Saturday, November 29, 2008

Trip to Fort Kochi

Queen of the Arabian Sea,Kochi. Many of us know Eranakulam, but people kept telling me that Kochi is different. And on 16th November we decided to take a small trip in the morning. On the previous day night we took a small trip of Eranakulam.Marine Drive, the Goshree Bridge and the Vallarpadam bridge & the Thattukada at Shenoy's. However Kochi was still unexplored .All of us were tired due to the Shabarimala trip, but we decided to go for it.

Getting up in the morning was not that tough, Deepak me and jithu were like good boys getting up out of bed and folding the blankets

View from the Flat.

By 6:30 we went out. Our First stop was the Jew Street in Mattanchery. The lanes leading to it are narrow and I was told that the Jews came to Kochi for spice trade. During the day time, spice trade is hectic in the area and it is really hectic. You cannot even take a cycle through the area due to the loading and unloading activities.

We moved ahead to the Jew Synagogue at Fort Kochi. Synagogue was constructed in 1568 and is the oldest in the Commonwealth countries. The synagogue was partially destroyed in a shelling during the Portuguese raid but was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. I could feel the valor & pride standing outside.

The articles of interest at the synagogue are a clock tower, hand painted, willow patterned floor tiles from Canton in China, great scrolls of the Old Testament, Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, ancient scripts on copper plates in which the grants of privilege made by the former rulers of Cochin were recorded.

There are a lot of shops selling sculptors and ethnic items in the area.

Shops near the Synagogue

Kochi is also famous for Fishing Nets - Chinese fishing Nets to be precise.They are fixed land installations for an unusual form of fishing — shore operated lift nets.Each structure is at least 10 m high and comprises a cantilever with an outstretched net suspended over the sea and large stones suspended from ropes as counterweights at the other end. Each installation is operated by a team of up to six fishermen.The system is sufficiently balanced that the weight of a man walking along the main beam is sufficient to cause the net to descend into the sea. The net is left for a short time, possibly just a few minutes, before it is raised by pulling on ropes. The catch is usually modest: a few fish and crustaceans — these may be sold to passers by within minutes.

It is received wisdom that the nets are Chinese in origin. This is not as improbable as the 5,000 km distance from China might suggest — Kochi is a very important centre for the spice trade attracting traders from far and wide. Some suppose that the nets were introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He.In addition, catches can be purchased individually and need be taken only a short distance to a street entrepreneur who will cook it.

Market where the fish is sold.

We took a walk around the Shore line which was a great experience. Since it was morning, I saw a lot of people doing exercises along the shore line. To save from the shoreline from the tides, Rocks have been laid. There is only one small stretch where you can see sand. I also saw a few people swimming in the sea. Being a natural port, there is lot of silt that gets deposited. There are dredging ships that takes care of cleaning up the silt deposits. No wonder the British made Kochi a Port. Vembanad Lake is really beautiful as well.

I saw a lot of opportunities of development along the shoreline. I also saw a couple of places where the provisions for restaurants and other small shops were made by the governemnt, but not much has been done there after. I don't think they have been used at all.

Old Mattanchery Bridge

Church at Fort Kochi, there are few of them!!! But this one is special...
This is called the St. Francis Church.
Built around 1503, this is the oldest European Church in India. But the real speciality about this place is related to Vasco Da Gama. For those of you who don't know, Vasco Da Gama was the first European Sailor to discover India. Dom Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira was a Portuguese explorer, one of the most successful in the European Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India. On his first visit he landed in Kappad (near Calicut) in 1498. He died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church, but after fourteen years his remains were removed to Lisbon. His Grave stone is still available in this church. The Church was declared a protected monument in April and thereafter it is under the Archieolgical Suvery of India but owned by the North Kerala Dioces of Church of South India.

Our Car parked near the Fort Kochi Market.

One of the Old houses in Fort Kochi.
The path way along the shores
Fishermen setting off for the high seas!
Old Gunnery at Fort Kochi
Boilers at Fort Kochi
Dredging ship at the Port
The anchor!!!

We started back around 8:00 am as we had to catch a train at 9:30am. Overall the experience was really good. Though a wish still remains of having a tea at the "Thattukada" on the Beach! May be in the evening !

Coming Soon : Drive to Kannur!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa

It has been some time since me & Deepak were thinking of taking a long trip, first there was the plan to Rameshwaram and then another trip close to Bangalore, Finally it was the trip to Shabarimala. Though we did not get a chance to drive (which was our wish). But as they say something is better than nothing and what transpired during the journey was really amazing.

Sabarimala (0929 North 7706 East) is situated in the midst of 18 hills, in a bowl of land blessed with a small rivulet named `Urakuzhi Theertham'. The area is in the hilly regions east of Kerala bordering Tamilnadu. Elevation above mean sea level is approximately 1260 Metre/4135 Ft. Temples existed in each of the hills surrounding Sabarimala. While functional (and intact temples) exist at many places in surrounding areas like Nilackal, Kalaketi, Inchiparakotta and Karimala, remnants of old temples are visible in the remaining hills. From the international airport of Thiruvanathapuram (erstwhile Trivandrum), Sabarimala is located at 010 degrees/115 Kms. Similarly, from the international airport at Kochi (erstwhile Cochin) it is located at 118 degrees/106 Kms. These distances are `direct air distances or distances `As the crow flies'. The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is the only one pilgrimage where pilgrims, without consideration of caste, creed, position or superiority, go with one mind and one `mantra' dreaming constantly of the darshan of the presiding deity a the Holy Sannidhanam.

The First Leg of our Journey was from Bengaluru to Eranakulam by Train.

We (Me, Deepak and my brother) boarded the train from Bengaluru Cantonment at 6:25 am, on the Bangalore Eranakulam Inter City Express. We found ourselves sleeping till mid day when the heat started getting to us. We had light refershments as our breakfast - biscuits and Tea. We had lunch from Coimbatore courtesy IRCTC :). I would advice we carry food next time, because the quality of lunch was NOT that good. We arrived at Eranakulam around 5:30pm & moved to Deepak's in-law's flat in the "South" of Eranakulam.

Deepak Taking a Glimse of the country side

Bharathapuzha (longest river in Kerala)

View from the Flat in Eranakulam.

We did the Irumudi ceremony at Ayyappa Temple at Palarivattom. While we were doing the Irumudi, hyms Lord Ayyappa were sung in the background. After a light food, we took irumudi, with Sharanam Vili, we started our journey. We were on our way to Shabarimala at 8:45pm. Our Driver was "Eldo". All the way we were joking about the Eldo and Ethapan ashan in Mannar Mathai speaking! (Movie in Malayalam). We took the route via pala and pampa valley and Eldo was sure we will reach Pampa before 1 am.

We took a couple of breaks during the journey at Pala & Erumeli. We reached Pampa at 12:30am. We started the ascend immediately. At Pampa Ganapathi we prayed and started the uphill climb. It is about 5 km long and by 2:30am we were on the Top.

It was crowded as it was the start of the Season. The temple opens at around 4am and we had Darshan at around 5am. Since me and Deepak took Irumudi, we took the 18 steps route and Jithu waited for us at the Kizhakke Nada. Afterwards we proceeded to have Darshan. We took out the Irumudi and put the Ghee in the "Ney Thoni", All the offerings of the lord we put in the container kept there and then at Malikapuram we gave the Manjal and Kumum. It was amazing to see such a huge crowd at Sannidhanam. The que for Aravnana payasam and Appam was not that big, just a couple of people in front of us and we were done, We put the Coconut in the Big Fire (part of the rituals) and prayed to the lord. Due to the Terrorist threats, there was a lot of Police presence in the area. Police was scanning in and out and noticing for any suspicious things.

By 6am we started the descend to Pampa. As we walked down, we had a good view of the Sunrise at Shabarimala. By 730am we were at Pampa and we started back to Eranakulam.

Climba Down from Neelimala & Sunrise at Shabarimala

Deepak by the side of the Car and "Eldo" has the door open

The Palarivattom Temple.

By 12 Noon we arrived at Palarivatoom Temple. We removed Mala and prayed to God & we proceeded to the Flat.

Overall it was a heartening feeling to have the Darshan and an enjoyable journey. Especially moving away from the hustle and bustle of Bangalore city, it was a real nice feeling. I believe the Vrutham gave me strength from the inside. "Sharanam Ayyappa", let me have the previlage to visit you next year as well.

Courtesy :,,

More to come : Trip to Fort Kochi!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Bear Hug!

Recession seems to have hit india as well. Off late I have heard from people about retrenchment. The other day I was hearing about Work Force reductions in a company in Kerala. As I understand most of the companies in Bangalore are doing it without publicizing. People are saying this will last for another 6-9 months and the worst is yet to come. I hope we sail through during this phase.