Terry's Indian Blogs

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Early in 2006 Anita Alberts got some contract work in Trivandrum teaching English as a foreign language. Terry decided to go with her for the experience and hoped to be able to help locals in some way with his mechanical expertise. He also decided to keep a blog of his experiences and these are published below

Hi All

Fig 1Kovalam Paradise of the South

Celebrated my 59th my birthday last week by treating ourselves to a week end at Kovalam, a Beach resort 10 miles south of Trivandrum city. Thirty years ago, Kovalam was a hippy idyll: a picture perfect tropical beach.  Now it is a well established tourist destination that Stan Holt wouldn’t  recognize. Today Kovalam beach is known as the "Paradise of the South".  With a good range of hotels from the cheap to the 7 star. We had a buffet on Sunday at the 7 star hotel Leela which included the use of the Hotels infinity pool, all drink and food  from noon  till 4pm for 10 quid each. We stayed the night in the hotel and I would recommend this as a good stay if you want to see how  posh as it can get . You will need a bit of extra cash though. The hotel is build into the hillside with wonderful views of the beach below from each bungalow type room.

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The sea was wild and great to swim in but I had to be careful as the currents were tending to pull me towards the rocks.

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While in Kovalam I couldn’t resist hiring a Royal Enfield 350 Bullet, still made in India.

Anita went back Terry on a motor biketo Trivandrum with the taxi and luggage and I enjoyed the open road, first time on a bike for 25 years. It was fantastic.

The feel of a riding a vintage British bike was exhilarating.  And the throaty roar of a 350 single cylinder brings back the sound of the 70s. The roads are a bit dodgy especially the wagons and mad bus drivers.

In Kerala last year 3060 people were killed in road accidents, Road safety and H&S are not a priority in Indian politics but reading the Indian papers, an desire  for change seems to developing from all this road carnage.

A painter is painting the outside of our 12 story block of flats on a home made rope  ladder illustrates how H&S at work  regulations differ between England and India. Death from falling in India’s  booming building industry, sadly is on the increase.

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Indian Rope  trick?

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  On my Way back into  Trivandrum The roads were very busy due to the annual Attukal Pongola Festival. This starts at the  Aattukal Bhagavathi Temple dedicated to the Goddess Bhagavathi and  is situated in Trivandrum city. The temple is specially famous for this Pongala, an exclusive festival for women that falls in February/ March.

The name 'Pongala' means 'to boil over' and refers to the ritualistic offering of porridge made of rice, sweet brown molasses, coconut gratings, nuts and raisins.

 

 

Only women devotees are allowed to participate in this ritual.

Over 2000 extra police were drafted to handle an estimated crowd of one million female devotees who came from all over the state and abroad to attend the religious festival  . Devotees with  pots and brick hearths covered a radius of 7 kilometers from the Atukal Bhagavany temple. The festival started with rituals in the temple then involves the cooking on fire offerings to the temple.

When the offerings are ready, the chief priest comes out of the temple with the sword of the Goddess and goes round the area, sanctifying the Pongala preparations and blessing the devotees.

 

  The hearth consists of three bricks to support a cooking pot over some burning wood. The first hearth was lit from a ghee lamp in front of the temple accompanied by singing and chanting of hymns. The fire was passed from hearth to hearth along the roads Pictured below was about 4 miles from the temple and the roads were lined on either sides with devotees all the way into the city. To witness this festival was a very moving experience.

fig 9Photographs of Pongala taken by Anita          

Above the road from Kovalam to Trivandrum lined with ladies preparing the offering of  ‘payasam’ and ‘appam’ for the deity.

 

Fig 10Trivandrum is also famous for another temple called the Padmanabhaswamy temple:The most impressive landmark in the town, the temple's presiding deity is Vishnu reclining on serpent Anantha.

It has a seven-story tower, supported by 360 pillars, intricate carvings and mural paintings.. The temple is located in East Fort. This temple and some of its carvings go back to the 4th century BC . Only Hindus allowed inside the temple.  Sorry no photos

 

The temple is in the East Fort area of Trivandrum. In front of the Temple is a large bathing area

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The city gets its name from the word, Thiru-anantha-puram, meaning the city of Anantha or the abode of the sacred Serpent Anantha on which Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Hindu trinity, reclines. It is a temple richt with tradition, and  associated for years with the arts and music. The rulers of Travancore have held this temple in the highest regard. Even today, an elaborate worship protocol is followed in the strictest sense. Hence none Hindus like myself are not allowed in and photography is forbidden, It is wise and correct to respect their  rules. This is one of the best maintained temples in India.

The Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple,  nearly 2000 years old.. Thiruvananthapuram which was previously called Trivandrum, is an ancient city with tradition dating back to 1000 BC. Thiruvananthapuram became the capital of Raja of Travancore in 1750. In 1957 when the state of Kerala was formed it became the state capital with an new imposing legislature built to replace the old one near by on the  MG road

Fig 12State Legislature building

 

Terry Alberts 22 March 2006