi temple and a number of other temples in the area couldn’t reacreate that feeling; it made me wonder where the boundary between modernity and tradition was drawn.

Diving out —>


43. More of Chola Effect

@Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India.

Being at Thanjavur or Tanjore was more of a result of the travel in local buses of travel in a journey from Velankanni back to Cochin which had more stops than one could ever imagine. Most of the Tamil Nadu was covered with this trip and another one which featured a return from Chennai which was part of a Kolkata trip; all these journeys interlinked in such a manner as to confuse myself too. This one actually interested me more than the other important stop at Thirchirappalli or Trichy due to the historical important which was hidden behind Thanjavur, a municipality and the headquarters of the Thanjavur district. Thanjavur is one of the ancient cities in India having a very long and varied history dating back to the Sangam period, the Golden Age of Tamil Art and Literature. The town was actually founded by a Mutharayar king Swaran Maran and rose to prominence during the rule of the Later Cholas when it became the capital of the Chola Empire which stretched it arms to such an extent that when it fell, it was that much of a loss to the Tamil country. After the fall of the Chola dynasty, the city was ruled by various dynasties like Pandyas, Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks, Thanjavur Marathas and finally annexed by the British East India company to later come under the British crown until India gaining independence and Thanjavur being part of the Southern state of Tamil Nadu.

This city had a major role in making me watch the Telugu movie ‘Magadheera’, even as it was later known it had no role in Tamil history and it was more based on some random kingdom in the North West of India which came under Islamic conquest; that was disappointing even if the flashbacks of the movie were pretty interesting, making the movie overall a good one. But they still mentioned the word ‘Chera’ in a song in its Malayalam translation which was what misguided me and made me travel eighteen kilometres just to watch this movie; there was no better movie running in any theatre at that time any way and this might have just been the right excuse to watch that movie, adding a Telugu movie to my list even as it was the dubbed version in Malayalam which I watched. It also made me watch some parts of ‘Aayirathil Oruvan’, which seemed pretty good from the part which I watched. As it was more related to the Chola-Pandya conflict which go back to the approximate centuries, it had to be more fun; when I watch it completely, I am hoping to relate with history at such a point which will make the study of Tamil History easier for me leading to a good knowledge of the South Indian History which has more roots in the Tamil nation than anywhere else. I would like a sequel too, and from what is heard, there is a possibility considering the end.

The story of a Thanjavur visit had to start at Brihadeeswarar Temple, also known as Rajarajeswara Temple and Peruvudaiyar Koyil; is the world’s first complete granite temple and with no doubt, we can say that it is a brilliant example of the major heights achieved by the Chola Empire and Thanjavur as the one of their capitals and major cities. This magnificient structure was built by Raja Raja Chola I, also known as Arunmozhi Thevar and one of the greatest kings of South India fit to be called ‘the Great’. He established the powerful Chola Empire by conquering almost all the kingdoms of southern India expanding the Chola Empire as far as Sri Lanka in the south, and Kalinga or the present Orissa in the North East. He fought many battles with the Chalukyas in the north and the Pandyas in the south to achieve this feat and soon there was not any other kingdom left in the South which was not under his influence as he had Thanjavur, Kanchipuram, Madurai and Vengi under his rule and also extending his power to the island nations of Sri Lanka; this incident reminding me of the various conquests of Britain by the various Germanic tribes, but this one was by a powerful Empire and thus it might be comparable to the Roman occupation of Britain as this empire also fell like the Roman Empire and the island was free only to be conquered by others later.

The invasion of Sri Lanka and the destruction of its capital Anuradhapura was a huge achievement for the king, even as the island was to be lost in the later ages and Cholas had to fight many wars in attempt to reconquer Sri Lanka as the Sinhalese monarchs were allies of their arch-enemies, the Pandyas. Raja Raja Chola commemorated his conquest of northern Sri Lanka by constructing a Shiva temple at Polonnaruwa which has survived to the present day, but Brihadesswarar Temple at Thanjavur is still the masterpiece of his powerful rule. The administrative system of Thanjavur and the other divisions of the Chola Empire as well as his devotion to Lord Shiva are quite interesting topics of discussion. It was his successes which enabled his son Rajendra Chola I to extend the empire even further, making the empire something which extended it arms beyond all expectations of any king of that time. His empire extended not only to Ceylon, but also to Maldives, Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. He defeated the kings who ruled the current areas of Bihar, West Bengal, Bangladesh as he went through the North East defeating everyone on the way to Burma. Malaysia and Singapore as well as parts of Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and Vietnam had to become his subordinates; that powerful was the Chola Empire.

The Shiva temple built by Rajendra Chola at Gangaikonda Cholapuram also has to considered along with this temple, as it also shows the magnificience of Chola architecture at a time of their peak. Coming back to the temple from these magnificient kings is a tough task, as history always take you into that imaginary world which is more accessible than the ‘Night at the Museum’ movies and the reality which they show in that unreal manner is far little a thing comparable to what you read and imagine out of it. As the temple had a patron as great as RajaRaja Chola I, it had the power to beone of the greatest monuments of Indian architecture; just like the kings who were close to the church in Europe and those who built mosques from the middle east to the Indian subcontinent; there should always be a powerful patron king for every religion to reach the zenith of its glory and here, Thanjavur had one. There is a big statue of Nandi, carved out of a single rock, at the entrance and when inside, its like being in a world so different; more like being in a fort of spirituality; it was incredibly hot though, and the legs were burning, every step without the chappals did drain all the spirits out of my spirituality and it did shorten the visit by some time. What impressed me the most was the gateways to the temple though; it was built like a fort as if to prevent the invaders from looting the temple and it was surrounded by defensible areas making it more of a religious fortress.

It was interesting to see so many foreign tourists at the place and most of them so much interested in the elephant which was standing right at the entrance. I was more surprised later to find that Thanjavur had a Roman Catholic Cathedral; my first impression was that it was just a fine and neat church. Sacred Heart Cathedral Church was a fine structure which was not that huge and painted white, which is not what I would want; it looked as if new, but from the inside, it seemed as if renovated from a small church; its been a cathedral since 1953 and under this docese comes the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health at Velankanni and Our Lady of Lourdes Basilica at Poondi, both of them painted white too. I rarely see a Roman Catholic Church in Tamil Nadu which is not painted white, and it is somewhat applicable to those of Church of South India too. Thanjavur is also well known for its education. But nothing matches the tourism which is mostly centered around one big temple; it is estimated that about fourty percent of the tourists from Europe and North America traveling around South India visit the Brihadeeswarar Temple which shows how important a structure it is, even for the foreigners; as history lives in those walls and spirituality is alive throughout the area inside the complex.

Diving out —>


42. The Junction Function

@Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.

The visit to Coimbatore was in no way related to it being the second largest city in Tamil Nadu or it being a major commercial and industrial centre which a few people did dare to compare to Manchester and Leeds. It was not a history trip either, even as the region was ruled by the Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire and also the Madurai Nayaks and even became part of the kingdom of Mysore until being liberated by the forces of British East India company who ruled the place as a part of their vast Empire which existed all over the world, thanks to their naval power and the ideas of Renaissance which goes back to the classical antiquity. Even as the software field, education and healthcare has improved, the city still remains known more for the textile industry on which it has capitalized. It has served as the eastern entrance to the Palakkad Gap, the principal trade route between the west coast and east coast as well as the whole Tamil Nadu. As the gap is the lowest pass through the Western Ghats and also the only break which occurs in that stretch of the continuous Ghats which separates Kerala and Tamil Nadu which has resulted in the difference in the language and traditions of both states as well as prevented many invasions which could have happened, but didn’t even come into the picture, Coimbatore is of further importance to both states.

After being annexed to the Madras Presidency which stretched from Tamil Nadu to Malabar, the region of Coimbatore played a significant role in the Indian independence movement and after independence, there has been rapid growth of the city due to industrialization. As it is surrounded by the Western Ghats mountain ranges on the West and the North with reserve forests, the city is more green compared to the other cities which are situated further away to the centre and the coasts of Tamil Nadu. It also gets lots of rain, and there are times when there was more rain than what was on the other side of the Western Ghats; still the heat sometimes gets a little too high. The linking of Palakkad district of Kerala with Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu has been a boon more to this city which is still developing at a good rate. The Palakkad Gap has played a major role in enabling migrations into Kerala from other parts of India, especially Tamil Nadu, rather than the other way around. It also helped the Chera Kingdom to rule parts of both states together, especially Coimbatore, Erode, Karur; also due to their proximity to the border and Coimbatore’s similarity to the regions on the other side of the Western Ghats. Even if not proven, it could have always served as a border town.

The strategic importance of this gateway to Kerala would have been concerning the invaders from the other side of the Ghats, as it is in Kashmir during an Indo-Pak war; back in history the tactics would have been further simple though. The city has a large number of Keralites and also resident Malayalam speakers. Most of the people from Kerala are students who are studying for medicine or engineering in the colleges which are located close enough; Coimbatore is a place with easy access to almost every side. There are also people working, especially with the software boom which has been a steady process until recession and is coming back up. The city is the second largest software producer in Tamil Nadu, next only to Chennai, thus making it not just a garment manufacturing city. There are wind turbines on the outskirts of the city and the textile industry has made sure that the clothes are cheaper and of better quality compared to the rest. The 1998 Coimbatore bombings would be the worst chapter in the city’s history when fourty six people were killed and more than two hundred citizens injured. But the city has never stopped growing and continued to be what it has been.

Colimbatore Junction is a major railway station and junction in South India and also the second busiest railway station in Tamil Nadu in terms of passenger movement. Due to its strategic location so close to Kerala on its border and also because of the restriction imposed by the Palakkad Gap, almost every train passes through this area and it has become a medium through which Kerala and Tamil Nadu are connected, as well as some of those trains which pass through many states of India. But still there are cries for more trains and the number of passengers are always increasing due to the rising number of students and workers from other states who temporarily live in Coimbatore and go back home on regular intervals; sometimes so often as once in a week or so. Coimbatore Junction also yields the second highest revenue as long as Southern Railways is concerned. As a continuation to what was mentioned in the first paragraph, what got me to that city was the inability to get a direct train from Chennai to Cochin. There was the need to return on that day itself, as the trip could not be pre-poned unless there was the presence of a time machine or any random time travelling device or at least a teleporter. This made being at Coimbatore a necessity, as most of the trains went through there and the chance to find the right train was more.

There was also the chance for bus travel, but that would be a little jerky and the time consumed would be so variable. The train proved to be the right form of transport as there came the Bangalore-Ernakulam Intercity Express with an almost empty chair car which came as the biggest blessing ever; that was just my fifth or sixth journey in a chair car and for the first time in a semi-empty compartment. The train even managed to reach the destination in time. But the journey was not just about staying at Coimbatore or waiting for the train in that railway station itself, as it evolved into a tour all by itself even as there was always this backup plan in my pocket which I would call the right plan at that moment. There was a quick journey through the churches of Coimbatore, which started with a few CSI churches which proved to be big enough, and may be bigger than all the other churches which were to be seen later. May be the Church of Christ the King came the closest to breaking that record. There was surely the huge Bethel City Cathedral of the Indian Pentecostal Mission which eclipsed the rest; but that would be more of a hall though. Our Lady of Fatima Church was beautiful enough and added to some shopping, it was all good; there was not enough IPL jersies there which bothered me at that time, but not any more as IPL is semi-dead for me with the termination of Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

There was also the stylish mall which had its name written only in Tamil which made it impossible for me to figure what the name was. It was huge and some part of it was still under construction; it had KFC and they made me realize that my Shopper’s Stop card which a few people from Kolkata gave me was of no use for discounts. Even the chicken popcorn was not good enough and adjusting with Krushers ended up as the best option. St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church was also there, built beautifully in a perfect Kerala style, but didn’t open at that time. The best church of Coimbatore, in my opnion was St. Michael’s Church in the name of the leader of the army of angels, also known as ‘Sancto Michaeli Archangelo’ as written on the top along with ‘Sanctae Mariae Immaculatae’. The church was surely old and beautiful, but in a bad condition with no maintenance as one could see that both the paint and the cement looked as if drained away to a good extent. Fortunately, the interiors were better maintained and it looked fantastic from the exterior as well as the interior side; with some maintenance job, it would look perfect and be a better monument to the archangel. The sad condition of the church tormented me for sometimes until getting caught in that natural beauty which surrounded the train route on the way back to Kerala.

Diving out —>


41. French Colonialism

@Puducherry, Pondicherry, India.

This former French colony, also known as The French Riviera of the East a.k.a La Côte d’Azur de l’Est, consists of four small unconnected districts in different parts of South India; Puducherry or Pondicherry, Karaikal and Yanam on the Bay of Bengal coast and Mahé on the coast of Arabian Sea. Puducherry and Karaikal are the larger and the more visited ones and are both enclaves of the state of Tamil Nadu. Yanam and Mahé are enclaves of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala respectively, with the latter getting more importance these days. Even as I did visit Karaikal during my journey to Velankanni, it is not comparable to my journey to Pondicherry, which was so much superior, and considering the fact that it is the capital and gives it’s name to the whole Union Territory, it doesn’t really come as a surprise. It is not to be compared with the former Portuguese colony, Goa though; not just because it is a state compared to Pondicherry being a Union Territory; differences are so many, as Pondicherry is an entirely different identity with a mixture of English, French and Tamil at an extent to making it a place of mixed life and also of more peace compared to any other city. Thanks to Mahe and Yanam, Malayalam and Telugu will also have it’s influence on this Union Territory, no matter how much the distance is, between them.

Puducherry means “New village” in Tamil, even as it doesn’t sound too good in Malayalam and it would mean “New slum”, which is why I would prefer the old name any day, as long as we talk about it in Kerala; I wouldn’t like the place to have a bad name which would repel the visitors from the neighbouring state. Being at a French colony was always good for a change, as there was more chance of being at a British colony in India than any other; but Britain was a place I had visited already, along with a good number of its buildings, churches and monuments all around India; the Spanish never really came and made an impact anywhere near India and the Dutch lost their chance so early, thanks to the great king of Travancore, Marthanda Varma and his Diwan who saved not only Kerala, but also the whole of India from a Dutch rule which would have caused a further battle of supremacy in India between the colonial powers and many more unholy alliances would have come alive out of nowhere and the subcontinent would have been separated and devastated forever. With the Portuguese influence also restricted to Goa, Daman and Diu as well as Fort Cochin, the French influence had been more significant even as it is restricted to even a lesser area, thanks to Pondicherry and it’s way of living.

One would have to travel very far to see something of a Spanish influence, but the trip was more than about being with that influence; it was surely spiritual, religious and intellectual as one would see it; it was also blessed by the presence of a man from Kuravilangad, the town he would call “The Rome of both Kerala and India”, not too far away from Kottayam in Central Kerala. He is now the man of two districts by making his presence felt both in Kottayam and Ernakulam in such a way that he cannot be avoided. The man shortnamed AJK which he seems to use more as TJA these days, who used to be known by many names, most of them used by him during a season of long term scrapping in a social networking site called Orkut; starting from Mallu, Kiddo and Mancunian and stretching to names which could be termed as being far beyond comprehension of people who are unaware of his likes and dislikes which are in part of a sporting and gaming character with an overreaching influence from Politics which he did study before tourism. He was the special feature of the trip; not the French churches or buildings; not even those beaches and temples; they all paled in comparison to him as he travelled in that air-conditioned cabin of that extremely slow train which took that much time to reach there, which made me wonder if we were going to Vishakapatanam.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral is the cathedral mother church for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore; a church building which is so simple and complicated at the same time; and is also called as Samba Kovil by the locals. The church which was destroyed twice before, both by the Dutch and the British during their battles with the French for supremacy, the current one has to be considered a smaller version as it was built in the later stages when France was not in a great state in the Indian subcontinent compared to how powerful the British used to be. The interior of the church is so beautiful that it is the perfect model of how the European architecture has combined with the South Indian style to produce a beautiful worship place which would remove any doubt about the presence of God without thinking about the size of the church building. It even has a dome which is not that big or easily visible, but still adds to the beauty of the church in such a way as to make it a perfect blend of most of the good things from various cultures, the French and South Indian being the more prominent ones among them. The fest related tothis Church, that of Immaculate Conception of Blessed Virgin Mary falls on the eigth of December every year. Mass services in Tamil and English are conducted in this centuries old church.

We know the indirect effects of the Seven Years War as well as the Hundred Years War in this part of the world even as the wars were fought mainly at the European mainlands. Just like the World Wars crossing the Atlantic ocean and reaching the United States of America in no time, these wars had such a huge effect on the British and the French Empires of India and it is a miracle that most of their colonial buildings of a long historical past still stays with the heads held high. As the Carnatic Wars used to run wild on the Indian subcontinent and the conflicts involving numerous independent rulers and their vassals on a fiersome struggle for succession and territory reached its peak with the military struggle between the French East India Company and the British East India Company which looked almost eternal with an end which was never to be. With the British East India Company establishing its dominance among all the European trading companies within India and the French trading company being pushed to a corner which was mainly Pondicherry, these wars did end and it at least saved those monuments; the contributions of the French architecture to India along with that of Britain. The British trading company’s dominance eventually led to control of India by the United Kingdom and the establishment of the British Raj though.

As we go through the fall of Dupleix and the rise of Robert Clive, the geographical and cultural divergence in the small French India making the French administration weak in keeping their hold these colonies, we slowly change our view to the tourist attractions of the area. Eglise de notre Dame des Anges is the perfect example of the colonial past of Pondicherry. With lots of similarities with the Basilica at Lourdes located in southern France, this is what shows the French Colonial heritage more than anything else; it looks very old and as something which came directly from outside the subcontinent. It is the ultimate beauty of simple European architecture in India which is made to look amazing with its dome and towers. Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus would also add to this colonial past, with more of a Gothic style. It is a church with about one hundred years of past and was elevated to a Basilica only in 2011. It can be called oriental Gothic if permitted by the experts. Sri Aurobindo Ashram is another wonderful thing in the Union Territory and the harmony of Auroville is something which will live in the minds forever. Founded by Sri Aurobindo Society by Mirra Alfassa, it is an aspiration towards a better world, which reminds me of Leonardo DiCaprio and Virginie Ledoyen starrer ‘The Beach’, in a good way, with the parallel universe concept, which would in turn remind me of the beaches of Pondicherry.

Diving out —>