Kerala, Culture and Communism


I’m just back from a trip to Thrissur and Guruvayoor. S got married and his marriage gave me more than a flavor of what a typical Keralite wedding feels like.

In the wee hours of the morning, we found ourselves on a car from our Hotel in Thrissur, to Guruvayoor, the temple city 30 KMs away, and even before the first rays of the blazing sun made its way out of the barren sky to commence another menacingly sticky hot day, the marriage was over. As V and myself circled the dais to freeze some frames of the biggest moment in S’s life, it took all of 20 minutes for the whole bunch of rituals to take place. Compels me to compare with the traditional marriages of my community (and a few others too), with the process lasting a good part of 2 days, not to mention all the pre-marriage paraphernalia.

We paid a visit to the Guruvayoor temple. One of the few temples that enforces a strict dress code for entrants (dhotis for men, sarees for women – and in case you didn’t bring one, you can rent them) and I liked the darshan for most part, but for the ‘Only Hindus allowed’ board on the entrance. The logic just beats me. They say it is to preserve the sanctity of the temple, but its hard to comprehend how a non-Hindu stepping in would spoil its sanctity. Call it pseudo-sanctity. The ‘special darshan for extra pay’ system (a la the ones in most large temples including Tirupathi) was absent. Wonder if it has anything to do with the all-equals propaganda of the communist rule in the state.

Aside from the marriage and religious flavors, my first reaction the moment our car entered Thrissur was a mouth-zipping wonder. Just picture this. A Sunday afternoon, the roads lined with shops with shutters down for the Sunday (they don’t work on Sundays! It’s the Sabbath day after all!), narrow roads but maintained with meticulous cleanliness, a shopping mall almost void of any shopper, lots of green fields punctured in patches with shops selling raw toddy, an over abundance of coconut trees ensuring you don’t get surprised by the food items in restaurants being soaked all over in coconut oil (well, curd was the only item that didn’t have coconut oil in it), a hotel reception desk that speaks only Malayalam, private domestic buses that gets the coins for tickets but never gives you a ticket in return (the ticketing system is just non-existent!).

That is one unique city! If my pep talks with some localites are any indication, the flavor is not very different in most other parts of the state but for minor differences in the pattern. Whatever that means, years of communist rule sure has stunted the immense growth prospects of the state which boasts a near 100% literacy but a perilously less English-speaking population localized within their own confines. Deep routed tradition and culture are heartening and the beauty of greenery is a great tourist attraction, but the faster the state learns extroversion the better for it and the country in the long run.


4 Responses to “Kerala, Culture and Communism”

  1. no piccies?

    Sounds like a peaceful place to visit.

  2. True, though in many ways Kerala is very progressive, in many things we also find a “frog-in-the-well” approach to many things. Reason is not hard to find — lack of exposure to outside world. Mere education can’t bring the exposure.

  3. 4 joe


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