36. Spiritual Islands

@Vallarpadam, Kerala, India.

There was a journey to Vallarpadam which was followed by more and more visits to the same place, as the new road was opened to the islands from Kalamassery. As the place lies connected by the Goshree bridges with the city of Cochin and the Vypin island, Vallarpadam is where most of the Port of Cochin is situated along with the Willingdon island, of which the International Container Transshipment Terminal of the port is entirely situated at Vallarpadam; the island which is blessed by the presence of The Basilica of Our Lady of Vallarpadam, one of the most famous Marian pilgrim centres in Kerala which is visited by people from all over India irrespective of their religion, caste and creed. Vallarpadam Terminal is the single largest operator container terminal in India and makes the city of Cochin a majorcentre in the world of shipping and is all prepared to develop as somewhat a gateway to the South, from different nations of the west and south of the Indian subcontinent. It even provides with a photogenice atmosphere for those who come with a good enough camera.

At a close proximity lies Bolghatty Island, one of the islands of Cochin and home of the Bolgatty Palace, which used to be the palace of the Dutch colonial administration, one of the oldest existing Dutch palaces outside Holland and surely the oldest in India; it was taken over by the British at one stage which they controlled until independence, and currently a hotel run by KTDC giving it’s name to the island. The Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cochin. It also has a golf course and an International Marina. All of these are so well interconnected unlike how it used to be. Now it takes only about fifteen to twenty minutes to reach Vallarpadam from Kalamassery depending on how fast one drives, but as there are some rather strange ups and downs on the new road to the island, going too fast surely is a concern, especially if the brakes or the reflexes doesn’t work too well; they are not easy to spot on the roads, and it gives the effect of being in the middle of a deadly storm in the sea; not that I have experienced something like that, but from a poetic view which co-incides with that same kind of disturbed feeling in the mind, which occured on both sides in William Shakespeare’s flawed character King Lear.

There is so much beauty on the side of the road to Vallarpadam, as long as one has the time to stop for it. There is greenery, lot of it; blessed by the mother nature and helped by the course of water and all the people who have contributed to it by being a part of mother nature. There is nothing which one won’t see at other parts of Kerala and it’s backwaters, but this one might be equally good. There is never the lack of coconut trees and some fishing nets do exist far away from the road. There is also that railroad bridge which stretches and bends in such a way as to save itself from the path of damnation. The bridge could have been Doctor Faustus; what Christopher Marlowe gave life to; the creation of the knowledge of Renaissance who wished to repent and return to the ways of goodness at some point of his life, but couldn’t do so; the proud scholar who was caught in the satan’s need for souls as his attempt to turn back couldn’t even begin due to his own inability as well as the demons of hell who interfered all the time. The bridge is a symbol; it goes towards the water body and turns rapidly in such a way as it has it’s own soul problems; it doesn’t matter what the engineers might say about it and give their own explanations, there is no challenging this side of the underrated soul of that creation.

As Cleanth Brooks would continue to say as a part of his contributions to New Criticism with his powerful literary nuclear weapon concerning paradox, this long bridge is also a part of nature and it is the same beautiful picture of nature in which it lives. This significant paradoxical situation would give rise to a poem if combined with the basilica which is not too far away from sight either. The beauty of nature would be attached to the bridge in such a way as to combine the concrete and the minerals, not considering their hierarchy of organice and inorganic things or the so called theories of evolution as well as history on the basis of which one could declare superiority over the other. Lets leave behind the so called heroes of the aquatic world who dared to rise and get out of water and also the organisms which wanted to explore so much in a three dimensional style, beyond what was in sight, not even limited to Mount Olympus’ thunder God. The heritage and the tradition are also left behind to make way for the true face which was to be explained with the help of a Sony camera. Here, the bridge which lies in the most natural thing which is more than just a water body, gains life. When everything exists and the bridge of so much use, how can it be not a part of the beauty of nature? Clearly impossible.

Vallarpadathamma, as Holy Mary, the mother of Jesus is mentioned in the area, is believed to have performed many miracles and the basilica has the status of a National Pilgrim Centre. The feast of Vallarpadathamma is held every year on September 24. It was the Portuguese who established the first church at this location dedicated to Holy Spirit for the first time in Asia, along with a picture of Blessed Virgin Mary. After severely damaged by heavy floods, Paliath Raman Valiachan, the Divan of Maharajah of Cochin retrieved the image and provided land to build the new church which did undergo many renovations after that. This became a Basilica in 2004. The current structure stands quite tall and one can see almost the whole Vallarpadam from the top of the two church towers and it is a beautiful scene which includes the blessed surroundings of the church as well as the Kochi container terminal along with that beauty of nature which is to be viewed with those long bridges which connect the different islands of Cochin as well as the railroad bridge which stretches itself longer than the others. These two towers act as a clear bonus to Vallarpadam, and being at the top is the easiest way to listen to the nature at the place.

The basilica is surrounded the scenes depicting the mysteries of Holy Rosary as the life of Jesus is flashed through them. It is this place, the Rosary Park which one see first when making an entrance. They are created as if built into topless trees and they certainly look too good. There is a crucifix on the centre of it, at one end and on the other end is a medium sized cross just before the church structure. It’s bottom side shows Vallarpadathamma in different forms, Velankanni Matha, Lourde Matha, Fatima Matha and a few more along with Jesus Christ on one side and angels on top of them. The latest church building is all white and simple, but a joy to watch. It might be that white which is the opposite of perpetual darkness visible through soon-to-be sold spirit, that internal thing to be sent to the ultimate end, relating to eternal slavery and torture. It is not that big as one might consider it to be, from the front side, some distance away. But it has still retained that feeling of divinity inside it, no matter how many times it underwent renovations. It contributes to the beauty of Vallarpadam and this contribution is not just spiritual or supported by some intellect and a rising aesthetic sense. It is for that simple mind which thinks and imaginates without restrictions.

Diving out —>