As some of you will know, we recently visited Kerala, also known as, "God's Own Country". Its lush greenery and beautiful backwaters inspires this very fit epithet. The landing into Kerala provided some of the most breathtaking aerial scenery I have ever seen - I wanted it to go on and on, but sadly, after 10 mins we made our landing into Cochin airport which is the city we chose to spend our Kerala time.
Cochin has many things to recommend it: the scenery (which I have already spoken of), its synagogue (the oldest synagogue this side of the Atlantic), "Jew Street" or better known by its cute monicker "Loafer's Corner" - a beautiful narrow street with small antique shops lining both sides of the street. Cochin is also known for its glorious food, especially sea food, but, best of all, Cochin/Kerala is best known for "Kathakali" (there is a small mention of it in Arundathi Roy's ("God of Small Things") and Mohini Attam, dance traditions.
We were so privileged to be able to view these dance performances and I was especially taken up with "Kathakali" which involves an elaborate "dressing-up" procedure. It takes close to 3 hours just to apply the dancer's make-up and when the dancers came on stage I could see why the make-up is all important, after all, it is mainly through a whole host of facial expressions that the dancer conveys the story. (There is no speech or any other props in Kathakali). According to the compere of the show, Kathakali trainees need to practice their facial exercises for close to 12 hours a day! ( I guess this means they go to a special school) . The students also receive a special "Ayurvedic" massage which makes their limbs supple and flexible.
Kathakali is almost always performed by men, with men even taking on the roles of women in the dances. The picture below shows my daughter and myself with one of the Kathakali dancers (dressed as a woman). He (dressed as a She) was a young and extremely good-looking man (not that you can tell from the picture) *wink* and he gave us a spellbinding performance! Most of the Kathakali dances are based on Indian mythological stories.
Some of the pictures:
One of the numerous coconut palm trees in and around our hotel
Chinese Fishing Nets hung from teakwood and bamboo poles. It is said that Kublai Khan's traders introduced these nets to the local fisherfolk sometimes between 1350AD and 1450AD
View of the Hotel (Taj Malabar) pool that opens into the backwaters
A Kathakali Dancer applying his make-up before the performance (pic. courtesy Alan Little).
A Mohini Attam dancer.