Al-Avalathi's Life (Al-Avalathi is the last Mallu to go to the Gelf)
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Nehru Trophy Boat Race,Alleppey,Kerala

Guess you are new here!Why don't you subscribe to this blog?Free for a limited period!RSS feed. (Ya,Right!!!) I tweet too Twitter

For a day, she had shed her serene attire. The tranquility she usually showed was missing today. The blue blanket she adorned looked unusually gorgeous on her. The blanket stretched to either side, beyond what my eyes could figure. The coconut trees that dotted her banks were swinging in a state of ecstasy.Even the ripples were high and danced in tandem. The tiny waves soothed the stone walls that formed the banks. The clouds smiled at her as if they shared a secret chemistry. Punnamada, was at her best.

Here was the celebration of Kuttanad. A celebration, that erased all the differences created by caste and religion. The boats came from various parts of Kuttanad and around. It was a clash of prestige. It was a show of strength. Only one thing mattered, winning the trophy for one’s village. The 57th Nehru Trophy Boat Race was just hours away. Unlike other days, the quaint inlets and creeks that connect the villages of Alleppey, were not buzzing with activity. The banks of Punnamada were encroached upon by the villagers.

The 4 tracks were laid. Practice sessions were in full swing moving in all possible directions. Speed boats and others carrying tourists, police and organizers zoomed across Punnamada. The high energy was evident in the air. The people from across villages were arriving to see their boat winning the show of speed.

We realized the pavilions were not the place to watch the race. Being one in the crowd could tell us how charged the environs were, nothing else would. Almost everyone was high spirited. Folk songs and aarpoo irroos could be heard non-stop from all directions. Snake Boats (Chundan Vallom) were long, some long enough to shy away from being captured in a single frame. The boats were Hindu and Christian, but the oarsmen had no religion. They sang in unison praising Hindu or Christian gods.

When the race was on, my ears could capture the sounds of the boat names, and their history from someone or other in the euphoric crowd. It was more like a running commentary. Karichal, Kumarakom, Kainakari, Karuvatta,Chambakulam….. Vepp A Grade, Iruttukuthy A Grade,Churulan and so on. I could get so many of these names around me.The crowd was now thrown into a frenzy.Many moved from the banks to water.The cops were in action shooing them off the race tracks,not that they could do much.

The effort of every village that has gone into arranging a boat for them is worth commending. Think about shoe string budgets and small time sponsors like some Gulf Malayalee or a mobile operator. The invasion of brands was evident, but as long as they bring in money to the race, who cares! Not only were they on the participating boats, but also on boats parked to act as stationary hoardings (on water).

This show of camaraderie, competition, enthusiasm is more than a vignette of Kuttanad’s village life. The rhythm of the oarsmen, the oars propelling the boat in unison, the songs sung to pump up their spirits, everything has conquered Punnamada yet again. They will continue to do it, for years to come.

I was live tweeting the #ntbr09

Some scenes from the boat race: [CLICK on the images for bigger view]  {Scroll down for some videos}

Some videos from the race. (If you are a Malayalee, do not miss the first two)

[How to reach: Alleppey(also known as Alappuzha) by Air(nearest Airport is Cochin), by Train(nearest station is Alleppey/Alappuzha) or by road(well connected by road) More info

NTBR(Nehru Trophy Boat Race) is held on the second Saturday of August. This year it was held on 8th August.The venue is 5-6 km from the town.Tickets are available at the venue and through agents.Contact Kerala Tourism for more info.]

Suggested Reads: The history of Nehru Trophy Boat Race

[Photos by Shreyash Pai,Bharat Narayanan and the author.Governed by this license ]

Add to Del.cio.us RSS Feed Add to Technorati Favorites Stumble It! Digg It!
    www.sajithmr.com

Google Buzz

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

August 12, 2009   27 Comments

Shashi Tharoor’s win in Trivandrum:Analysis

The dust has settled down.Now over to some number crunching.My 2 cents. :-)

Shashi Tharoor got 44.3% of the total votes in the Thiruvananthapuram parliamentary constituency.More than half of Vattiyoorkavu and Thiruvananthapuram Assembly Constituency voters voted for him(Fig-2).

Neelan and the much discussed Nadar factor(they form 18% of the PC) did not work much against Tharoor.Was it because of Neelan’s image?Or did the Nadars not believe that Neelan would get a cabinet berth in the Mayawati lead govt.Bah! Remember, Mayawati started her election campaign in Thiruvananthapuram, whatay colossal loss.

Trivandrum LS Polls 2009-Assembly Constituency wise

Fig-1:Thiruvananthapuram LS Polls 2009-Assembly Constituency wise-1

Just around 5% of Vattiyoorkavu and Kazhakootam voted for Neelan. Nemom’s 7% voted for him.On expected lines Neyyatinkara,Kovalam and Parasala had a lot of Neelan votes,but he still was behind CPI’s Ramachandran Nair in these assembly constituencies.Ramachandran Nair got about 31% of the total votes.

The order of the top two candidates was consistent across ACs.
PK Krishnadas (BJP) was at #3 in Nemom,Thiruvananthapuram,Vattiyoorkavu and Kazhakoottam assembly Constituencies;Neelan at #3 in Neyyatinkara,Kovalam and Parasala.Majority of Muslim votes across ACs should have gone to INC,while the major chunk of Muslim votes left in these ACs went to Neelan.(Eg.Kovalam)

So what worked for Tharoor?The neutral voters,the CPI-CPI(M) rift and the whole anti Left sentiment be it due to lack of development in the city, anti incumbency.The Christian votes would have predictably gone in favour of Shashi Tharoor.He has successfully tapped the Nair+Ezhava vote bank,I would conclude.All these together ended up in favor of Dr.Tharoor.Guess what I heard from someone before the elections,”orithiri vivaram ulla ellarum Tharoorine kodukku” turned out to be true.

Trivandrum LS Polls 2009-Assembly Constituency wise

Fig-2: Thiruvananthapuram LS Polls 2009-Assembly Constituency wise-2

Tharoor’s and Ramachandran Nair’s votes were more or less equally distributed across ACs.A slightly higher contribution to Tharoor’s kitty came from Thiruvananthapuram and Vattiyoorkavu ACs.With Parassala,Nemom and Kazhakkutam contributing over 15% to Ramachandran Nair’s votes,even here you could see a uniformity in the vote distribution across ACs.We should be proud of the voters of Vattiyoorkavu,Thiruvananthapuram AC,Kazhakoottam and Nemom for spoiling Neelan’s party.The Nadar+Dalit factor did play a part in getting most of Neelan’s votes;79% of his votes came from Neyyatinkara,Kovalam and Parassala.

Trivandrum LS Polls 2009-Candidate

Fig-3:Trivandrum LS Polls 2009-Candidate wise

Now, a look at how Thiruvanthapuram has been voting through the years(BSP not included as its only share worth mentioning was in 2009)

Vote Share Trend-Trivandrum(CPI,INC,BJP)

Fig:4-Vote Share Trend-Thiruvananthapuram(CPI,INC,BJP)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="436" caption="Fig:5- LokSabha Poll 2009-Votes"]LokSabha Poll 2009-Votes[/caption]Here is a link to the spreadsheet I made just to get a hang of the numbers.

Download the whole data sheet which includes a pivot table(3 of 4 sheets password protected,mail me if you need the password).Happy analyzing.

Right click,Save as to Download

Right click,"Save as" to download


PS: On a lighter note, the candidate who is an MP even after losing,ya no points for guessing that, fared miserably.MP Gangadharan(NCP) whose clock was all over the place,got 2972 votes.Talk about pipe dreams ;-) or bad times.

Add to Del.cio.us RSS Feed Add to Technorati Favorites Stumble It! Digg It!
    www.sajithmr.com

Google Buzz

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

May 18, 2009   17 Comments

A party,red in the face

(Inspired from Sandesham, the movie and anti communist sentiments)

Ramesan unfolded his lungi and sat on the bench;it made a squeaky noise to acknowledge the burden.There was an overdose of red around him.Recently,some of the broken chairs gave way for red plastic chairs.He could see the silhouette of the framed photographs of AKG,EMS,Karl Marx behind the entangled web;seemed more like the leaders were trapped in ugliness of a system they envisioned.
Once in a year each,these photographs get some respite from the two inch dust that makes them look prehistoric.The red paper garlands looked themselves ashamed to be adoring the frames;they were just waiting to free themselves from the mess.Party flags were propped up against the wall in a corner.Old posters took most of the whitewashed wall.

The past week’s Deshabhimani newspaper was strewn on the desks.Not a day passed without dissecting every single word published in it.
Tea,vada and Dinesh Beedi added spice to the discussions.Ramesan had registered for Kannur University’s BCom,he never completed it.He managed to get a job in the cooperative bank which the party controlled.He rarely went to work,party office was his (second) home.

He did not know the actual meaning of the word bourgeois;like most of the other words he peppered his conversations with.
Not knowing the meaning of words like bourgeois or mafia(or Mafia) did not dissuade him from using them in his conversations.For him,like many of his fellow comrades,these words were to be used to things and people he loathed.He had never heard of the Sicilian criminal societies,but used the term to refer to any groups,from the real estate companies building land banks to the ones involved in liquor business,from investors to money lenders(blade mafia).A term he used in this context interchangeably was lobby.

For him bourgeois or boorshua (sic) as he called them were the ones he hated.For him Philip Achaayan who returned from Gulf a year back and started his new shop in the mukk(junction) and newspapers like Malayala Manorama,and everything in between were boorshuas.

In spite of knowing that it was Gorbachev who placed the last straw on communism in the USSR,Ramesan respected him.He even had dreams of him having the Port-wine stain on his bald head like Gorbachev’s.Deshabhimani’s report on the lockout in a factory in Calicut was the topic of his discussion that day.The party supported labour union‘s demands were never going to be heeded by the management. Decibels went up and down. A dozen tea glasses kept moving on the desk like products on an assembly line.”We can not be mute spectators to this”,said Satheesan, a fellow comrade.The glow on his face was that of accomplishment.His friends from the party youth wing had recently started farming in a land owned by Sreedharan Nair, a retired school head master.The land was in disuse;farming was no longer economically feasible.The party’s youth wing was hated by most of people in the village;they would get into anyone’s problem creating nuisance to one(either) of the sides.Some of these men would go as quotation teams,this is what the grapevine said;no one could say this out in the open though.Quotation teams were simply gundas called so because they were given “quotations” to “solve” issues.

“It has been almost a year since we heard of any sex scandal”,quipped Satheesan.”May be the media is bored to dig up such stories”,replied Ramesan.”We are getting enough issues to create trouble,continued Ramesan.Yesterday,a group of students gheroaed the university VC for debarring some our our student leaders…. for malpractice during exams”.”We could make his life miserable for 3-4 hours.Hope the issue gets bigger,been a month since we had a hartal“.The smirk on his face took time to die down.

Sukumarettan entered the scene;he was respected by all at the party office.He was known to have connections even in the Polit Bureau,the center of the party’s power.No one would bat an eye lid if the Polit Bureau asks not to.He had lead hundreds of pickets to the collectorate and was once injured and hospitalised for over a month.
He could go on and on about the party and its ideology to an extent that even Ramesan and Satheesan would doze off.He still remembered when Che Guvera’s death anniversary was.The name Che could bring in a rush of adrenalin in all these men.The local vayanasaala had a huge section on Che,another one on Marx,among others.Through the Latin American literature,he knew more about the Amazonian forests and Sao Paolo than what he knew about Maharashtra or Kuchipudi.

Someone shouted from outside, Sukuetta, aren’t you coming for the dharna at the Municipal stand?Sukumarettan was totally against selling the nation to capitalist powers.”The recent rise in prices is due to the new age retail boom.The MNC retailers set up shops with the help of Indian partners, what will happen to people like our Kesavan?This is a huge conspiracy against our people,these Americans want to eat from our plates too.Look at the name, Spencer’s! It is an American name”, continued Sukumarettan.He took Ramesan and Satheesan along to the dharna.They started their brisk walk towards the stand.He started fuming,not because of this issue,but Ramesan mentioned the atrocities against Palestinian people.Israel more or less acted as a mood spolier,”for how long will they continue their American sycophancy”,he said.We should start a fund to collect money to march to the Israeli Embassy in Delhi, at least we should send them a million protest letters.

He had to rush back home early.He took the 8pm Volvo to Cochin.Only two days were left for Sukumarettan’s son to apply for his UK student visa.

Watch this if you can understand Malayalam

Add to Del.cio.us RSS Feed Add to Technorati Favorites Stumble It! Digg It!
    www.sajithmr.com

Google Buzz

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

May 16, 2009   15 Comments

Kerala Trip Roundup

My recent trip to Kerala was a site-seeing marathon.I visited forts,temples,beaches,backwaters and caves.I had read through a lot of websites and a few books to know the importance of these places before I visited.

DTPC Kannur and Kasargode sites gave some basic information to decide the places to visit.More in depth information was sourced from various publications by Kerala Tourism.So, over to the trip.

Rajarajeswara Temple,Taliparamba

This temple is situated at about 25km North of Kannur on the National Highway 17.Like many ancient temples,this temple also has a set of customs and rituals that make it unique(Including the absence of kodimaram/flagstaff and entry for women only after 8pm).Though I was told that the temple was built thousands of years(kodanukodi) back,I decided to tie some loose ends of history.

During the times of Raja Raja Chola-I (reign 985 – 1014 CE.)and his son Rajendra Chola-I(reign 1012 C.E. – 1044 C.E.), the Chola empire consisted of the whole of South India, Ceylon, Malaysia and beyond. The Chola-Chera war went on for a hundred years and the Cheras accepted the hegemony of the Cholas after their defeat. Later, the Chera kingdom split up into pieces and marked the end of rule of Kulasekhara(Chera)(Kerala) as a single entity.(A Survey of Kerala History,A Sreedhara Menon,page 117)

At a time(10th and 11th centuries) when Jainism’s strength was on the decline, a massive Shiva temple built by a powerful Chola ruler would have added to the fall of Jainism. Like they say, the religion of the king is the religion of his subjects. The Chola period saw the revival of Shaivite and Vaishnavite traditions in areas under them.Temples of Kannur(S Jayashankar) says that the temple was renovated by Rajendra Chola-I. It is quite possible that an existing Jain temple was converted and rebuilt as a Shiva temple by the Cholas during their conquest of Chera kingdom.It was very common during those times to convert Jain and Buddhist temples into Hindu temples.

Just as kings and emperors are seen only by offering a kazhcha(gift),the Lord here can be “seen” only after placing neyamrith(ghee) on the sopanam(steps leading to the sanctum). It is said that the Lord of Taliparamba is the King of Kings. This status may be connected to the power associated with Rajaraja Chola-I and the influence he had as a ruler. Incidentally, the name of the temple is closely related the king’s name.

The Namaskara Mandapa is out of bounds even for Brahmins. The story connected to this says that, Rama on his way back from Lanka prayed here and his chest touched the floor. A Kshatriya’s chest touching the floor made the Namaskara mandapa impure for Brahmins.The real reason, I believe, may be different. The area where this temple stays could have been a Jain temple and Rajendra Chola-I could have either demolished and rebuilt or converted it into a Shiva temple. In many instances where a Jain temple is converted to a Hindu temple, Brahmins stay away from the temple for centuries.( A Survey of Kerala History,Sreedhara Menon,page 84, similar to Matilakam)The Namaskara Mandapa may have been an important part of the earlier Jain temple and so it still remains out of bounds for Brahmins.

Madayi Kavu Temple

Maravel or Madayi (off the NH17 near Payangadi in Kannur district, 25 km from Kannur)as it is known today was once a prosperous center of trade and fishing. Sreedhara Menon makes a cursory mention of the Jew Tank in Madayi.(A Survey of Kerala History,page 95). This mention reinforces the trade relations that Madayi had with the west. Duarte Barbosa’s works have also mentioned the Jewish trade connection of Madayi.I somehow missed to add the Jew Tank to my itinerary.

The Madayi Kaavu temple (Sree Thiruvarkadu Shiva Bhadrakali Temple) is the abode of the deity of the Kolathiri rulers. I have not been able to find any reference to the find the exact age of this temple. S Jayasankar in Temples of Kannur writes that the idol is made of Kadusarkkarayogam and no abhishekam is done on it. For archanas, a panchaloha idol is used. The deity was originally installed by Parasurama at Rajarajeswara temple of Taliparamba and later moved to this temple. Toddy and meat are offered at athazhapuja. The temple has strong connections with the Travancore Royal family and traces the link to AD 1305 when two daughters (later Attingal Ranis) from the Kolathunad(Kolathiri dynasty) were adopted to create Attingal Swaroopam.

I have heard a story of travelers who came via the sea who installed the deity here; they installed the idol looking westwards to protect them (their route). I wonder if this has to do with the spread of mother goddess cult. One of the office bearers of the temple told me that it would take a lot of time to explain; may be next time.

The tourist brochures spoke about the ruins of a fort built by Tippu Sultan in Madayi. This was a total disappointment with nothing but the ruins of the boundary wall and a few stones remaining. In case you would want to have a look at the remains of this fort, it is situated near the college and next to a KSEB property. There is a deep dried up well and a couple of tombs(?) inside the fort. The only solace was the view of the town and the river from the fort, fascinating it was.

From Madayi, we set ahead Southwards to Tellicherry(Thalaserry).

Tellicherry Fort:
This fort is an imposing structure built by the British in 1708.The square structure built of laterite has massive walls and strong flanking bastions that overlook the sea.The fort is well maintained by the ASI.An old British Cannon is on display close to the entrance.
This fort was used by Lord Wellesley against the Pazhassi Raja’s rebellion.Behind this fort,next to the sea, lies the St John’s church,built in 1869 with funds from Edward Brennen, the master attendant who established the Brennen College at Tellicherry.Brennen’s tomb is located in the church premises.

Telicherry Fort Entrance

Tellicherry Fort's Entrance

After our visit to the fort,we headed in search of the Gudert Bunglow in Illikkunnu close by; the bunglow where the German missionary and lexicographer Herman Gundert lived for 20 years from 1839.You can give this place a miss as it is now a private property owned by NTTF.I was shocked that the bunglow that witnessed the birth of one of the first Malayalam dictionaries and one of the first Malayalam newspapers Paschimodayam, is now in private hands.We were told that entry is restricted but that did not deter us from entering the compound and clicking some pictures.The only saving grace was that while searching of Gundert Bunglow,we passed some beautiful scenic spots near Gundert colony.

Our next stop was Muzhuppilangad Beach.

Muzhuppilangad Beach(8 km North of Tellicherry,15 km South of Kannur)
On our way back from Teliicherry to Kannur, we hit Muzhuppilangad Beach.This was in my list for quite some years.
This is a 4 km long drive in beach with shallow waters.Must visit place if you like driving on the beach and in sea waters with no clue of what is happening in front of you.Make sure you have the windows rolled up.Water splashes from all the sides and all you can see is frothy water in front of you.Tiny little birds,starfishes and live shells(or were they predator Hermit crabs)could be spotted on the beach.

We were really hungry but the enthu to visit more places helped us stay on track.Next stop was Arakkal Museum,near Kannur.Arakkal Dynasty was the only Muslim dynasty that ruled any part of Kerala.There are various stories on the origin of this dynasty;Logan of Malabar Manual traces the origin of the dynasty to a minister in the Kolathiri’s court in 11/12th century who was converted to Islam.Dutch historians say that the origin goes back to a relationship between a Kolathiri princess and a lower caste man.The girl was married off to a rich Arab trader and thus was born the dynasty.Keralolpathy says that a Muslim couple was invited from Aryapuram by the last Cheraman Perumal and that was the birth of the dynasty.The family records reveal yet another story.The last Cheraman Perumal’s sister Sreedevi was a resident of Dharmapatanam(Dharmadam).Her son Mahabali,later became Mohammed Ali(as asked by the Cheraman Perumal who left for Mecca) and started the dynasty.Whatever their origin be,they had an eventful history through the ages(from 11th century). (Info from The Alirajas of Kannur,Dr. KKN Kurup)

Arakkal Insignia

Arakkal Insignia

There is a lot of scope for improvement in this museum. I was told that they are still collecting exhibits from the royals and others related to them.I hope the entry fee collected at the museum is utilized in developing the place to the fullest.I would still say,visit this place to have a look at the opulent lifestyle of the Arakkal Rajas.

***

Valiyaparamba Backwaters

Situated in Kasargode district at about 5 km from Thrikkaripur,this place is a recent addition to the tourist map of Kerala.The view from here is breathtaking. The place is not much explored for tourism(the DTPC office seemed to be waiting for inauguration?)If marketed properly, this place could be the next Kumarakom.Kerala State Water Transport Dept.operates boats from here to the nearest towns.Since the boat service timings were odd, we decided to take a ferry .

Valiyaparamba Backwaters

Valiyaparamba Backwaters

The ferry took us to the other side,which had an islet(or was that a strip of land).We walked through the paddy fields and coconut groves to a a secluded beach.Very typical of such areas,the place was heavily populated and had sandy soil.After spending sometime in the beach,we headed back to Valiyaparamba.The ferry rides can give the water ways of Aleppey a run for their money.

A sacred grove(kaavu) at Edayilakkad was our next stop.Situated close to Valiyaparamba,the groves could be counted as a sign of early human habitation in this area.At a particular spot,monkeys come out of the grove to be fed by visitors.The way they accepted food clearly indicated how simians mannerism were close to that of humans.

On one of the evenings,we drove to Umichupoyil,a place 20km NE of Nileswar(Kasargode District).
Some years ago, ASI had done excavations in the Megalithic rock cut caves here and found pottery and urns.The caves,said to be 2000 years old, are in a private property owned by a local feudal.There were six strikingly similar caves in the vicinity.This place was a different experience in itself.We had to explore the place on our own.In such a place,it is easy to lose one’s sense of direction as all the sides look the same with no particular landmark except a few tribal hamlets here and there.The caves had rectangular entrances and a semi circular base.Their roofs had a circular vent for light to come in.One had to stoop to get into the caves.Apart from these caves,there were two natural caves.One of them had a natural spring inside where the locals collect water from.This cave was wide enough for many to walk around.Since I am no expert on Megalithic caves,I can’t comment if these caves were burial grounds or not.

A cave in Umichupoyil

A cave in Umichupoyil

We reached Umichupoyil via Choyamkod and Koyithatta.Almost no one we asked about Umichupoyil had any clue on this place;not even DTPC.My 2 paisa: It is better to set for such explorations in early mornings/afternoons.Post sunset,suddenly time became a precious commodity.We walked for 20 odd minutes with a group of tribal women who had come down to buy households from the PDS shop down hill.They were very helpful in directing us to the caves.They themselves had not visited these caves more than once or twice.

***

We drove to Bekal Fort on the day of Christmas.Bekal Fort,a grandiose laterite structure situated 16km SE of Kasargode town, is the largest fort in Kerala.It is maintained by the ASI and a lot of effort has gone into building brand Bekal;which in fact could be seen by the number of tourists.The place has been done up a lot in the past 15 years or so.(My last visit was around that time).I doubt if the renovation work maintains the same aesthetics the fort had originally.I could spot tiles which officially mentioned the year of renovation,but again not much happy about that.

Inside Bekal Fort

Inside Bekal Fort

The fort overlooks the Arabian sea and there were ways to escape into the sea in case of an attack, including tunnels that take you straight to the beach.The entry to the beach is restricted and the cops send people in groups to the beach.The view of the coastline is awesome.Surprisingly,the origin of the fort is still not clear.The observation towers and the places to aim canons at the enemy(who would come by the sea) are eternal symbols of a tumultuous past the fort has had.

Suggested reading:

1)A Sreedhara Menon: A Survey of Kerala History,Cultural Heritage of Kerala

2)William Logan: Malabar Manual

3)Dr.KKN Kurup:The Arakkal Rajas

4)S Jayasankar:Temples of Kannur

5)http://www.hindubooks.org/temples/kerala/rajarajeswara/index.htm

and if possible get a Handbook of Kerala-Part I and II (Even I need to get these two books)

(This is a humble attempt at writing history and travel.Never knew writing history needed this much research.I have verified all the facts.Do let me know if you feel I have missed something)

Add to Del.cio.us RSS Feed Add to Technorati Favorites Stumble It! Digg It!
    www.sajithmr.com

Google Buzz

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

January 25, 2009   39 Comments

Onasamsakal(Happy Onam)

Happy Onam

Wish you all a Happy Onam

Add to Del.cio.us RSS Feed Add to Technorati Favorites Stumble It! Digg It!
    www.sajithmr.com

Google Buzz

Tags: , , ,

September 11, 2008   12 Comments