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CONTENTS VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

Travel / Destinations / Culture / Tradition / Art / Architecture

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KERALA

MANKULAM

A wet beauty in the monsoon

The Alluring Monsoon Paradise

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KUTHIRA MALLIKA

KOVALAM

Gods own Beach

The Mansion of Horses

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HOUSEBOATS OF ALAPPUZHA

DREAMLAND MUNNAR

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IRINGOLE KAVU

KERALITE SYRIAN CHRISTIAN WEDDINGS

For the Adventure of a Lifetime

An Experience in Tranquility

DIVINITY AND WILDERNESS

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CONTENTS VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

Personality Interviews & Features

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UNNI MUKUNDAN

PRAYAGA MARTIN

My Fit Physique is an Investment

The Dream Catcher

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P BALA KIRAN, IAS

SOUMYA SATHISH

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Reinventing the Charm of Lasya

“Come Out and Play is the new campaign by Kerala Tourism”

NANDINI VALSAN

SOBHA VISWANATH

A Shelter of Memories

“Handloom is the pride of Kerala, we can’t let it die.”

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Editor’s Note Deepak N Nair A Creation of

Dear Reader, Welcome to the June –July 2018 Monsoon issue of your favourite magazine the Kerala Travel Explorer!

N E W W A Y

TECHNOLOGIES & COMMUNICATIONS 512, Hilite Platino, Behind BMW Showroom, NH Bypass, Shankar Nagar Maradu - 682 304, Kochi, Kerala, India Email: info@newwaytech.in Web: www.newwaytech.in Magazine Email: info@ktexplorer.com Magazine Website: www.ktexplorer.com Tel: +91 484 4864843, +91 8156807598

Founder, Editor & CEO Deepak N Nair Principal Advisor Col D Ranjit Kumar (Retd) Editorial Consultants Lt Col D Purushothaman Pillay (Retd) Nandini Valsan Keerthy Ramachandran Head of Sales Ayyappan S Pillai Business Development Manager Ambady K Das Executive Assistant Jose Joseph Design & Layout Jobin Joshua Staff Photographer Gokul Ramachandran Cover Photo Syam Sathyan GCC Representative Offices : Muscat, Sultanate of Oman +968 93972362, +968 24810204 Web: www.interacoman.com UAE/Dubai +971 502400474 Qatar/Doha +974 50173357 Bahrain/Manama +973 39366756

Kerala is fortunate to have two monsoon seasons. First, the southwest monsoon that arrives in the month of June which is called Edavappathy in Malayalam, as it comes in the middle of the month of Edavam as per Malayalam calendar. The Malayalam calendar is more relied on by the Malayalees than the Gregorian calendar. The next monsoon season is the north-east monsoon which comes in the middle of October or during the month of Thulam, and hence called Thulavarsham. Kerala becomes nothing less than a lush green rain forest during the monsoon and it’s a sight to behold. June is the time when schools reopen in Kerala and you can see school children in uniforms of various hues, holding up their umbrellas’ or wearing colorful raincoats walking on the roads in groups or waiting at the bus stand to be picked up, some naughty ones playing and splashing water from the rain water puddles that form up. Kerala is a real enchantress in monsoon. As usual, we make sure our editorial content is strong and engaging. This time too we have put together an interesting array of travel and destination stories like Kovalam, Kuthira Malikka and Laurie Baker Architecture from Thiruvanthapuram, Mankulam in Munnar, Iringole Kavu in Ernakulam, and Houseboats of Alappuzha. Kerala is home to all major faiths and sects and Syrian Christians are a popular sect and their marriages have some interesting practices which are common with their Hindu ancestors. Read the article to get enlightened about some really fascinating practices followed till date. Since our release coincides with the Ramzan period being observed by Muslims, we have a special feature on Iftar treats during Ramzan. We also have exclusive interviews with several multifaceted personalities from the state, including conversations with the Director of Kerala Tourism, and actors from Malayalam film industry like Unni Mukundan and Prayaga Martin, Mohiniyattam exponent Soumya Shankar, and Handloom Entepreneur Sobha Vishwanath. As nature recoups with the rains, it is rejuvenation time for humans too. According to Ayurveda, monsoon is the best season for rejuvenation therapies. During the monsoon season, the atmosphere remains dust-free and cool, opening the pores of the body to the maximum, making it most receptive to herbal oils and therapy. The art forms of Kerala demand utmost dedication and training. These native art forms require complete control over every nerve of the body. As part of this training, the artists undergo Ayurvedic therapies. Special herbal oils and medications are applied on the body of the artist during the Monsoon time to ensure muscle flexibility and dexterity of movement. Read on more about this in our story on Monsoon Ayurveda. Finally, I would like to thank you all for the wonderful and encouraging feedback that you have been sending, and I assure you all the meaningful suggestions are being considered and implemented. So keep them coming. Until next time!

Grateful Acknowledgments

Deepak N Nair

Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, Park View, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India - 695 033 Phone: +91 471 2321132, Fax: +91 471 2322279, E-mail: info@keralatourism.org, deptour@keralatourism.org.

Disclaimer While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all editorial and advertising matter in this publication, the creators and publishers do not accept any liability for any errors or omission. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, digital or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publishers. All correspondence should be sent to: editor@ktexplorer.com

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Kerala a wet beauty

in the monsoon Text: Major General Jacob Tharakan Chacko, SM Photographs: Syam Sathyan

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Everything about tourism is perception driven and

perceptions influenced by industry needs. Local climactic conditions, play a significant role in deciding the tourist traffic to a place and based on the resultant convenience and comfort levels, that location is assigned “an ideal season”, referred to as “tourist season”. Based on “ideal seasons” tourism Professionals create “tourist calendars” to help people plan visits. Tourist inflow to “The God’s own country”, accordingly, thins out during the monsoons. South- West Monsoon normally reaches Kerala shores in the first week of June. This coincides with the middle of the Malayalam month “Edavam” (May-June), Therefore the south-west monsoon is referred to as,

“Edava Pathi”(Pathi meaning Half), in Kerala. Edavam” is followed by the months of “Mithunam” (June-July) and then “Karkidakam” (July – August). The beginning of June, brings copious amounts of rains to the shores of Kerala and heavy rains persist till September. Although, it does not incessantly rain throughout, rains accompanied by thunderstorms, are likely at any time of the day or night. Sun does make its welcome appearance between heavy rains. The combination, of heavy rains and bright sun, gives Kerala, its typical, humid, lush-green tropical conditions. The south-west monsoon, is indeed the “waters of life” and without it, Kerala would be a shadow of the lush green beauty, that it is. Despite the thunderstorms, if one has to experience friendly rains, there is no other place like Kerala to do so. 9

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Though, the industry markets, winter as the best time to visit Kerala, the wet lush green beauty of Kerala, during monsoons, remains unmatched and largely unvisited. Monsoon is the time when nature rejuvenates. Physically, witnessing it and being a part of it, offers an experience that is close to divine. Soaked to its brim, earth brings forth small brooks and rivulets from every possible corner. Wide variety of trees, bushes and shrubs fill the landscape with beautiful greens. When the sun shines on, drops of rain, in love with their leafy hosts, refusing to leave their tips, become sparkling crystals, gifting the canopy a heavenly hue. Monsoon breathes fresh life into the rivers of Kerala and recharged backwaters offer unforgettable house boat experiences. The hills of Kerala, with low hung misty clouds that a visitor can actually touch and feel, attain an ethereal look. A drive or walk in the tea gardens VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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in the “high ranges” or walk along the paddy fields, during this season would certainly rewrite concepts of ecstasy. Holding one’s love close, under an umbrella and taking a walk, either in silence or whispering to each other in the rain, on a winding village road, is romance that one can look forward to and treasure. For those interested in a bit of soul searching, monsoon stay at the hill resorts help. Just sitting back on an easy chair, with a cup of steaming cup of “Kapee” and watching the rains or sun break through the thick green blanket, countless birds chirping in accompaniment, is bliss in itself. Resorts, homestays and hotels have spare capacities in monsoon and costs lesser compared to winter. A monsoon visitor to Kerala, would be spared from perils of overcrowding at tourist destinations. Tourists, interested in getting the best


out of Kerala, thus should visit “The Gods Own Country” during monsoons. Kerala, predominantly an agrarian society, was heavily influenced by the annual cycle of rains. Cereals and pulses for consumption, during monsoons, was from, what was stored at home. The third month of an extended rainy season, forced people to scrape the bottom of their food reserves, making Karkidakam, the last of the monsoon months, synonymous with shortages and hardships. Karkidakam was thus, referred to as “Panja Masam”, (“Panjam” means shortages and “Masam” means Month) in other words “Month of shortages”. Things have changed, Panjam, doesn’t exist anymore. In olden days, Karkidakam was particularly tough on the population due to scarcity of food. Reading of Ramayan, spiritually strengthened the natives to tide over hardships. It reminded people of the need to remain steadfast in virtues, during trying times and amidst trib-

ulations. Socially, it helped keep crime levels low and the social fabric intact. Although society has come a long way since then, the traditional practice of reading, Ramayana in the month of Karkidakam, continues with all the devotion and sanctity it deserves. Thus Karkidakam, is known as “Ramayana Masam”. Listening to the recitals in a tune unique to this event, emanating from houses in the evening, can be a spiritually uplifting experience. Those interested in traditional religious practices, would be delighted to watch or take part in a ritual called “Karkidaka Vavu Bali”. This is a Hindu custom where people offer prayers and offerings to the departed souls. Performed with utmost piety and devotion, this is an event that can have an impact of a different kind. Karkidakam, is also the month when natives undergo “Karkidaka Chikatsa”, a traditional Ayurvedic treatment, consisting of oil massages, steam baths and diet of selected cereals, pulses and medicinal herbs.

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Ayurvedic practitioners, believe that human skin, naturally hydrated during monsoons, opens it pores, making it, receptive to application of oil and massages. “Pancha Karma”, a part of “Karkidaka Chikatsa”, involves five different approaches to detoxify the body and correcting stress induced imbalances. It is a very highly individualised treatment prescribed by a qualified Ayurvedic doctor after diagnosis of various “doshas” present in an individual, depending on body constitution, age and immunity levels besides other parameters. The treatment is administered by trained professionals under supervision of the medical practitioner. In an agrarian society, oil massages were part of the preparations for the season of work in the fields. This is normally done, without having to go to an Ayurvedic doctor. Knowledge and practices integral to families led to an ayurvedic practice called, “Sukha Chikatsa”, (Sukha means wellness or comfort and Chikatsa means treatment). Sukha Chikatsa” “ is primarily confined to various oil massages and special diet. This traditional practice is now available as, “Kerala Ayurvedic massage” all over the world. Ayurvedic massage parlours are plenty all over the state. Tourists can visit these parlours and indulge themselves in the relaxing and refreshing activity that no other country or place offers. With so much to offer and nothing as beautifully wet, as Kerala in monsoons, God’s own country beckons. VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Monsoon Ayurveda Treatments

Text: Hazel S Austin

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Rains in Kerala are always a sight to behold. The gentle

sway of the coconut trees, the grey skies and the pitter patter of raindrops are always a welcome respite from the long summer months. Many people cherish the sweet smell of wet fresh earth after the first rains and have many memorable moments from childhood. Grandmothers of yesteryears have long recommended the first rains as the perfect cure to the prickly heat outbreaks of the scorching summer. It may not have been without perfect reason. The ancient texts of Ayurveda speak at length about the various changes in nature during the seasons of rains and the different lifestyle changes advocated for better health. From the perspective of the science of Ayurveda the year is divided into six seasons namely Shishira,Vasanta,

Grishma Varsha, Sharad and Hemant each based on the movements of the sun into the northern and southern solastic positions. Each of these two solastic positions are consecutively divided into six months each. Ritu, or the seasons as they are known, have different profound ways in which they affect the body as well as the environment. It needs no telling that the changes are quite evident, all around us we see nature going through the rhythm. Flowers bloom and wilt, trees shed leaves and spring beckons new shoots as well. Yet, we are hardly aware of the changes that might be happening in our internal systems as well. We fail to realize that as human beings are part of the same ecology, the body is also greatly influenced by external environment. When the body is unable to keep pace with the changes, unable to adopt itself to stressors due

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to changes in specific traits of seasons, it may lead to an imbalance of the doshas in the body leaving the body susceptible to one or the other disorder of some kind. At no time is it more evident than the monsoons when we are all sniffling with a cold or a cough of some kind. But, surprisingly, it is also the right time to indulge in some TLC by being more careful of the food we consume and also finding some time to pamper ourselves to the regimen prescribed for the season.

Along with the above, the body benefits from the other specific treatments recommended during the months of Monsoon. These treatments help in realigning the various dosha imbalances or the aggravation of Vata and Pitta dosha in Varsha Ritu (Monsoon season). Most of these treatments are holistic in nature mainly focussed on rejuvenation process that detoxifies body, balances the vitiated doshas and place emphasis on maintaining a healthy constitution.

Diet It is recommended to have foods having Amla(sour) and Lavana (salty) taste and of Sneha (unctuous) qualities.

What makes the monsoon regimen so effective is the simple fact that the moist climate opens up the pores in the skin, making it more receptive to all the medications and treatments. These treatments are highly beneficial for those suffering from lifestyle disorders like diabetes, blood pressure, anxiety & stress. It is also beneficial for chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, back pain, lumbar and cervical spondylosis etc.

Light and freshly cooked food along with preparations made from aged barley, rice and wheat. Drinking boiled water with a dash of honey, or sipping on hot and herbal tea is an ideal option while warm meat soups can be nutritious. Increased intake of sweet, sour and salty food is recommended. Lifestyle Use of boiled water for bath and rubbing the body with oil properly after bath is advised. Medicated Basti (enema) is prescribed as an evacuative measure to expel vitiated Doshas. Getting wet in rain, day-sleep, exercise, hard work, wind, staying at river-bank, etc., are to be avoided. VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Some of the common Varsha Ritu Ayurveda or Karkata chikitsa are: Abhyanga – The practice of massaging medicated oils to increase blood circulation in the body and help to relax, nourish and rejuvenate the body cells. Shirodhara – The practice of pouring oil, milk or medicated butter milk on the forehead for a specified period. This helps to reduce headaches, minimize stress, improve memory and eliminates disturbances during sleep.


Swedanam – The practice where the patient is made to sweat by using a steam made from boiling herbs.

Virechana – The practice that clears all toxins or pitta dosha from the patient’s system.

Pizhichil – The practice of pouring oil all over the body prior to a massage to reduce dryness, minimize fatigue and cure all neurological disorders.

Karkataka Chikitsa is particularly effective in the prevention of diseases and in increasing energy levels, reinvigorating the body and extending the longevity of life.

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Nandini Valsan

A Shelter of Memories

is a writer and film maker who currently lives in Doha, Qatar. She is a travel enthusiast and an avid foodie; who believes every moment in life is a learning experience.

For around the first 20 years of my life, the only Kerala that I was aware of was the lush, yet soggy one that came to the fore during the monsoons. I never realized then that this was the only season in which the persistent heat and humidity of the State stepped aside for the welcome cool weather that accompanied the rains. Like many other NRI kids across the world, that was when we beat the summer heat of Cairo to travel to India for our annual vacation. We spent a big part of those holidays at my father’s family home in Irinjalakuda, where a large pandal in front of the house had pride of place. Covered with a thatched roof and paved with concrete flooring, the pandal was a convenient place to spend those monsoon days, as it allowed us to be outdoors and yet, sheltered and dry. My grandfather, a renowned National Award winning math teacher, used to run a popular tutorial in this pandal after his retirement, and one of my earliest memories is of watching these classes take place, with so many students filling the benches. Though my grandfather passed away in 1980, the benches and even the blackboard were never removed, and instead, for three decades, served as archaic remnants of the vibrant educational fulcrum the place once was. As a child, I found the frequent wet days highly annoying, as it meant we had to stay indoors and restricted our holidaying options drastically. I would either spend them curled up on a bed in my aunt’s corner room, reading my cousin’s worn out Enid Blyton book for the umpteenth time; or walking aimlessly around the house, VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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in search of something to do or at least something to eat, to while the time away! The pandal provided more contentment though. As the rain poured down, the droplets that fell off the roof’s dry coconut fronds would create a narrow shallow moat in the reddish soil around the perimeter, into which we would float our paper boats. As we grew older, we would sit on the benches and bring out our playing cards; have badminton matches in the benchless space towards the back; or play caroms, in which I would invariably get trounced by my brother. Entertainment options were highly limited after all, and such pastimes got the sluggish minutes to move a little faster. Just like my father, whose feet would briskly swish-swish along that concrete floor during his cherished evening walk; my uncle, who ensured that the thatched roof was maintained and replaced every year; and my dear grandmother, who rarely ever stepped out of the house, but was updated on all the news in the locality and the world through the newspaper that she devoured daily while sitting on one corner of a bench there; the pandal is long gone, and now only a memory of an era gone by. My brother and I used to crib about having to spend our holidays every year in the same place, with so little to do, when all our friends were jetting off to more glamorous locations around the world. Funnily enough, those childhood peeves of “boring summers” have now become wistful yearnings of an exotic past that I wish I could enjoy all over again, but know that I never can.


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KOVALAM

GOD’S OWN BEACH Text: Anisha Rudrani / Pictures: Biju Karakonam

Come monsoon, a long walk along the sandy beaches

between short spells of rain cools not just your heels but the mind too. A visit to Kovalam, the famed natural beach in Kerala, is a compulsive sight when the monsoons comes calling. The characteristic salty tinge of the sea air suddenly paves way for that fresh earthy smell. One is for sure enchanted by the pleasant petrichor. The hustle and bustle of the peak tourist season might be missing during the rainy season and that’s something to look forward to. If you are not a beach beau under the monsoon’s soaking wetness, Kovalam is a pristine haven for other times also. There are buildings built on the rock promontory whose footsteps are constantly lapped by the rolling waves.

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Looking at the blue waters and heavy currents battering the coastline, from a sea-view balcony fills you with a heavenly charm. Sit back on your easy chair with a hot cup of coffee and feel the tingling of the dancing drops wafted by the westerly wind. Watching the Cumulonimbus clouds roll in and settle for a thunderous rain is breath-taking. The three main beaches in Kovalam—the Ashok or Grove beach, Hawah or Eve’s beach, and the southernmost Lighthouse beach—are separated by rocks and these rocky slopes go gently into the Arabian Sea. The clean and safe beach with its 17-kilometer coastline is


an ideal place to come for a relaxing holiday. If you want a quiet communion with Nature here is the spot of all spots. In the local language, Malayalam, Kovalam translates to ‘grove of coconut trees’. Just like the name suggests, the beaches are dotted with lines of tall coconut trees and the green coastline which contrasts with the blue crystal sea water. The shallow coast is ideal for swimming and water skiing and even catamaran sailing. However in the peak of monsoon, it is better to stay away from venturing too deep into the sea. With an increase in the number of surfing enthusiasts, the place which now has many surfing clubs offering surfing lessons. The Kovalam Surf Club sells and rents out surfing gears.

A touch of God’s own Ayurveda

Monsoon is the season for rejuvenation because the body is considered receptive to the Ayurveda treatments. Kovalam has plenty of Ayurvedic resorts and spas that offer therapies for your soul and body. Overseas visitors are always fascinated by the idea of yoga and Ayurveda. The many yoga and Ayurveda centres in Kovalam offers health packages and cost can be a trifle high during monsoon since the time is ideal for it, and places are packed with people going for it. If you have burnt enough calories, you could step into one of the many bistros and restos along the beach. Seafood like lobsters, calamari or king prawns are sure to tickle your taste buds. Continental food is also 21

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served at many restaurants and the Indian traditional food is tempered to suit foreign palates. All the three beaches house some of the best names in the food industry, so you are spoilt for choice here. Take your tongue for a tasty ride in one of the many local restaurants which are known for serving hygienic local food. Do not miss kappa, puttu and appam, some of the local foods Kerala is famous for. Crabs and lobsters are at a beach vacation, so we save our words. The shopaholics in you can dance with joy for getting a chance of affordable shopping experience. The shops lined up along the beaches offer an array of exclusive goodies like jewellery made of seashells and intricate handicrafts that you can take home as souvenirs of the place, a token of a beautiful memory. From local spices,

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silk clothes and sarongs to decorative items made of seashells, teakwood and rosewood, you name it, and the place has it. The prices are reasonable if not cheap, and with fewer tourists, monsoon is the best time of the year to bag a bargain. Kovalam is also called the Paradise of South. When visiting the place, don’t just beach around and finish off your visit. There are many nearby places that are worth visiting. Visit Vizhinjam Mosque and Ganapathi Temple for a divine experience. There is Vizhinjam Marine Aquarium, with its variety of marine life including Rock Lobsters and Piranhas. Head to the 8th-century Vizhinjam Cave Temple.It is believed to be one of the earliest rock-cut cave temples in Kerala.


Sidelight

A bit of history

If you time your visit rightly, you can witness the launch of a rocket! How geeky that sounds? Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre at Thumba is just a 40-min drive away from Kovalam beach and launching of wounding rockets that happen on every third Wednesday is open to the public.

The history states that the Maharani Regent PooradomThirunal Sethu Laxmi Bai, in 1920, built a beach palace Halcyon Castle in this once-a-fishermen’s village. Later her nephew, Maharaja of Travancore Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma , entranced by the beauty of the place, started visiting the place and invited his European guests there, thus taking the tranquilty of the place wide and far. In no time, it was developed into a favoured beach destination in the 1930. The British started promoting it as a major tourist destination in Kerala. But the real boost came in 1970s with the arrival of the hippies. Soon this tiny, idyllic fishing village of Kovalam emerged as a popular holiday destination and the beach resort of the country. The village has evolved into a small town now.

How to get there

Kovalam is 16 km/35 minutes south of Trivandrum Central, where the main train station is located. The International Airport 13 kms from the beach and the the airport is connected to all major airports in India and major cities around the world via a good number of domestic and international flights. It is 212 km/5.5 hours south of Kochi, via Trivandrum.

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An Experience in Tranquility

Houseboats of Alappuzha Text: Keerthy Ramachandran Photographs: Gokul Ramachandran

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Ever wished to cut yourself away from the

The Kettuvellam Kettuvallams were the country boats used in olden times to transport perishable commodities like rice and pulses to the interior villages surrounding backwaters. As roads and other infrastructure developed in time, Kettuvallams were transformed to a luxury transport for the tourists to enjoy the mesmerising beauty of backwaters. These boats are constructed by tying coir ropes together to wooden planks and hence the name kettuvallam (‘kettu’ refers to tie and ‘vallam’ means boat). With close to a thousand kettuvellams plying in the backwaters of Kerala, these have today emerged to be the mascot of Kerala Tourism.

Kuttanad While many other towns of Kerala offer houseboat experience in backwaters (Ashtamudi lake in Kollam, Kumbalangi backwaters near Kochi, Alumkadavu backwaters in Karunagappally etc), Alappuzha is considered to be the headquarters of kettuvallams. Kuttanad is a small village in Alappuzha, historically celebrated as a major rice producer in the state. The breathtaking expanses of paddy fields, palm fringed narrow canals around the quietly flowing lagoons lend a paradisiacal charm to Kuttanad. It is one of the very few places in the world where cultivation is done around 4 to 10 ft below the sea level!

Inside a Kettuvellam Intricately designed with wooden furnishing and modern amenities, most of these kettuvellams are nothing less than star hotels on water! In contrast to shikkaras of Kashmir, the interiors of these boats stand out for its simplicity and elegance, truly representing the finesse of Kerala’s architecture. These are well-maintained with spacious bath-attached bedrooms, living rooms and a fully-functional kitchen. The premium ones offer large sun-bath decks, fully-centralized indoors and a horde of customized features, provided on request. The boats offer in house facilities like television, refrigerators,

maddening hustle of the city life, only to immerse in some silly joyful acts and make you feel one with nature? If you are going through that phase of life when you feel it’s time to put your feet up and aimlessly glare at the nature’s bounty to see hours pass by, it is time to pack your bags and leave for Kuttanad! Tranquility is the best therapy of the mind. What can be more heartwarming than waking up to the sound of chirping birds and opening your eyes to endless greenery surrounded by mirror still lagoons... Coming holiday season, treat your senses with an ethereal experience by indulging in a ‘Kettuvallam’ (houseboat) stay in the serene waters of the Venice of the East, Alappuzha, in Kerala.

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high speed internet connectivity (premier options) including live entertainment shows ( Mohiniyattam and Kathakali performances). Along with the scintillating visuals to devour, these boats also present flavourful gastronomic experiences on board through their all-meals package which includes breakfast, lunch, hi-tea and dinner and not to forget round-the clock availability of fresh tender coconuts offering ‘anytime refreshing sips’. All licensed houseboats are equipped with enough safety gears along with a well-trained

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crew to handle any emergencies. Each houseboat is managed by a group of minimum 3 staff including the captain of the boat, a manager/guide and a chef. Culinary Offerings Gastronomic delight goes a long way in making every holiday a great experience. The star attraction of houseboat stays at Kuttanad is definitely the freshly prepared delicacies, served in plantain


A T D C Alleppey Tel: + 91 477 2264462 | 2261693 | 2230583 |Fax: + 91 477 2231145 | 2nd Floor, Municipal Library Shopping Complex | Opp. Boat Jetty | Alleppey - 688 013 | Kerala |India Email: info@atdcalleppey.com | atdcboat@asianetindia.com | Visit us: www.atdcalleppey.com

leaves and rustic ceramic ware by the local chefs. While many say it is futile to travel to Kuttanad if you are allergic to seafood, on placing food preferences prior, the chefs serve a drool-worthy range of vegetarian fare. Fresh prawns, seer fish, pearl spot, duck and chicken prepared with Kuttanad’s favourite spices will make you fall in love with this land, that you will want to visit here more often. Karimeen pollichathu, duck roast, pepper chicken and coconut infused prawns are the must-haves for non-vegetarians while the regional

specialties like kappa puzhungiyathu (boiled tapioca), mezhukkuvaratty (roasted veggies), banana fritters and payasam (dessert) can delight the vegetarians. Add Health to Give a Twist If you are traveling during monsoons, make the most of your houseboat experience by adding a spa package to it. Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), a government of Kerala under 27

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taking, offers Summer Splash package to tourists who want to reap the best out of houseboat trips. These packages offer Ayurvedic spa treatments in resorts followed by houseboat experience. Treatments like Njavarakizhi (used to treat neurological diseases by applying oil made from rice bran) and Elakizhi (leaf bundle massage done to improve strength of the muscles and relieving body pain) are offered to tourists. If you are opting for spa treatments from other providers, make sure you visit the certified centres only. The Low Points Make sure you carry mosquito repellants, especially while traveling with infants. House-boating during monsoon need not be that pleasant since the waters could get murky. Not all houseboats provide you with a great experience, so make sure you do enough research prior and choose the popular options with good reviews, don’t forget to look at the inside pictures. Best Time to Visit Winters are considered to be the peak season in Alappuzha for houseboat experiences. Make sure you make reservations much ahead to get good deals. November to February is deemed ideal for enjoying the backwaters. March to May is considered off-season in Kerala considering the scorching heat of summer, however, if you wear light cotton clothes and chose air-conditioned houseboats, you can still have a pleasant experience. To enjoy the rain-washed glory of the hamlets of Alappuzha, June to Septmber is good but

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many houseboats stay off the waters during this time. Cost Options and Packages Depending on the size, features and facilities on offer, the prices of stay packages can vary. On an average, stay for a couple and a child below 5 years in a one bedroom premium houseboat with air conditioning and wi-fi facilities cost Rs 12,000, including food. Most rates are subject to change as per season and availability. Luxury stay options like the one offered by Oberoi Hotels and Resorts can come up to Rs 1 lakh plus taxes. It is best to choose day cruise and overnight stay packages for minimum 2 nights and 3 days in order to get a complete experience of Kuttanad. How to Reach & Other Attractions Kuttanad is 2 hours away from Kochi on road. Other than the houseboat experience, Kuttanad has attractions like Basilica of St Mary, Champakulam, Chakkulathukavu Temple, St Mary Forane Church etc. Alappuzha is known for the annual Nehru boat race conducted on the second Saturday of August every year, when thousands of tourists and boating enthusiasts travel from far and wide to see the racing competition participated by hundreds of oarsmen on their snake-boats.Kuttanad offers a once in a lifetime experience to any traveler. Plan your holiday well and carry back one of the most memorable leaflets of your life from Alappuzha.


IRINGOLE KAVU Divinity and Wilderness Text

and

Pictures: Ravi Shankar P 29

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A pathway through the sacred grove leading to the temple

A densely grown miniature forest in the midst of rapidly

growing urban jungle surrounded with myths, beliefs and mysteries – this is ‘Iringole Kavu’ sacred grove. Here sunlight is impenetrable even during heavy summers. Situated near Perumbavoor in Ernakulam, Iringole Kavu is an angelic monsoon destination which you would love to go for a stroll. Once you are inside the grove at times of heavy showers, you can hear the droplets of rain making its way down through the green canopy, accompanied by the chirping of birds and chattering of squirrels. All these natural features of this sacred grove, gives you an energetic experience of being in a tropical forest, although this one is not legally considered as one. Like most sacred groves, Iringole Kavu too has a temple which is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The green woods surrounding the temple exhibit a very rare combination of divinity and wilderness. The temple inside the sacred grove is said to be 2700 odd years old. The major fest (pooram) of the temple happens from second to the tenth of the Malayalam month of Meenam (roughly between March and April). This fest is also a treat to watch when the whole forest is lighted up and decorated. Unlike other temples, here only female elephants participate for the pooram. The natives near the sacred grove consider the trees VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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inside the forest to be various gods. Due to this reason the place is well protected and not even a single stick is removed out of the grove. The entire forest is spread over 50 acres of land and it would take one an entire day to cover the entire sacred grove. One member of the temple trust said that once it was a dense forest than it is now and even sunlight could not reach the ground. But in 1993, many big trees fell after a storm. Considering the ecological importance, the Kerala Biodiversity Board had declared Iringole Kavu as one of the five biodiversity heritage sites in the state Inside the grove There are three main pathways and several smaller ones that lead to the main temple. After walking deep into the forest you may feel that you lost your way. But all the pathways converges to a single point. Also the forest houses no dangerous animals, so the visitors do not have to worry about their safety inside the forest. The 50 acres of forest land is home to animals, birds and flora of the Western Ghats that are on the endangered list. The stretch has rare woods like the


Iringole Kavu temple

An exterior view of Iringole Kavu temple

‘Kambakam’ or Iron wood of Malabar, white pine, wild jack (Anjili) teak etc and medicines like wild pepper and long pepper. There are 44 species of birds in this forest including parrots cuckoos and eagles. The grove is seen in different hues of green even during heavy summers. This is because of the presence of many marshes and ponds in the vicinity. The ‘theerthakulam’ or temple pond inside the grove is also lush through the year. Legends Like many other sacred grove, Iringole kavu too has many legends associated with it. As per one of the many stories, the most popular one is associated with the goddess here, Durga.

A pond inside the sacred grove

The goddess is considered as the eight child of Devaki and Vasudeva, who were imprisoned by Kamsa. It is said that when Kamsa attempted to kill the newborn baby, it rose to take the form of goddess Durga and made her appearance in the sky with a lighting. The place where the lighting struck on earth was called Irunnol, which later became Iringol. Another legend is associated with one of the trees inside the grove, ‘Valiya llavu’, which is worshipped by the devotees. The legend narrates that a sage named Trinabindu had been meditating inside the grove when Hanuman, the monkey god distracted him. The sage in anger chased 31

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away the monkey god. Hanuman then returned with an elephant and a lion, which further enraged the sage who cursed Hanuman, who happened to sitting top of a tree that he would be unaware of his strength. Hanuman’s father, the wind god came to know about the curse and began to shake every single tree inside the grove. Except the tree on which Hanuman had been sitting rest all trembled to the power of Vayu. This tree then came to be known as Valiya llavu. Things to know before you visit Currently the temple is under the Tranvancore Devaswom Board. During the olden days the Naganchery Mana family was in-charge of the temple. The family’s ancestral home is near to the sacred grove and today this house is a museum run by the tourism department. The museum houses numerous artifacts of yesteryear importance. The museum compound has a children’s park and a small canteen, where the tourists can get some refreshments. The tickets for an adult is at Rs 20 and for children it is Rs 10. The temple and sacred grove is open to believers of any religion who are ready to follow the rules of temple. Also, the area is plastic litter free zone, so if you happen to carry any plastic material kindly refrain from dumping it inside the forest area. Getting there Iringole Kavu is situated in Kunnathunad Taluk of Ernakulam district. It is located 4km away from Perumbavoor town between Perumbavoor and Kothamangalam on Aluva-Munnar Road. The temple and sacred grove is placed in the village Pattal which is 35 km away from Kochi. By bus : Buses are available from Aluva and Angamaly. Get down at Perumbavoor and take an auto to Iringole Kavu, which will not cost more than Rs 100. By rail : Aluva is the nearest railway station which is 20km away. By air : Nedumbassery is 17 km away.

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Densely grown trees inside the Iringole Kavu


Kuthira Mallika

The Mansion of Horses

Text: Hazel S. Austin Pictures: Gokul Ramachandran

Kuthira Mallika or The Mansion of Horses was built by

Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Balarama Varma in 19th century on the south-eastern side of the famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The Palace forms a part of the numerous buildings that form the complex of royal buildings in the vicinity of the Padmanabhaswamy temple.The building is a marvelous example of the Kerala school of architecture incorporating generous use of teakwood, rosewood, marble, and

granite. Although officially known as Puthen Mallika, it if often referred to as Kuthira Mallika owing to the 122 smiling wooden horses that have been built into the brackets of the ceiling. The roof which is made entirely of wood houses 42 beams displaying different carved patterns and the ceiling of the verandah is adorned with floral motifs. The granite pillars supporting the roof are also adorned with intricate designs. In all the palace has 16 rooms all of which have been built in different patterns.

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The Maharaja Swathi Thirunal’s residence at the palace lasted shy of one year before his death post which the royal building was locked up until recently. History goes that the music aficionado Swathi Thirunal wrote some of his important compilations here sitting in a chamber inside this very palace from where he could get a rare view of the temple. The palace comes to life every year during the famed Swathi Music Festival which is conducted here in the front courtyard. The five day festival conducted in the months of January-February features leading names of the Car-

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natic and Hindustani music world. Stalwarts like Ustad Bismilla Khan, Gangu Bai Hangal, Kishori Amonkar, Dr.M.Balamurali Krishna ,D.K.Pattammal etc have performed in the festival till date. The yearly festival at the palace is rated as one of the best music festivals in South India with the ambience and the atmosphere adding much charm to the delight of the music renderings. The cool breeze of winter complete with a star studded evening sky and the faint glow of the lit up palace in the backdrop with songs in praise of Padmanabha is a one of a kind experience. It


is not difficult to imagine that a century and a half ago sat here a man who loved music, listening in the very same manner, to his favorite musicians sing the compositions that he himself wrote. A portion of the palace has been converted into a museum containing pictures, personal belongings and artefacts of the Travancore Royal Family. Swathi Thirunal’s ivory throne, marble idols, Chinese artefacts and rare musical instruments are on display in the museum. Barefoot walks are extremely famous here as well and one is a trip to another era hidden inside the capital of the State. Guided tour of the palace is recommended and gives one a detailed idea of the many wonders hidden in the palace which is sure to leave one enthralled.

Visiting hours:

08:30 - 13:00 hrs & 15:00 - 17:30 hrs. Closed on Mondays

Contact details: Ph: +91 471 2473952

Getting there

Nearest railway station: Thiruvananthapuram Central, about 1 km

Nearest airport: Trivandrum International

Airport, about 6 km

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MANKULAM THE ALLURING MONSOON PARADISE Text: Sabenose Paul

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Perumbankuth Waterfall


Hanging Bridge at Mankulam

Kainagiri Waterfalls

Monsoon at Mankulam is a visual treat. The mist

cladded hills, the numerous water falls which flows into milky white streams, the fondling wind, the alluring forest with elephants and the spectacular tea gardens captivates the heart of any traveller. Mankulam, which is not far away from Munnar, is now a paradise for tourists. The climate is more of less same to that of Munnar. The immigrants from Central Travancore during 1970s along with the tribal communities constitute the population of Mankulam. It is around 18 km away from Kochi- Munnar highway and when we pass through Adimaly we need to take deviation from Kallar to reach Mankulam. We can also reach this destination from Munnar through Lakshmi Estate. Each route is equally beautiful. We can also reach Mankulam from Kothamangalam

through Kuttambuzha , Mamalakandom forest. But this route is very risky and dangerous because of the hairpin turns, narrow routes and the presence of wild animals including elephants. Only with the permission of forest department one can take this route. For adventure riders this route is however enchanting. Reaching Mankulam through Kallar route will be an exotic journey. We have to travel through the beautiful tea gardens of Lakshmi Estate which is a part of Kannan Devan plantations. Unlike in Munnar we don’t find vast areas of tea gardens as it forms a small part of the village, Vrippara. The Mankulam Forest Division office is in this village. If we take permission from here trekking in the forest is possible. 37

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Mankulam Eco Tourism Project is a concern of Forest Department along with Forest Protection Council. The interior forest regions for trekking, like Kannadippara, Kilikallu, Kozhiyilakuthu, etc are parts of this project. The experienced tribal people of the area assist the tourists. Mankulam is rich in waterfalls. The first waterfall we come across is Kainagiri near Virippara. This is a stream of Nallathaniyar river, which flows down through boulders splashing and fluttering milky white foams. We can enjoy a shower or take a bath as some areas are shallow. Nakshatrakuthu, another big water fall, which flows through huge rocks, is a mesmerising treat to eyes. As the name suggests it sheds light to the whole village through its hydroelectric power project. Mankulam is thus the first Village in India to produce electricity to meet its needs. Thattukuthu is the highest waterfall in Mankulam. it is collective fall in various strata. We need to cross one by one and most often a traveller could cross only the first two levels. Only a few could reach till the fifth level. As one climbs the height, the change in temperature is obvious. Only with the help of a rock and other implement one could move to top levels. The most famous among these water falls is Perumbankuthu waterfall. It’s a majestic waterfall from an altitude of 200 meters; a breath taking spectacle which every traveller cherishes for a life time. It is a VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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smaller yet marvellous version of Athirappilly waterfalls. It is easy to get to the top of the fall; though a perfect understanding of the geography is essential. The rocks are bit slippery. Without Aanakkulam, Mankulam is incomplete. This is the place where elephants come to drink water despite being a human habitat. There are very few shops over there and a small stream also runs nearby. It is believed that this spring water is delectable, and that must be the reason why they come to such a place, which is otherwise unlikely to happen. Mankulam is the favourite spot of off-road travellers. A drive through the Rajapatha (old highway) which connects Aluva and Munnar is thrilling. Such a drive through the dense forest is a dream of every adventure tourist. Mankulam cannot be not be fully appreciated even if one is been to all these places; it’s an inexhaustible treasure house of visual treats. The hanging bridges, the tree houses and caves in the forest offers unique experiences to every traveller. It is even possible to enjoy primitive tribal dance forms, if requested in advance. It is also easy to find out a halting place as Mankulam has numerous cottages, resorts, homestays and like. The forest department has opened up an appreciation centre for the stay of tourists who come over here to enjoy the infinite pleasures Mankulam offers.


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Park Regis Aveda

Resort & Spa

Kumarakom

A Hidden Gem In The Vembanad Backwaters. Story & Photographs - Lt Col D Purushothaman Pillay (Retd) Since late 2014 3 TripAdvisor Travellers Choice awards. Certificate of Excellence awards year after year. VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Every once in a while most city-dwellers look

forward to a well-deserved and blissfully relaxing escape from the routine, to laze, unwind and forget the daily stresses of the mundane urban life. Invariably to achieve such relaxation they often visualize large expanses of water in the form of a lake, or a sea as a central ingredient to facilitate that de-stress and recharge of the human soul. It is for precisely that kind of a break we have such dream-come-true boutique luxury resorts like Park Regis Aveda, that affords some of the most picturesque views of the majestic Vembanad Lake.


This well-appointed resort with a tasteful ambience has 8 Villas that include 4 Lakefront Luxury Villas with private plunge pools and 4 Poolside Luxury Villas. In addition there are 24 Poolside Premium Cottages, 2 Lakeview Premium Bedroom Suites, 2 Lakeview Premium Studios and 8 Lakeview Premium Terrace Rooms to make up a total inventory of 44 various types of residences, for the guests to choose from. The resort also has an open poolside multi-cuisine restaurant cum lounge, well-equipped fitness gym, an ayurvedic spa, banquet hall that can host 150 guests, a business centre, a reading & recreational area and a private garden for the guests. It is an ideal location to indulge in every fantasy one may have regarding boating, fishing, swimming and water-sports. The resort also organizes regular cultural evenings showcasing local dance and art

forms, for the benefit of the guests. This resort has become a popular choice for off-the-beaten-track corporate retreats, product launches, conferences and other business meetings. Another point that must be highlighted is its growing reputation as a prefered destination-wedding setting. This resort with its excellent infrastructure and immaculate service has therefore become an attractive one-stop shop for a plethora of tourism purposes. Park Regis Aveda has this one stand-out stunning defining feature, that imbues a lot of character and soul to its persona, it is this magnificent 150 meters long signature Blue Pool, running right through the heart of the property, along which the premium residences are straddled. This little manmade lakelet embraces you in its warm welcoming expanse of wonderfully comforting and clean water. Once you 41

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dive in, you don’t feel like getting out of it, especially the kids, they love these waters and continue to splash around all day. The comforting breeze and close proximity of the water to the many pool-view villas is another reason for its popularity as a lounging option. This infinity pool is like a literal extension of the lake, which also serves as a focus for witnessing some of the most surreal sunsets at its mesmerizing best in this geography, which is famous worldwide for its ‘Golden Hour’ spectacle. The glorious incandescent reflections of the crimson twilight sun, twinkle and dance in a myriad sparkling hues, on the shimmering waters of this rippling pool at dusk. Many including me, have captured some of the most stunning sunset images from this resort. After that grand enchanting celestial spectacle excellent food awaits the guests in an enchanting night-setting, draped in meandering blue ripples from the under lit pool-waters. The resort has some of the best North Indian chefs deployed in Kerala. Nothing much else is really required for a memorable holiday, when an expansive lake, an idyllic destination and a hospitable resort intermingle to co-host you to a feast for the palate and the soul. Maverick businessman Mr. Prashant Chawla on one of his earlier Indian holidays, chanced upon Kumarakom and had fallen in love with the sights of this lakeside. He felt enchanted, at peace and a deep connect with this place. He then immediately renounced a flourishing business career in the US to fulfill his calling as a hotelier. He is a rare and charming personality blessed with a passionate visionary zeal, that has scripted this latest success story in hospitality, right here on one of the most scenic banks of the heart of the backwater tourism hub in God’s Own Country. He recently teamed up with StayWell Holdings, a unit of Prince Hotels, Japan and formalised a rebranding to Park Regis Aveda Kumarakom. “Aveda” is destined to bloom into a bustling, much sought after resort in the coming years. The dynamic GM Jyotish Surendran and his enthusiastic team of handpicked hospitality professionals have set up a wonderful family-friendly lakeside haven of luxury. To sum up this hidden gem, tucked away along the untouched foreshores of the Vembanad Lake is a great place for both the intrepid adventurer with wanderlust and the reticent traveler in the quest of peace and tranquility, to soak up stunning views of the spectacular Kumarakom backwaters with its magical sunsets. It is certainly worth a visit on your next holiday! VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Sabareesh & Team

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Advertorial

Dreamland Munnar For the Adventure of a Lifetime

A picturesque hill town located around 13 km from Munnar, Anachal, Chithirapuram is renowned for its scenic tea plantations. Exuding an old world charm and home to the Pallivasal Hydel Power Project, Anachal is a veritable haven for those seeking a serene and secluded getaway. Munnar - breathtakingly beautiful - a haven of serenity - the idyllic tourist destination in God’s own country. It is such a beautiful place, that it cannot be portrayed on a single canvas. Everything here will make you excited. The hills, the mist, the valleys, the streams, the waterfalls, tea plantations, rare flora and fauna, et al. Falling in the Idukki district of Kerala easily accessible from Kochi, this gorgeous hill station is ideally placed in the South Western Ghats of India. To relax and unwind in the hills of Munnar, head to Dreamland Adventure, where you can enjoy and explore unforgettable moments in an altitude of 6000 ft. Every second in and around the attractions VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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in Dreamland, brings you to the peak of excitement with its various adventure activities for individuals as well as for groups. A variety of adventure games at Dreamland are wonderful means to experience wholesome thrills. Activities and Fun Dreamland opened its door on 20th August 2010 for people with “Happiness as a Goal“ and “Adventure as the priority” in a naturally gifted place. In earlier days Dreamland was just a spice park with Elephant safari, which then later reformed as space for adventure with 40 + activities like Polaris ATVs , Sky Walk, Rope Way, Belt Swing, Mechanical Bull ride, Human Sling shot, Burma Bridge, Camel ride, Bungee Trampoline, Sling shot, Spider net, Suspension Bridge, Off road cycling ,Horror House, 7D Theater and many more. Total Satisfaction Guarantee In Dreamland, your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. If you are an adventure junkie then this must be your best adventurous and exhilarating experience Ample Parking Area Dreamland can afford 180 + vehicles at a time in the parking area which is located inside the park premises. Excellent Support Staff The best experienced staff with encouraging words and motivational support could be just the thing that gets you over the line. Getting there Nearest railway station: Aluva about 108 km; Angamali, about 109 km and Ernakulam, about 128 km Nearest Airport: Cochin International Airport, about 98 km GPS Location Latitude: 10.033767, Longitude: 77.048378

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Advertorial

Nestling snug in the embrace of misty nature at

The Leaf Munnar

Aanachal, just 12 km away from Munnar town, The Leaf Munnar is a sprawling resort that gives you endless options for a truly memorable holiday. Whether it is a quick break from the everyday chaos, a fun-filled family vacation, a quiet and relaxing time of rest, a quest for creative inspiration, or the honeymoon of your dreams; whatever your fantasy, The Leaf Munnar is just the place for you. This fine resort with its charming cottages, dotting beautifully landscaped grounds will calm your spirits to match the tranquil nature that surrounds you. The sweeping grounds offer lovely walking trails which wind around herb gardens and organic vegetable patches.

The ideal getaway to rejuvenate yourself VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

You can relax in the infinity swimming pool with the energizing caress of cool breezes that flow down the misty mountains. How about a culinary lesson in preparing a tasty regional delicacy? Or if it suits you, The Leaf Munnar gladly welcomes you to get your 46


hands dirty working on that oldest and most relaxing of hobbies – gardening. Plant a seed and let it grow. Watch the stars come out in the unpolluted skies basking in the warmth of a lively fireside.

Arabic, Italian and Continental dishes with both indoor and outdoor seating. Local delicacies are available on request as well. Lose yourself in an orchestra of nature’s tranquility at The Leaf Munnar.

The activities at the resort include Trekking, Gardening, Local sightseeing, basketball, and adventurous Jeep Safaris. The Leaf also has a club house where one can play billiards, chess, carom board or a game of table tennis. In addition, they arrange live cooking demonstrations, and cultural activities on special occasions. The Leaf Munnar offers you a great selection of five different uber-comfortable and tastefully appointed villas, each with aesthetic landscaping thatmatch the enchanting ambience, inclusive of free WiFi and each one tastefully appointed to envelop you in perfect coziness with 24-hr room service. You can enjoy a fine dining experience at The Bouquet Garni, the fantastic restaurant serving Indian, Chinese, 47

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Keralite Syrian Christian Weddings A Beautiful Amalgamation of Hindu and Christian Practices Text: Major General Jacob Tharakan Chacko, Sena Medal (Retired) Photographs Courtesy: Weva Photography

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Christian weddings, to most Indians, are what

movies show. What people get to see in Indian movies are, formally attired grooms and brides in flowing gowns, walking down the aisle of ornate churches or the newlyweds and scores of fellow dancers gyrating to pulsating music at a beach resort. Far removed from movie screens Keralite Syrian Christian wedding is a seamless amalgamation of Hindu and Christian customs and traditions in purposeful solemnity. These practices, alien to Western and Eastern Christianity, as also other Christian communities of India, are so integral to Keralite Syrian Christian weddings, its origins and distinctive identities are seldom noticed. Keralite Syrian Christian weddings are, in fact, shining examples of how beautifully native rituals influence religious practices.

Ceremonies, of the wedding day, commences with a prayer before the bride or groom leaves the house. After the prayer, the bride or groom, as a mark of respect and gratitude, gives “Dakshina”, a customary gift, normally, of lemon and a silver coin or cash, placed on a betel leaf, to parents, selected teachers and elders, who, in turn, blesses the bride or groom. This is how, the mandated Christian commandment, “Honour thy father and mother”, subsumed in the Hindu saying, “Mata Pita, Guru Daivam”, is demonstrably implemented. Keralite Hindu wedding ceremony culminates in “Thali Kettu” where, the groom ties the sacred “Thali” or “Mangal Sutra” around the bride’s neck. “Mangal”, drawn from the word, “Mangalam”, in the context 49

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of wedding, means “auspicious” or “happiness” whereas “Sutra” means “discourse”, and at a practical level means “strings” (thread), that holds things together. “Mangal Sutra”, is a gold pendant, that resembles a “Banyan Leaf”, signifying longevity of relationship. The “Thali”, is strung on sacred thread and subjected to chanting of shlokas by the pundit before being given to the groom. After tying the “Mangal Sutra”, groom and bride take “seven rounds” around the “Sacred Fire” to complete the seven wedding vows. “Mangal Sutra”, is believed to bind the groom and his bride to a relationship of marital bliss that will last “seven births”. The Syrian Christian Groom ties a pendant, called “Minnu” also shaped like a banyan leaf, with a Cross in it. The “Minnu” is, held in place by “seven threads” drawn VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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from the “Mantra Kodi”. The seven threads with the “Minnu” represents, one each for the bride, groom, one each for the two sets of parents and the seventh for the Church or society. There is a school of thought which considers the seven threads, as substitute for the “seven rounds” around the holy fire undertaken by the Hindu couple. The Minnu is blessed by all the priests present in the church for the wedding ceremony. One significant ritual, of a Keralite Hindu wedding, is the event where the groom gifts the bride with a dress. Through “Pudava Koduckal”, (“Pudava” means dress and “Koduckal” means “give), the groom assures the bride and declares to the society at large, that he, from then on, shall be the provider and protector of the bride. Keralite Syrian Christian grooms, likewise


gift their brides with the “Mantra Kodi”. “Mantra”, has its origins in Hinduism and denotes “chanting” and “Kodi”, means dress. Though in different formats, “Pudava” or “Kodi” is given during the wedding ceremony, in both, Hindu and Syrian Christian weddings. In the Christian wedding, the “Mantra Kodi” is kept in the designated place throughout the ceremony, blessed by the priests and then given to the bride. As soon as the function at the church finishes, the bride changes into the “Mantra Kodi”, proudly declaring that from then on, the groom is her protector and provider.

A very poignant part of the Hindu wedding, is “Kanya Daanam” where, the bride’s father gives her hand to the groom, formally “entrusting” the bride to the groom. In a Keralite Syrian Christian wedding, the presiding priest, on behalf of the society and church, does the honours. It is common to see the bride’s father and mother reach for their kerchiefs at that moment. Lighting of the “traditional lamp”, by the groom and his bride, together, is an important event in the Keralite

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Syrian Christian wedding feast. Fire for the lamp, is given by the groom’s parents symbolising continuity of the rich family traditions through the newlyweds. Syrian Christians, however, have incorporated the western practice of “Cutting the Wedding Cake” and “Proposing Toasts” as part of the event. Entry of the bride into the groom’s house for the first time, is a very important part of the ceremonies associated with a Keralite wedding. The bride on arrival at the groom’s house, is received by the groom’s mother with a lighted lamp. In some houses, the traditional measure called “Para” filled with paddy and a bunch of coconut flowers is kept at the main door signifying abundance in the groom’s house. The mother-in-law, hands over the lamp to the bride, who then steps into the house, right foot first, signifying her assuming the role as the “light of the house”. Although there could be variations of how this ritual is conducted, from place to place, both Hindu and Syrian Christian households follow it in one form or another. Hindus, in general, take care to ensure that important functions are conducted only during “auspicious” periods. Thus, setting out from the house for wedding will always be outside “Rahu Kaalam”. Though discreetly done, most Keralite Syrian Christians, general-

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ly plan and ensure that, the time to leave the house, “Minnu Kettu” and the brides entry into the groom’s house are kept out of “Rahu Kaalam”. “Minnu Kettu”, “Mantra Kodi” and “Kanya Daanam”, not being part of the Christian liturgy, are performed in the church after conclusion of the pure Christian rites. “Dakshina”, “Mangal Sutra”, “Pudava Koduckal”, “Kanya Daanam”, “Lighting of Lamp”, and “Welcoming with Lamp” are distinctively Hindu customs and alien to Western and Eastern Christianity. Keralite Syrian Christians, adopted local customs, rooted, in Hinduism and elegantly incorporated them into their wedding rituals making it unique. Rituals integral to Keralite Syrian Christian weddings vary in practise, as one travels from the North to South. But, invariably all these are rooted, predominantly to native Hindu customs and rituals, blended to suit requirements of religion. Religion do influence the manner in which local customs and traditions are practised and the resultant diversity is what makes each place uniquely vibrant. A Keralite Syrian Christian wedding, with all its attendant solemnness, gaiety and splendour, is an excellent gateway to understanding synergic evolution of local customs, traditions and rituals.


Ramzan

Devour the Flavours of

Story - Keerthy Ramachandran

Kerala is a food lover’s paradise round the year but

it wears an irresistibly ‘yummylicious’ look during the month of Ramzan. Appetizing smells of stacks of muttapathiri, unnakkaya, kozhi pidi and irachi pathiri among many other delicacies will waft into your nose as you walk into every Muslim house. The beauty of Ramzan in the God’s own country is, that you will even bump into a non-muslim wishing “Ramzan Aashamsakal” ( Ramzan wishes) and happily inviting you to his house for an Iftar treat. Celebrating the Mappila cuisine and venerating the spirit of the festival, during this time most hotels and restaurants of the state conduct Iftar special food festivals and banquets for everyone who wants to experience the magnificence of Ramzan. Since historic times, the Muslim community in the state has played a pivotal role in enriching not just Kerala’s cultural but so also its culinary heritage as

well. It is known that Islam spread in Kerala during the prophetic period and hence the small state has a long Ramzan tradition. Mass Iftar gatherings are organized by communities, commercial enterprises and educational institutions and private ones conducted in houses by the neighbours and relatives. Long sermons and gatherings are conducted during the day in mosques and many travel to different pilgrim spots, tombs and shrines of Sufi saints in the state. A sea of humanity pours into bazaars in the mornings to buy new clothes, jewellery and fresh produce to prepare the Iftar delicacies, to host the perfect treat in the evenings. As the Muslim community in Kerala actively participates to make every Ramzan a pious and joyful celebration of brotherhood, faith and tradition, what distinguishingly beckons every traveler to the land of Malabari cuisine will be the celebratory dishes that are prepared specially during this season of the year. 53

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Kerala Travel Explorer brings to its readers a list of 10 Must-Have Iftar Special Dishes: 1. Pathiri and Irachi Pathiri (Thurki pathiri from Mezban hotel) A dinner classic in Malabari cooking served with hot meat curry, Pathiris are thin flat breads made of rice flour. A versatile dish in itself, it can be seen in a number of variants including chatty pathiri, meen pathiri, neypathiri, kannu vecha pathiri, poricha pathiri etc. The most popular of them all is the Irachi pathiri, a favourite snack option throughout the year in North Malabar ( Thalashery and Malappuram). Mutton, beef or chicken are stuffed inside the rice crepes and deep fried in oil to make Irachi pathiris. These samosa-sized snacks are a staple in Iftar menu. A popular variant in Kozhikode is Thurki pathiri.

2. Unnakkaya or Pazham Nirachathu Unnakkaya is a sweet muslim recipe that is prepared with plantain, it is crunchy on outside and soft inside. Grated coconut, sugar, eggs (optional), nuts and raisins are roasted in ghee and stuffed inside cooked plantain which is then deep fried in oil. This traditional sweet snack will not need any accompaniments and its taste is sure to light up smiles on the grumpiest of faces.

3. Chicken cutlet A popular starter item in the Iftar menu, especially among kids, it is prepared with minced chicken and boiled potatoes. Cooked chicken along with spices is kneaded with mashed potatoes to make small patties which are then coated in eggs and breadcrumbs for shallow fry. The Kerala style chicken cutlet will have lots of onions, ginger and pinches of garam masala, chilli powder and turmeric powder adding to the exquisite flavour. VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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4. Mutta Surka These cute little hat-shaped snacks are not just a delight to gorge on but to make as well. Prepared with eggs and rice flour, it has a really simple recipe and the joy is in seeing the batter in hot oil rise up to cute little balls in an unniyappam/ paniyaram pan. The pan has several cavities in it and the mutta surka batter is poured into these. Since no Kerala dish is complete without adding coconut, a mix of grated coconut, shallots, ginger and curry leaves are added to the batter to make the snack crunchier.

5. Thari Kanji A lightly sweetened drink cum porridge, thari kanji is one of the first dishes taken for breaking fast after dates. Semolina/rava is cooked in diluted milk with sugar and a pinch of cardamom. One of the main ingredients which infuse an exotic aroma and flavor to the dish is shallots roasted in ghee. It is said Ramzan treats are incomplete without the thari kanji, which particularly stands out for its nutritional value.

6. Bread Kai Pola Here is an oil-free Iftar snack for the health conscious out there. A baked wholesome delicacy made of bread, milk, eggs and spices, the bread pola could be referred to as a ‘Malabari quiche’. Filling of chicken and meat could be added to the mix to make Chicken Kai Pola and Irachi Kai Pola. The Pola is a hot-selling Iftar snack in restaurants and bakeries these days.

7. Muttamala A typical Malabar dessert served for the newlyweds’ party (Puthiyappila salkaaram) in Muslim families of Kerala, Muttamala is another Iftar favourite.


The traditional sweet is made by separating the yolk and white of the egg, cooking the former to thread like consistency and dipped in sugar syrup, while the latter is steamed into pinjathappam (cakes). Both are served hot together and garnished with cherries.

A visit to Kerala during the month of Ramzan is sure to leave many wonderful impressions on your mind. Just as it is absolutely magical to see several simple ingredients blending together to conjure heavenly cuisine, the holy month of Ramzan in God’s own country is indeed a magical celebration of mouthwatering flavours, faith and tradition.

8. Pidi (Kozhi Pidi Curry from Biverah Hotel) A wholesome preparation from the Great Malabar coast, Pidi is small rice dumpling served in rich gravy. In parts of Kochi, a variant called Muthiya is prepared by the Cutchi muslims which has bigger dumplings. Pidi is yet another versatile Mappila preparation which takes varying forms and flavours in different parts of the state. While Kozhi pidi prepared with chicken gravy is a hit, its vegetarian counterpart made with ridge-gourd and drumstick is a lesser known yet scrumptious variant.

9. Kerala Style Mutton Curry A perfect protein recipe for Ramzan, the Kerala style mutton curry is best had with hot pathiris. Tender mutton pieces are cooked with a blend of coriander powder, chili powder, poppy seeds, turmeric powder, ginger garlic paste, cumin seeds and coconut. A special ingredient which brings the Kerala twist to the mutton curry is kudampuli, a must-add item in the coastal fish curries.

10. Phirni A sweet concoction of full cream milk, basmati rice and sugar, Phirni is a royal dessert served in earthen clay pots and garnished with edible silver leaves. The popular dessert in North India was brought to Kerala by the Cutchi Muslims years back and remains popular till date for its simple yet rich taste.

The Ammachi kozhi roast from Biverah Hotel

Where to Taste The Best of Iftar Treats in Kerala Kochi Where: Ifthar Restaurant, Edappally What to eat: Muttamala, Kilikkoodu, Chattipathiri

Trivandrum Where: Biverah Hotel and Suites, Kumarapuram What to eat: Ammachi Kozhi roast, Kozhi pidi curry, Kabsa rice, Shish Tawook

Kozhikode Where: Mezban Restaurant, Mavoor Road What to eat: Thurki Pathiri, Dweep Biriyani, Uloose, Paal bazhakka

Thrissur Where: Sulaimani 168, East Fort What to eat: Aanachavitti, Thaliparamban Dum Biriyani, Vaini Sulaimani 55

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Laurie Baker Architecture The Legacy Continues Text: Anisha Rudrani

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Laurie Baker was homegrown global brand name for

organic architecture. The British-born Indian architect pioneered ethnic homes with local materials rather than importing exotic stuff to build homes incongruous to the surroundings. He moved to India in 1945 and became an Indian citizen thereafter. Baker buildings breathe and feel unlike the concrete structure that has no organic life of its own. His structures throb with life and fill the inhabitant with an inexplicable sense of wellbeing. Much before Kerala or even India talked of maximizing

use of space and 3-D and 360 angle view, Baker synthesized home and backdrop using locally grown raw materials for the environ-friendly homes. It was Baker who had taken the lead and showed to people how we could build cost-effective and cool homes that strike a symphony with the surrounding. As he used bricks in raw form and not plastered, his homes are known as a “symphony in red.” He was an

admirer of Gandhiji and that is how Baker tried to combine Gandhi’s simplicity with dwelling. He was nicknamed Gandhi of architecture. Baker’s designs are not copied from anywhere. They are at once humble and majestic—an impossible task for the ordinary but not for a master builder. His sketches usually have traditional Indian slanting roofs and terracotta, Mangalore tile shingling with gables and vents allowing rising hot air to escape. His buildings are designed using natural lighting and ventilation, and he used resources available locally. He often rummaged salvage heaps for anything he could use in his buildings, however unconventional that could be.

Even coloured liquor bottles found their way to create intricate patterns of light on the walls. Kerala, the southern peninsular state of India, became his karma-bhoomi since 1963 and Thiruvanthapuram boasts of having some of his architectural masterpieces. Do not give a miss if you are planning a trip to this state. Kerala 57

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Travel Explorer takes you on a pictorial journey through some of his works that stand the test of time whose designs are still very much more in vogue. Here are some stops you can’t miss out. The Hamlet This is Baker’s own residence at Nalanchira in Thiruvananthapuram. The house, built on a steep slope and rocky landscape, is a marvellous embodiment of sustainable environment with vegetation all around. The freshness is akin to what one feels inside a thick forest. Baker has not cut a single tree to build his house; instead he moulded his design to fit the landscape much like a skilled tailor stitches your coat to your body fit. Each nook, each niche, each room or attic and foyet—everything has the Baker touch. The murals are made out of stone, waste ceramics and bottles. A home that looks like it is grown from the grounds. And, it is in this place where he made his hand-drawn plans for his clients. A visit to this beautiful yet moody place is like taking a pilgrimage to the lap of nature. It invokes the nature

lover in you, and imparts to you some thoughtful lessons on creating a home that is truly natural. Take home a lesson or two on the grounded, relevant and simple methods of home building for there is only one Laurie Baker. Centre for Development Studies (CDS) campus Another Baker mark. Sprawling majestically on a 10-acre land, this research institute houses a library, computer centre, auditorium, hostels, guesthouses and residential units for the staff. VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Exposed brick walls are used in creative patterns that beautify the structure and at the same time freshen up the air, letting the air in and out. Rubble granite, white in colour, is used for plinths contrastingly matching with the red bricks. The red-oxide flooring gives much needed coolness to your feet. The outlines of the buildings are something that awes you; there are no single straight lines, instead the lines go in curves circles and arcs. One reason is the trees that often become an obstacle on the way the building goes. And Baker swerves from his plan a little letting the tree free from being chopped. A win -win for the trees and the architecture. Little courtyards and pools here and there are Baker’s way of making his creation a living thing. The courtyards are the breathing spaces or the lungs of the building, a rare find in modern architecture. The ponds help in microclimatic control through evaporative cooling. The circular library tower is the stand-out feature of the campus. The staircase winds around a circular shaft which runs from the bottom till the top. The

shaft provides forced ventilation inside and there are small openings at each floor level. The air is let in through these openings and escapes through the open top of the shaft. The holes in the jaali wall allow plenty of natural light inside and create a beautiful ambience for reading. Baker knows what purpose the building serves. For an architecture student, CDS is his/her workbook. For others, it’s just another beautiful building one can admire for a lifetime.


The Loyola Complex The Loyola complex houses a high school and a post-graduate complex, both of them sharing a common chapel and an auditorium. Building the church and auditorium was not an easy task because of the seating capacity it demanded. It was here he devised a wide cavity double wall with cross-bracing brick. The windowless cavity walls are pierced with a floor-to-roof pattern of jalis thus lighting the inside adequately even without electric lamps. The open patterns of brickwork successfully control the reverberations which a church or the auditorium is destined to make.

seat yourself somewhere down so that the staff can serve you immediately. This robs you off the opportunity to see the city’s bustle from the top, a rare sight. What can be better is take your plate once served and climb up to get a better view.

It is Baker’s mastery over lights that’s evidently visible in

Ponmudi Cottages The conical green roofed granite cottages built on the 3000-foot high peak at Ponmudi, almost sixty kilometres from the city, blend beautifully with the scenery that surrounds them. It’s not an exaggeration if one resembles them with small hillocks. The isolated cottages are located 915 metres above the mean sea-level and are visible from the bottom of the hill.

the design of the chapel. Indian Coffee House If you land in Trivandrum by train or bus, the chances are very rare that you miss the red cylindrical-shaped building in the heart of Thampanoor, courtesy its unusual design. The building is conceived as a continuous spiral ramp where the seating are provided on the outer side and the inner side acts as a staircase but without stairs. Watch out, the slippery slope, when it rains, has endured some slips and falls.

Inside the cottages are the home-like comforts you look for when travelling. Varying shapes and dimensions act at many levels: a square plan for students, an octagon for a couple and a smaller square for a family. There are many more. A day or two is well-spent if you visit Baker’s buildings, especially if you are an architecture enthusiastic. Just adore them, they stand here reminding you of a man who is long gone and missed by many.

You can never say its storeys, for there are none, but the asymmetrical balance it gives with a small cylindrical volume on top can never be missed. The bold and beautiful design, just like any other of Baker’s, has thoroughly used the natural lights through the brickworks; and acts better as carved artworks. The triangular-cut-in-middle jaali gives splendour to the building. The only drawback is, you are asked to 59

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“Come Out and Play is the new campaign by Kerala Tourism” Text: Remitha John

P Bala Kiran, IAS Director of Tourism, Kerala

The most celebrated District Collector of Kannur is today

basking in the charm of an illustrious profile. As the Director of Kerala Tourism, P Bala Kiran, IAS is today spearheading some major projects which are set to unveil the unexplored tourism potentials of the God’s Own Country. The young IAS officer has already carved a niche for himself in the minds of Keralites by winning two national awards from the President of India for the ‘Innovative measures’ implemented in Kannur during the Assembly Elections of 2016 and for the ‘Barrier-free Kannur’ project by making the district more accessible for the differently-abled section. With such a brilliant track record, he proved to be a truly deserving recipient for the ‘Best Collector of Kerala’ in 2016 for his outstanding work in Kannur. Bala Kiran has been in Kerala for almost 10 years now. It is evident with the appreciation received from the state and the country; he naturally leaves a mark where ever he works; puts every effort to discover new scopes for VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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growth and at the same time, does not bear a twofold regret for being away from his hometown, Hyderabad. With this winning spirit and a delightful demeanor, Bala Kiran lead the Department of Kerala Tourism by attentively observing and consciously conquering the pulse of the tourism sector in Kerala. In fact, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially with the skill sets he has attained from the B.Tech and M.Tech degress in Computer Science and Engineering from IIT Madras and the experience as a Missile Scientist from DRDO; these are hard to beat. Nevertheless, Bala Kiran truly rejoices his stint in Kerala because he has a transfixed symphony with the beaches here, the Kerala sadya, karimeen polichathu and thalaserry biriyani. In an interview with Kerala Travel Explorer, P Bala Kiran discussed the compelling trajectory for the tourism sector in Kerala.


Can you throw light on the new initiatives of the Department of Tourism under the ambit of ‘Responsible Tourism’? The Kerala tourism policy 2017 launched in November gives great importance to ‘Responsible Tourism.’ We intend to create state-of-the-art facilities without compromising on the principles of ‘Responsible Tourism’ and ‘Accessible Tourism.’ Responsible Tourism (RT), means the benefits of tourism would reach the local community without hampering the environment. In this context, almost 10 years back, Kerala Tourism had initiated the plan in seven destinations including Kumarakom and Munnar. But now, we will be expanding across the state. A ‘Responsible Tourism Mission’ has also been initiated which comprises of a special office within Kerala Tourism. All the 14 districts will encamp RT Mission offices. The role of these offices is to incorporate RT in all its tourism activities. So far, we have 118 RT units while the goal is to reach a 1000 units by the end of this year. What is ‘Jalayanam?’ and how did it come into being? We have not used the concept ‘Jalayanam’ yet, but have started with a plan called ‘River Cruise Tourism.’ In Malabar, we conceived this project for Rs 325 crores which combine eight rivers through Kasargode, Kannur, Mahe, and Calicut. We have formulated several cruises namely ‘Theyyam Cruise,’ ‘Muthappan Cruise,’ ‘Mangrove Cruise,’ and the like which will bypass the local areas of the Malabar region. This project is going to be marketed as the next big project for Kerala Tourism. The government of Kerala has sanctioned about Rs 50-60 crores for this infrastructure. We have also taken it to the Central Government and is hoping to receive a positive response. PEPPER (People’s Participation for Planning and Empowerment through Responsible Tourism) aims at popularising unexplored destinations through sustainable practices. Which are some of the places covered under this scheme? PEPPER is more than popularizing unexplored destinations. It is about projecting tourism sector as a unique body under the garb of peoples’ participation. For this, we are conducting various gram sabhas in the panchayat level, incorporating the entire panchayat for planning tourism in that specific area. We have initiated this project in Vaikom municipality and surrounding panchayats in Vaikom block. By this, Kerala Tourism will include peoples’ participation right from the planning stage of creating a tourism destination. So far,

“Responsible Tourism means the benefits of tourism should reach the local community and it should not hamper the environment.” we received tremendous traction for the same. This will help us in creating new plans and programmes under the ambit of RT which will promote a fine ground for homestays as well. In your opinion, what more needs to be done to promote tourism in Kerala? Though Kerala has been a tourism destination for almost 20 years in India, there are only a few known places namely Athirapilly, Fort Kochi, Munnar, Thekkady, Alleppy, Kumarakom, Varkala, and Kovalam. However, there are umpteen more places that have the potential but has not been tapped, especially Northern Kerala as per records not more than eight percent of people visit. Even places like Ashtamudi and Pathanamthitta have not been explored to a fine extent. Firstly, we are planning to expand the tourism paraphernalia to the entire state. Secondly, tourism in Kerala spikes for merely five months. We are, thus, planning to glamorize monsoon tourism mainly because we have rain for about four to five months and we hope to brand it as one of the main products. Thirdly, tourism in Kerala has been heavily focused as a honeymoon, family or a leisure destination. Kerala Tourism wants to change that idea by attracting the younger crowd who would not prefer to sit inside a houseboat but explore the excitement. Thus, we have asked each district to come up with core ideas to promote adventure tourism. Which are the destinations that are currently under development? In Kollam, we are coming up with the ‘Jetayu Earth’s Centre’ which will house the world’s largest bird sculpture, a 100-crore project. This will bring many to

“Tourism sector is the only sector that can produce mass employment in a major scale. 61

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“We have asked each district to come up with core ideas to promote adventure tourism.”

Kollam district. In North, we have the ‘River Cruise’ project. Also, we are now making detailed plans on developing Muziris Heritage Project,’ ‘Thalassery Heritage Project,’ and ‘Alappuzha Heritage Project;’ these three will form the core projects for Central, North and South Kerala. Kerala is presently known as the ‘land of adventure.’ How did this come about on the map? We have been focusing on adventure projects and had been focusing on the same. We have been promoting Kerala on the campaign ‘Come Out and Play’ through all media. MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourism seems to be an area of focus now in the travel sector. What are your thoughts on this? Will the state benefit from this segment? We have been trying to increase our numbers during our off-season and also to save the industry during minor hiccups. We have also found that there are frequent tourists who travel to Kerala and stay here mostly during the off-season. MICE tourism has been given due importance we have been encouraging MICE properties in Kerala. Tourism has been avoided from hartals. Has this become a mandatory rule to be followed or is it still a far-fetched dream? Tourism being avoided from hartals has been vehemently demanded by the tourism industry and the Department. But mostly, the people of the state and tourists have been asking for the same. It is only obvious for the guests who visit Kerala finding it difficult when we impose our internal problems on them. As we have exempted the IT sector from hartal, we decided the same for tourism as well. Given the context in mind, the Chief VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Minister of Kerala called an all-party meeting to bring a consensus between all the parties to avoid tourism from the hartals. This decision will also help the tourism department to work properly and also allow the tourists to move freely across the state. This has been unanimously supported by all the political parties. However, this is a covenant, and not a law but has been accepted with an understanding by all, for the goodwill of tourism sector of Kerala. Job opportunities are plenty in tourism sector and the Department of Tourism has also been organising career guidance programmes on a large scale. How is the response from the youth of the state? The tourism sector is the only sector that can produce mass employment in a major scale simply because tourism or hospitality cannot be replaced by machines. People prefer to get pampered by a person, not a machine which is the reason as to why hospitality sector needs more manpower. By 2020-2021, we are going to build 4.5 lakh job offers in this sector. How has Department of Tourism become a part of pilgrimages? Pilgrim tourism doesn’t come under Department of Tourism but we have owned it up because people who come for pilgrimage, say to Sabarimala or Guruvayoor, do not only visit the shrine, but also find time to check out the neighboring districts. Keeping this in mind we have put in Rs 100 crore for the betterment of Sabarimala. The Devaswom board has also put in Rs 100 to Rs 200 crore for pilgrim amenities. Any mile stones that you wish to make in this department? I do hope to make the state disabled friendly and provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled tourists. Our main focus, however, will increase the number of tourists to this state. To enable this we are building upon the learnings from the recent events in the tourism sector. The sector will be immediately ramped up with more CCTVs, basic toilet facilities, and lighting up all the places. We are also bringing in more tourism police which will include special police personnel for tourism department alone. We are also going to hike the number of women tourism police and give them special uniform to distinguish them from others. Tourism police will also be given special training including learning multiple languages.special training including learning multiple languages.


My Fit

Physique is an Investment Text: Priya S

Unni Mukundan 63

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The sobriquet Mallu Singh is all that is needed as a

calling card for the handsome and supremely fit actor Unni Mukundan who is currently making waves not only in Mollywood but also Tollywood, having shared screen space with biggies like Mohanlal in Janatha Garage, Mammootty in Masterpiece, and Anushka Shetty in Bhaagamathie. The success wave he is riding currently is a well deserved and long overdue one, for a boy who always had stardust in his eyes. His journey to fulfilling a long cherished dream began in the year 2011 through the Tamil film Seedan and then with the Malayalam films Bombay March 12 and Bangkok Summer. From there it has been a rollercoaster of a journey with its troughs and crests. The young actor admits to having quit twice but thanks to the intervention of some loved ones from tinsel town, he stuck it out to reach where he is today. Unni believes that there is no substitute for hard work and in having a fit body to reach his goal. Unni bares his mind to Kerala Travel Explorer on his journey. The tinsel town dream I belong to a middle class family that hails from Thrissur, but soon after I was born we shifted to Ahmedabad, in VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Gujarat. And, it was only when I was in Xth grade, that I saw my first film Kaho Na Pyar Hai in a theatre. My school was next to Anupam theatre and I used to watch all the posters of the films playing there with interest. I saw the poster of Kaho Na Pyar Hai and decided to go watch the film. That cemented my decision to become an actor. I was always good at story- telling and loved music and knew that I could make it as an actor. Though I was good in studies, my film dreams made me keep my studies on the back burner.

“It was in Xth grade, that I saw a film for the first time in theatre, it was Kaho Na Pyar Hai. That film cemented my decision to be an actor.�


The role of your parents in supporting your dream I was working in Ahmedabad, when I finally laid bare my heart and told my parents that I wanted to act in films. They never tried to discourage me. Admittedly, the fact that I wanted to act was shocking to them because in my family nobody had the habit of watching films. My father set out to search and find out director Lohithadas’s address. I remember, I wrote a letter to him mentioning my dreams and since it was a registered letter he received it. Lohithadas as a mentor Lohithadas called me up and the first thing he said was that my handwriting was good. Soon Lohithadas offered me the film Nivedyam when I was still working in Gujarat. But at that point instead of wanting to become an actor, I wanted to be a director, because I thought the director was bigger than the hero, so I did not accept Nivedyam which went on to become a big hit. Lohithadas harbored no resentment and became my mentor. He made sure that I would not lose my focus on films.

“When you become successful everything changes. What was bad earlier becomes acceptable. I worked in films that were out of my comfort zone and even wrote and sang for my films Achayans and Chanakyathantram. I played a woman in Chanakyathanthram. That’s the confidence I gathered from my journey”

Eventually, I came down to Kerala and shuttled between a rented place and staying with my cousins in Guruvayur. Lohithadas Introduced me to Johny Sagarika-the producer. The film he was producing was Bodyguard which was being shot and I used to stand in the crowd and observe Dileep and Nayanthara, and come up with queries for Lohitadas, who I recall telling me not to visit the locations anymore, and that I was like a clean slate and not to get any preconceived notions into my head. He treated me very well and taught me a lot of things; most importantly made me believe in films. He was my mentor and more than that a perfect host. If Malayalam cinema was a big house, he made sure that I could have food from there. When he died, my world shattered. I went back to Gujarat and decided to join the Army. I even cut my hair short for that, which was when Goodknight Mohan saw my photo and his manager called me for a Tamil film Seedan – the remake of the super hit Nandanam. Debut in Seedan. When Seedan came, I told the makers that I had left cinema and was not interested. But the team said they had seen my photo and asked if I could come for a screen test. My mom heard the conversation and advised me not to turn my back when my dream was beckoning and to give it a try. So I went to Chennai for the screen test with a bald head. I got the screen test done and they liked my look and in the year 2011, I shot for my first film 65

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which was Seedan. Soon Bombay March 12 opposite Mammootty came and then Bangkok Summer happened. Mallu Singh first commercial success. Mallu Singh directed by Vyshakh was the turning point in my life. People started knowing me by name and I Mallu Singh first commercial success. Mallu Singh directed by Vyshakh was the turning point in my life. People started knowing me by name and I got an identity as an actor. In fact I got so much attention that I could not handle it and I had no guidance then. I went back to Gujarat and decided to take up a job. If you notice, there is a 11 month gap after Mallu Singh got released. I had also gone a bit fat. It was scriptwriter Sethu and director B.Unnikrishnan who pulled me back into films. They asked me to fight it out and they wanted me to act which is when I started accepting other films. Soon Thalsamayam Oru Penkutty, Orissa and I Love Me gave me the opening I required and I have now completed more than two dozen films.

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“I love Ottapalam and Malappuram in Kerala. I love to take off on unplanned solo trips in my Land Rover. I just get into it and mostly take off to places that serve good food. I love eating roadside food- especially hot unniappams.�


The fat to fit journey from Vikramadithyan Lal Jose gave me this awesome character Vikram because he thought that under proper guidance I could go places. Slowly, under his guidance I became Muscle Aliyan. That role was the catalyst for my physical transformation. My character in Vikramadithyan was perfect and I wanted a physique that was also perfect. I lost 25 kilos of fat and gained 18 kilos of muscle in 5 and a half months. The very fact that I could transform my physique was a huge morale booster. It upped my confidence levels and also made me believe in myself as an actor. Even after the film wrapped up, I did not want to lose the physique I had worked so hard for, and maintained it. I uploaded my Fat to Fit journey on YouTube and got a lot of views and inspired many others to start their own transformations.

“It pains me to see that we in Kerala are so educated and literate yet we litter our state. It is so easy to make the state a clean place if everyone does their bit about not littering. In cities, there is garbage spilling over and piling up. When I see that with a tourist’s eye, I feel humiliated.”

The misconception that muscle- bound actors cannot act. Actually, when you become fit you become more flexible. Acting is not in the muscles, it is in the expressions. A fit body is my USP and I do not want to change that to satisfy misconceptions. Even in my 30’s and 40’s, I would want my physique to look the same. My fit physique is my investment and what most people spend on clothes, I spend in the gym. How success changes view points. When you become successful everything changes. What was bad earlier becomes acceptable. I worked in films that were out of my comfort zone and even wrote and sang for my films Achayans and Chanakyathantram. I played a woman in Chanakyathanthram. That is the confidence I gathered on my journey. 67

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“Mallu Singh directed by Vyshakh was the turning point in my life. People started knowing me by name and I got an identity as an actor. In fact I got so much attention, that I could not handle it.”

On competition It is a big industry- there are thousands of stories and many more directors. There is space for everyone here. I have done horror, political, comedy, romance and action films. I am glad that people are forgetting that I am an action hero and that they cannot peg me into a slot. On acting in Telugu I acted in Janatha Garage with Mohanlal who I understand recommended my name. Actually the makers of Janatha Garage saw KL 10 and Vikramadithyan and liked my characters and I readily agreed. It got me a lot of mileage in Telugu. My second film Bhaagamathie was opposite Anushka Shetty. She is such a gem. She is a superstar and I was this 15 film old actor from Malayalam but she is so grounded. She would share her journey with me which was very inspiring. She even gave me tips with regard to style, costumes and behaviour in playing a woman in Chanakyathanthram. Telugu gave me creative characters and both my characters had life in them. My First Car I bought a Honda City after my 13th film. I also own a Land Rover now. Offers from Bollywood. Yes, I am getting offers from Hindi. I met Rakesh Omprakash Mehra recently. I plan to do certain kinds of films and not clichéd ones in Bollywood. I want to recreate my success in Tamil and Malayalam. I would be ready to step into Hindi in a year or so. Hindi is a language I am comfortable with and that will be to my benefit.

Travel in Kerala Kerala is a beautiful state and it’s wonderful to experience the dialectical diversities it boasts of from district to district. I love Ottapalam and Malappuram in Kerala. I love to take off on unplanned solo trips in my Land Rover. I just get into it and mostly take off to places that serve good food. I love eating roadside food- especially hot unniappams though some would argue it is not healthy. I cherish those. Surprisingly, Munnar is a place I have not visited and I want to go there sometime soon. Steps that can be taken to improve Kerala tourism Whenever I travel on the beautiful ghat roads, all I see is plastic waste that litters the winding, beautiful landscape. I love forests so it pains me to see that we in Kerala are so educated and literate yet we litter our state. It is so easy to make the state a clean place if everyone does their bit about not littering. In cities, there is garbage spilling over and piling up. When I see that with a tourist’s eye, I feel humiliated. Earlier I used to take to social media to write about issues but I feel nobody is bothered and that no change is happening, so I have stopped posting anything. There is no proper garbage dumping system and neither is there a segregation of organic and plastic waste. The government has to do something about it. A secret wish I want to start a gym. 69

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THE DREAM CATCHER

Prayaga Martin

Text: Priya S Photographs: Gokul Ramachandran, Navaf Sharafudheen & Rijo Jose Venue Courtesy: Crowne Plaza, Kochi

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Happy girls are the prettiest and going by that Prayaga

Martin is downright ravishing. She walks in, a vision in blue, with a lovely smile lighting up her face. No wonder there, Prayaga has a lot to be happy about this year. She took baby steps in Mollywood as a child actor through Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded, that featured none other than the legend Mohanlal in the lead, and then graduated to playing the female lead in a film Pisasu directed by well known Tamil director Mysskin. The success of that film had Mollywood rolling out the welcome mat for her. Nearing the tenth film mark, Prayaga has had the luck to work alongside some big names in Malayalam, actors and directors included. Her latest project Ramleela opposite Dileep set the cash registers ringing at the box office. In an industry known for its fickleness, Prayaga is someone who believes in carving her own path through hard work and dedication to her craft. Her fairytale journey can be termed as a mixture of luck as well as a keen astuteness, to separate the grain from the chaff. Prayaga opens up about her life, career and travel in a chat with Kerala Travel Explorer conducted at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Kochi.

Can you tell us how you entered the world of cinema? It was never a planned entry. I have always been fascinated by the glitz and glamour of the film industry, loved cinema and the stars that shone bright. Eventually, that fascination made a few of my dad’s friends spot me and ask if I could act in their project. So that is how Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded became my stepping stone in Malayalam at age thirteen. I followed that up with a small role in Ustad Hotel .

“I love Palakkad because my mom is from there. We make a trip to Palakkad every year and for me the fascination of Palakkad is that it is a mix of Tamil Nadu and Kerala cultures and I like the confusion that amalgamation brings.” 71 VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018


While acting in Ustad Hotel, I was in the tenth grade and that is certainly not the age to think of taking up films as a career. I did it purely for the excitement and fascination I had with the medium and yes, I am really happy that I did those two films because I got a ringside view of what tinsel town entailed. That experience helped me when I actually debuted because I already had an idea about films and did not suffer from the proverbial butterflies in my stomach syndrome, nor did I experience any camera fright. I was very comfortable in front of the camera. You made a mark in Tamil through Pisasu and then came to Malayalam. How did Pisasu come to you? I did Pisasu when I finished my twelfth grade. Before Pisasu came my way, I had done a modeling assignment for jewellery and was spotted by Mysskin sir on a hoarding in Kerala. I think he had a picture of his heroine in mind and I suited that image. Imagine, he actually wanted to cast an unknown girl as his lead. I was lucky to have been spotted by him and being a part of his film. It was all luck and destiny and again there was no planned entry in Tamil. Language is not a barrier for any actor. VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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“ Kerala has to focus on its identity, which is its natural beauty. Kerala is an amalgamation of different topographies and there is a lot that we can promote to the outside world. We must know how to promote Kerala - the marketing strategies must ensure that Kerala be presented as a wholesome package.�


You have worked with names like Dileep, Jayasurya, Unni Mukundan and Sunny Wayne. What have been you biggest takeaways from these projects? It has been a great learning experience because each and every one of them have got their own identity and style of working. They have a way of doing things that is different from the others. So it is great to work alongside them and observe them without their knowing and that makes it a learning experience. With Dileep, Jayettan, Unni and Sunny, what they have in common is that have put in copious amount of hard work to reach where they are today. How much importance is given to actresses in the Malayalam film industry, both on-screen and off-screen? To be honest, be it on-screen or off-screen, I think it is all about the vibe you project. The vibe you give out is what you get back. Be it respect, how you perceive others or how presentable you are – all that matters when you are a public figure. Sometimes actors are not treated the way they should be. There are times when they are misinterpreted; they are trolled and many a times misjudged too. Given such situations, it is also about the extra responsibility vested in a public figure to make your point clear. To err is human and the heart to apologise and say sorry is what is important. Whatever profession you are in- be it a businesswoman, a dancer or an actor, you are a human being at the end of the day. It is important to be genuine in front of people. When a public figure is misjudged or trolled for having said or done XYZ, I think it is okay and a part of the game and I enjoy it. I also think people have a big heart and that you cannot actually blame them for being critical of your work. That’s how the public should be and that is where you should put your bar. People in Kerala are literate and intelligent and it is imperative to remember that you are in front of an audience who knows their stuff.

“On a no-work day, my favourite haunt in Kerala would be Fort Kochi -it is my hang out and chill out place. Whenever I get some free time, I along with my friends make a beeline to Fort Kochi. There are some shacks there, that I love for awesome food they serve.”

Do you think the audience of today is more receptive to female-centric films? I think female centric roles are well accepted by the audience in Kerala or for that matter anywhere in the country. Your dream role? Whenever I am asked this question, I automatically go back in time and pick a few Malayalam films and think of the talented actors who played those roles. But that is not the point- imitating legendary actors all over again. My dream role would be the one I create for my audience. 73

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How often do you travel for leisure? What are your favourite destinations in Kerala? I love travelling and am a certified travel geek. Travelling gives me a lot of pleasure; it is one way to relax and turn into a free bird. During your travels, you get to meet a lot of people and see a lot of places. There is also an exposure to a new culture. Oh yes, food is something I enjoy relishing from all the places I travel because I am a huge foodie. Can you name your favourite destinations in Kerala? I love Palakkad because my mom is from there. We make a trip to Palakkad every year and for me the fascination of Palakkad is that it is a mix of Tamil Nadu and Kerala cultures and I like the confusion that amalgamation brings. Once there, you can hear people speaking Tamil and Malayalam. Though a Christian, there are a lot of temples there which I love visiting. Alleppey is also a favourite on account of its backwaters. I love beaches, especially Kovalam. But on a no-work day, my favourite haunt in Kerala would be Fort Kochi -it is my hang out and chill out place. Whenever I get some free time, I along with my friends make a beeline to Fort Kochi. There are some shacks there, that I love for the awesome food they serve. What are your favourite travel memories? Very recently, I got the opportunity to visit the Holy Land-Jerusalem and Palestine. That was the most memorable trip to date and will remain the closest to my heart. I still cannot believe that I got the chance to visit the place where Jesus was born. I went with my faith and that made it all the more special. What are the elements that you think should be promoted more to enhance the travel potential of Kerala? As someone currently doing her Masters in Travel and Tourism management I would say- Kerala has to focus on its identity, which is its natural beauty. We have beaches, backwaters, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, hill stations and wildlife. Kerala is an amalgamation of different topographies and there is a lot that we can promote to the outside world. We must know how to promote Kerala - the marketing strategies must ensure that Kerala be presented as a wholesome package.”

“My advice to everyone would be to stay positive and be happy. Every human being is capable of doing big in life. It is all about the hard work, determination and the perseverance to focus on what you want and then reach for that goal.” VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

What can’t you leave home without? (Laughs) One would be my parents! I am independent but I love having my parents around because it makes me feel secure. I am an only child and they have been wonderful parents. Otherwise in my bag would be a bottle of water, my make up pouch and then of course my mobile phone which is like a multi -purpose tool. When I travel, I carry a charger, a power bank and a cap and jacket. 74


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A favourite piece of advice you have received and that you love giving others? I don’t have the habit of advising people because I am not someone who takes everybody’s advice and then does so accordingly. I take suggestions but I have my own opinions. I do listen to what people say because listening to others is important and I try to imbibe whatever good they say. My advice to everyone would be to stay positive and be happy. Every human being is capable of doing big in life. It is all about the hard work, determination and the perseverance to focus on what you want and then reach for that goal. Your favourite designer and brand? Your favourite pick of actors who dress well? That would be Tiya & Maria creations. The outfit I have currently donned is one of theirs. I am somebody who loves branded stuff but am not brand crazy! If there is something I like, even if I am street shopping, I will pick that up. I love shoes, sunglasses and watches; when I travel, that is what I pick up. My favourite brand is Nike and sometimes I feel I am half sportsperson and half glamour girl. I like the way Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya or Kangana dress up.

If not an actor, what would Prayaga have been? Any plan B? I cannot think of a situation where I would not have been an actor. Nobody told me to become an actor. I became one because I wanted to become an actor and worked towards that dream. But that does not mean that I do not have a plan B. I love being independent and since I am doing my Masters In travel, I get to do my field and practical classes when I travel. So in a sense my work and my studies are complementary. Which are your upcoming projects? One with director Shafi titled Oru Pazhe Bombkatha where I get to share screen space with scriptwriter Bibin George who is turning a hero. I also have another project with director G Marthandan, opposite Kunchacko Boban for the first time. Any offers from Tamil cinema? Yes, I am getting offers from Tamil and Telugu but nothing that I like or that has me excited. Malayalam has been very soul filling that way.

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Soumya Sathish

Reinventing the Charm of Lasya A Candid Conversation with Dancer & Actor Soumya Sathish who is in a mission to revive literature through Mohiniyattam Text: Keerthy Ramachandran

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It was a really special day at Changampuzha

Samskarika Kendram, Kochi. The cultural centre established in memory of Kerala’s greatest romantic poet, the late Changampuzha Krishnan Pillai, made venue to a spectacular form of art which celebrated the brilliance of love. Rewriting the language of one of the oldest dance forms of God’s own country, Mohiniyattam, Soumya Sathish brought alive the enchantress’ dance on stage to narrate the infinite love of Dushyanthan for Shakunthala. While traditionally Mohiniyattam is performed as the Mohini’s (a female avatar of Lord Vishnu) dance, Soumya enacted a male character’s profound love for his paramour through the nrityavishkara (realization through dance) of Shakunthalam, the widely acclaimed literary work of A.R.Rajaraja Varma. While not many from the conservative society of Kerala would appreciate the act VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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“While traditionally Mohiniyattam is performed as the ‘Mohini’s’ (a female avatar of Lord Vishnu) dance, I have enacted a male character’s profound love for his paramour through the nrityavishkara (realisation through dance) of Shakunthalam, the widely acclaimed literary work of A. R .Rajaraja Varma.”


of experimenting with an age old form of dance like Mohiniyattam, the beauty and brilliance of Soumya’s performance as Dushyanthan won her many appreciations and smiles of gratification, including from the author himself. It was truly the biggest honour for the dancer in Soumya and an encouragement to her never-say-die spirit while exploring the versatility of Mohiniyattam.

Discovering the passion

Danseuse Soumya Sathish was never this bold by nature. The coy, soft-spoken and innocent looking beauty from Thavalappara, Shornur was a discovery of

Elamakkara, Kochi. Soumya believes the birthplace of an artist goes a long way in enriching his/her career. “Unfortunately, not many budding dancers of the day have the confidence to pursue a career in dancing. However, in prowess and calibre they are way ahead than we were in our time,” says Soumya with a slight disappointment in her tone. “Today’s children are very clear of what they want in life. But they do not get the right support and encouragement to pursue their passion. I vividly remember this student of mine who despite being an excellent performer, discontinued dancing in a bid to focus on her studying as soon as she reached class 10th,” she adds. Soumya feels it is every

“Many pass out MBBS every year, but only very few end up as great doctors. Similarly, only few are born to be great dancers.”

dancer Kalamandalam Sridevi Gopinath. “I never knew I will be a Mohiniyattam dancer one day. Looking at my expressions and natural acting skills while performing, it was my guru who told me I am born for this,” recollects Soumya who today runs one of the most renowned dance schools in Kerala, Bharatha Kalamandiram in

parent’s responsibility to enlighten their children about their innate strengths and help them in cherishing their true talents instead of pushing them to jump on the bandwagon. “Many pass out MBBS every year, but only very few end up as great doctors. Similarly, only few are born to be great dancers.” she quips. 81

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Establishing a dancing career

Years back when Soumya decided to move to Kochi to establish her career in dancing, all that she had was her love for Mohiniyattam. It was sheer hard work and determination which led her to institute a dance school that started off with just 3 students and today boasts strength of 300 plus students learning Mohiniyattam, Bharathanatyam and Kuchipudi. A ‘kalathilakam’ herself, Soumya discourages students who approach her to study individual competition items to win accolades in youth festivals. “Discipline is very important to learn classical dance. To imbibe the beauty of an art form, one should completely surrender to it. Honours will come seeking the real talent,” she says.

Entry to cinema

“Dancing has unfortunately become a platform to reap fame by many. While it is not wrong to leverage the fame garnered through dance to enter film industry or modeling, it should not be considered as a stepping stone alone,” Soumya remarked. Ace filmmaker late Lohitadas cast her as the lead face opposite Mammootty in the movie Bhoothakannadi. However, she gave up the offer since her baby was too young then. But her acting skills came alive on silver screen years later when she donned the role of Bharat Gopy’s wife in Nivedyam, another Lohitadas movie. When filmmakers approach her with characters of substance, Soumya decides to appear on screen. She has just completed two movies in Tamil film industry.

“Lasya bhavam is more predominantly seen in Malayali women and hence they effortlessly master the subtle nuances of the art.” Experiments and Innovations in Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam as a dance form is known to be conceived in accordance with a Kerala woman’s body and innate expressions. Saumya confirms this observation saying, “Lasya bhavam is more VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Soumya performing as Dushyanthan in the Nrityavishkara of Shakunthalam.

predominantly seen in Malayali women and hence they effortlessly master the subtle nuances of the art.”

than bringing alive this great work of literature through Mohiniyattam?,” she asks.

A literature student herself, Soumya is today in a mission to revive some of the best works of literature for the benefit of the current generation, by re-creating these works to dance forms. Her dance interpretation of the poem, “Krishna Ne Enne Ariyilla” penned by the prolific writer Sugathakumari won her wide acclaim from cultural enthusiasts and the writer herself. Reinforcing the potential of dance as a powerful tool to spread social message, she narrates her experience bringing alive the great poet O.N.V.Kurup’s “Kesamithu Kanduvo”. “The poem illuminates the grief Panchali was going through when Lord Krishna was leaving to meet the Kauravas as an apostle. The injustice meted out on Panchali takes different forms in our society, even today. When in pain, we express our anguish in our own mother tongue. As a dancer from Kerala, what could be a more powerful way of expressing my sentiment

Being a trained dancer in Mohiniyattam and Bharatanatyam, she feels the former has more leeway to take up messages of societal relevance since it gives greater importance to acting than mudras. A writer herself, while re-creating works of literature on stage, she carefully chooses lines which best exemplifies the essence of a poem. The biggest challenge she faces here is deciding the suitable form of dance and the costume that could best amplify the message. But the dancer in Soumya loves taking challenges. Dancing makes her one with the eternal spirit. “On stage, I can be Krishna, Shiva, Dushyanthan, Seetha and more. Mohiniyattam is that divine form of art which lets me be what I am, I don’t mask my emotions. My expressions speak aloud my thoughts,” she sums up.

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“Handloom is the pride of Kerala, we can’t let it die.”

Sobha Viswanath

Founder - Weavers Village, Thiruvanthapuram Text: Remitha John Photographs: Sunil Papanamcode

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The mysterious secrets of handloom remains hidden

with the forefathers of this nation and it took a woman, wise and just to her roots, to reveal to this generation, the knowledge of handwoven and handmade products. With quaint and traditional interiors, Weavers Village in Thiruvanthapuram with their outlet in Vazhuthacaud, has beauty and elegance woven together. With brass bells hanging at all the right places and turtles made from clay placed near the window panes, there is a permitted radiance emanating inside the house that commands anyone to fall in love with the ambience. This 150-year-old heritage house with many artefacts presented by Raja Ravi Varma, belonged to the historical novelist C V Raman Pillai. And hence, Weavers Village show cases both art, literature and sustainable fashion under one roof.

The store’s landline phone continues to ring with enquiries about the traditional pottery classes that are also being organised at Weavers Village, an enterprise that was started in 2012 with a rather peculiar idea; to bring back pit-looms in Kerala. Sobha Viswanath, Founder of Weavers Village, with her kinesics epitomises those women whose aim in life are never to leave their dreams unrealised. Consequently, Sobha partnered with Sreeremya Sambath, and together they engaged in this venture of reviving handloom with candor and humility. With a renewed courage and reassurance to help weavers and their vocation, Weavers Village has ever since been producing products using pit-looms; a few of the looms that Sobha herself found,

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“Weavers Village follows a business structure called ‘Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet and Profit.’”

collecting dust and almost ruined by mites, in the old ware houses of factories that have now switched to machine manufacturing for mass production of garments. As it turns out, Sobha is all about going back to one’s roots, and thus in this pursuit of reviving handloom, she is also trying to find her ancestral roots, which she believes to be in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu. Handloom is, and for the present generation, a dying industry. Even with the self-confidence and effort from your establishment, was it easy to convince the local weavers to join hands in bringing back what was once the most profit generating industry for the nation? Local weavers were disheartened when hand weaving was least opted. However, the realisation that all they needed was the right platform to promote them, made this venture a success. Through Weavers Village we are trying to revive the next generation of weavers by creating a market for value addition through handloom. The fact that handloom cannot be mass produced is what makes each product unique. When we pay the weavers what they deserve for their hard work, they in turn reach out to us, with new ideas and designs for enhancing the prospects of our venture, which we incorporate. Fashion Industry has come a long way with waves of changes from boutiques to e-commerce which in turn has changed the demand from elegant look to chic. VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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Where is handloom’s position in this industry? The boutique culture has been thriving in spite of e-commerce. Although it might be true that the profit share might have reduced by a notch. However, the niche crowd and the premium customers still prefer to see the garment in person, feel the fabric, and try them on, before making the purchase. And thus, on these lines handloom remains in demand. Weavers Village has its group of customers who keep coming back for more and through them we receive a new crowd. The Royals of Travancore have and still continue to use handloom and handwoven garments. Did Weavers Village have the honour of making garments for them as well? Yes, in fact, we had visited the palace and during one such visit, the Princess of Travancore told us, that her grandfather, the erstwhile Maharajah, used to distribute ‘Onakodi’ to everyone, and all of those were woven by the palace weavers. Weavers Village has been closely associated with the granddaughters and great-grand-

“It is unfortunate how those living outside Kerala can be easily be deceived with products made using power looms.”


“We have used this platform to empower women through vocational training, educating the girl child, and sharing our knowledge with them.” daughters of the royal family for whom we designed ‘Daavanis.’ The paintings of Raja Ravi Varma also portray women in handwoven handloom. However, the younger generation in the family have become more flexible with the designs. They have several times sought new patterns woven in handloom. You mentioned that Weavers Village believes in sustainability. Do you mean to say that the rest of the artificially manufactured garments in the country are polluting the nation and in turn the world? Yes, of course. The process of chemical dying is polluting. That is why Weavers Village is practicing organic dying, Ayurvedic dying, as well as up-cycling which contributes to the society and to the nature. Weavers Village follows a business structure called ‘Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet and Profit.’ Whatever we design, whoever we include, we make sure to help someone through it. It is a social responsibility. Are the youngsters’ who have contacted Weavers Village keen in learning weaving?

Weavers Village has been a part of a lot of social activities. We have used this platform to empower women through vocational training, educating the girl children, and sharing our knowledge with them. We have helped people who have been distressed through natural calamities as well as women and children with a painful past. Weavers Village has been teaching such helpless women - bag making, pottery, and weaving, through which they themselves have become entrepreneurs.

“The niche crowd and the premium customers still prefer to see the garment in person, feel the fabric, and try them on, before making the purchase.”

How do you respond to random fashion websites

using the terms ‘ethnic’ or ‘hand woven’ or ‘pure handloom’ for all their products? I have always been against this practice. Even Balaramapuram in Thiruvanthapuram which claims to produce 100 percent cotton and handloom, fail to deliver their promise. It is unfortunate to see how those living outside Kerala are easily deceived with products made using power looms. And, their prices however at the same time are much higher than real handloom products. So, through our venture we hope to educate more people about handmade handloom garments. What’s the new project that Weavers Village is planning to take up? We have been listening to a lot of disasters in Palakkad, Kerala especially when it comes to health related issues among women and children. In association with Kerala Tribal Development who approached us, Weavers Village was part of five camps organised across Kerala. This is a three-stage programme wherein tribals will get to understand several kinds of handicrafts. We plan to involve people from various hamlets and educate them about the possibilities of handwoven and handmade products. During the first visit, we were able to give awareness to tribal women on vocations such as bag making, jewellery making, and even teaching them how to weave in turn empowering them and building their confidence to become ‘employable’ or even self-employed! 87

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Promoting the Art & Business of Photography Text: Jose Joseph

“This year we are planning for bigger challenges and the members are proactive. Looking forward to conduct workshops, exhibitions and a mega event inviting international photographers and film makers.“ Ajith Kumar President - Insight Camera Club

It was a passion unlimited together with an

uncompromising attitude towards their profession of taming lights and shades that prompted a group of young professional photographers in Kochi come to unite under a single banner as Insight Camera Club in 2005. Ever since its inception Insight Camera Club effectively networked across Kerala, encompassing a group of highly dedicated members, have been intermittently organizing workshops, seminars, exhibitions and camps on various aspects of photography. The aim of this club is to educate and develop its members as photographers, and to encourage and promote the art of photography. The club has a history of quality programmes.

The main objective of Insight Camera Club is to encourage and promote various photography talents of professional photographers and to create a platform for them to achieve success in the photography field. Club members conduct seminar sessions and workshops for individuals who are interested in photography. Using computer this club established lightroom workshops for the first time in Kerala. Various aspects of photography and innovations in the same makes Insight Camera Club different from other photography clubs in Kerala. ICC conducts an annual Photography contest too and participants come form all parts of India. Insight camera club celebrates 22nd December as CLUB DAY. The celebrations are joined by the members and their family and various cultural programmes are performed by them. Other than the photography workshops the club arranges monsoon camp, wildlife camp, foreign tours, family get together, and Onam celebrations incorporating the members and their family to promote friendship among them. Through this club masters in the art of photography has been created in Kerala. They have been able to establish their own VOL 01 ISSUE 03 2018

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hallmarks in travel, nature, interior, wildlife , underwater and in various other fields of photography. The Club members are also actively involved in social and cultural activities. The members, help underprivileged people who are given support and aid such as in the form of money, medical treatment, support for education etc. They have also been a great helping hand for the scheduled tribes. The very generous and kind hearted attitude of the members have helped them to work together towards betterment. It’s been 13 years since the insight camera club was formed. Within this time span, today the club has achieved great heights as a society of professional photographers in Kerala as well as in other parts of india. Next Generation Leadership Event The Insight Camera Club recently conducted an event on 22nd May 2018, titled ‘Next Generation Leadership’. Hosted by four leading wedding photographers in Kerala, this well attended seminar conducted at The Renai Hotel Palarivattom, Kochi, analyzed the business opportunities brought about by photography. The seminar stressed, rather than an art form, photography also presents some commercial benefits. The event also encompassed sessions including discussing wedding business tips and all the basics of wedding photography. Interaction of attendees with the panel was also arranged to share and learn things from the iconic wedding photographers. The Next Generation leadership was basically a series of seminars by insight camera club incorporating four of Kerala’s most reputed wedding photographers namely Vineesh Vasanthan of Smoke Ads, Sineesh Gopal and Rohit Raguvaran of Weva Photography, Vinsih of Lumiere wedding photography, and Ruben Bijy Thomas of Magic Motion Media.


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editor@ktexplorer.com

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KERALA TRAVEL EXPLORER JUNE-JULY 2018  

Weclome to the June - July 2018 Monsoon Edition of Kerala Travel Explorer.

KERALA TRAVEL EXPLORER JUNE-JULY 2018  

Weclome to the June - July 2018 Monsoon Edition of Kerala Travel Explorer.

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