Category Archives: TRAVEL

Journey of a Traditional Kerala House from Kerala to Delhi

A 300-year-old traditional Kerala house, beautifully built with stones and wood was moved,1300 km from Kerala to Delhi. The house that belonged to a traditional agrarian family, was handed over from one generation to another to the youngest son of the family. And so the house finally was inherited by Oommen George, an Architect and Artist who now stays in the US. He had no plans to stay in his ancestral home.

What he wanted to be done with the house…..

When Mr. Oommen tried to sell the house, called Meda, in Mepral, Thirvulla, he realised that everyone was interested in the plot and the wooden antiques in the house which could be sold. None was interested in restoring and staying in the house. There was only one option before him which was to dismantle the house which was in a dilapidated state.

Traditional Kerala House

Who came to his rescue……….

His friend and Famous architect Pradeep Sachdeva came to his rescue at this moment. Well known for his projects like the Delhi Haat and the Garden of five senses. He is also the architect of offices and hotels like Taj.

How could Sachdeva dismantle the building unscathed?

What Sachdeva did next was to get the local traditional carpenter, Narayan Achari who knew about the wood works.  Commonly known as Achari, the Acharis are carpenters and they pass on their tradition from generation to generation. Narayan Achari and his local group of workers worked like professionals to systematically remove all the wood pieces of Meda and to number them and to pack them in groups.

What is unique about the traditional Kerala house?

Traditional Kerala House
Meda in 1900

Fifty years back in Kerala there used to be only a few pucca houses in a village, and the rest will be thatched huts. Hence the entire village had an emotional attachment to the palatial landmarks of their village. The arapura,  is the wooden room which is a granary, and has a granary box (pathayam) and ostensibly built at the entrance of the house with wooden carved door, gold platings and sophisticated locking system. The arapura was the storing place for the rice and other food items.

Why are Keralites emotional about traditional houses?

Every village has some kind of traditional stories related to the tharavad (ancestral home) and to the arapura of the tharavad. In my grandmother’s childhood home, a tradition is followed even now. The preparation for the temple celebration begins from that village ( know as kara) only after the karnavar (head of the family) of the tharavad opens the arapura and gives two bottles of coconut oil to the temple authorities. ‘Meda’, it is said was located above sea level, hence the villagers found shelter here during floods.

Traditional Kerala House

 

 

 

 

 

Role of an Acharis’ in the construction of a traditional Kerala house

The acharis, have got an important place in the Kerala architecture. They hand down their trade secret to the next generation. The role of an Achari is immense in traditional Kerala house construction. In olden days they were the consultant architects, engineers, carpenter and astrologer for any construction project.  Narayan Achari started mastering the skills at a very young age.

Features of a wooden room or Ara………….

Traditional Kerala house rooms of woods are known as Ara and Nira. Nira means panels. The walls, ceilings and the floors are made of wooden panels which are joined without nuts and bolts. The wooden panels are joined like jigsaw puzzles.Traditional Kerala House

Achari’s role in dismantling the house…….

Naryan Achari, dexterously removed the panels and packed them in groups so that when the package reached Gurugram, the panels could be easily unpacked and joined.

Did they use new materials in reconstruction in Gurugram?

Some of the wood was unusable, so Pradeep Sachedeva made a few new panels using similar wood in Gurugram. And only the wooden rooms of upstairs was brought to Delhi. Instead of the stones used for the ground floor walls, bricks were used in gurugram.

How long was the reconstruction……

Achari and his team were brought to Gurugram where the assembling and reconstruction were done within six weeks.

Traditional Kerala House

Traditional Kerala House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What were the additions made to the traditional building?

John Bowman, a British architect created a cast iron spiral steps to the upper floor. Initially, the staircase was of wood. In addition, a bathroom and a kitchen were constructed on the ground floor. In addition, electricity and plumbing were installed.

How is the house after eight years of shifting………..

Mr. Sachdeva says the house seems to belong to the place, and wood will be fine for a long time.

Is the upkeep of the wood structure difficult

He says maintenance of the structure is not difficult and the house is cleaned and kept well maintained.

How economical is it to shift a traditional house?

Mr. Sachdeva says that shifting the house is not a costly affair.

Traditional Kerala House

What is the house being used as in Gurugram?

Meda is being used as a weekend home by Mr. Sachdeva and it is also  used as  a guesthouse.

What do the guests say about the house?

They are absolutely thrilled!!!

Indian Standard time or Singapore Standard Time

The only time I went on a group trip was on a Singapore-Indonesia tour ten years ago.  It was arranged by a travel agent and there were atleast 20 families in the group. A friend took all responsibility of the trip, so we hardly had any worries except to do all the shopping about the trip and brag with friends and relatives. In those day very few people went on international tours, so we felt proud.

At a destined time we reached an assigned spot to take the Tourist bus to Kochi Airport. After Picking up friends at various points we bagan the 2 hour road trip. We enjoyed a enjoyable ‘picnic’ trip to the airport, singing and joking. At the airport also we enjoyed 3 hours of masti, as we had an agent to take care of the paper works, we only had to enjoy the trip.

Most of our friends were first time travellers so when the flight took off there were  humorous experiences; one 25 year old guy cried for his Mom.

Everything was fine until we reached the Singapore Airport. Then we were ‘handed over’ to a Singaporean Guide, I thing her name was Mary. Then we understood why Singapore is much ahead of ‘time’.

Mary was particular about time unlike we Indians. In India we reach a place atleast an hour after the designated time. The only person I know to be punctual is Big ‘B’ – Amitabh Bachchan.  Mary took us around on a tourist bus to tourist destinations like the Mirlions and Botanical Garden. While we de-board the bus she gives us strict instruction to come back at a sharp timing ; say for instance 4:00 PM.

Most of the time we all messed up with the timing. We used to get even half an hour late and then Mary got even more strict. She said next time she will not wait for anyone and just move on.

We had to obey because non of us had a local SIM, so she was our boss for the trip.

The next day we were all on time and Mary praised us for mending our manners. From then on she used to say “come back at Singapore Standard Time and not Indian Standard Time”

Next day we went to Sentosa Island, Singapore Zoo, Chinatown and various other places.  We saw the four different ethnic groups – Chines, Malaya, Indian and other staying together and working in unison for the betterment of their own self and of the country. All religious groups Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam stay together in harmony.

Singapore is like a well kept home, not a single piece of paper or a bit of dust could be found anywhere. All the cars were less than 15 years old so they shined like new cars. And above all the same water was used in the wash room and for drinking. You can take water from the wash room and prepare tea.

By the end of the tour Mary became friendly and she learned a few malayalam words and promised to visit Kerala very soon. We bought some tokens to remember the Trip.

Finally we were handed over to the Indian Guide at the Airport, we were much relieved because we could now follow the Indian Standard time. Just like at the beginning of the trip we were dropped home from Kochi Airport by Bus.

We came back with lots of memories and learning . If we follow Singapore Standard Time (Punctuality) we can have success in life and we can contribute a lot to our society.

 

Nonstop festivity at Delhi Haat Janakpuri

One of the must-visit tourist spots for all visitors to Delhi is the Dilli Haats. Visiting the Dilli Haat is like seeing the whole of India through a Kaleidoscope. You can experience authentic handicraft, handloom and food from different parts of the country exhibited in a single premise.

In 2014, a third Delhi Haat Janakpuri in West Delhi was opened sprawling over 8 acres of land.  The wide car parking and the huge basket towers with bamboo outer cover catch the attention of the passersby. There are a 100 stall, 46 of them Air Conditioned, which are a shoppers paradise. An array of colourful handicrafts, handlooms, decorative items, perfumes, ethnic ornaments and much more provide a festive look to the shops in the Haat.

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There are a number of outstanding features in Dilli Haat Janakpuri like the amphitheatre which can accommodate around 800 people and an AC hall which can hold 840 people.  “The Haat which was inaugurated in 2014 has culture activities throughout the year,” says Mr Subash, an official at the Dilli Haat Janakpuri who was busy in planning Teej Festival Celebrations to be held from Aug 15-18. He says if anyone wants to open a stall of any kind of consumer goods during such events they can contact him in his Dilli Haat Janakpuri office. There is also a musical library and museum which has a collection of all kinds of musical instruments and song collection.

During holidays and on vacation, Dilli Haat Janakpuri is a perfect hangout for families and couples with kids games, shopping arcade, food, cultural entertainment and wide area to walk around.

An Indian Cultural and Food Festival was held from Aug 7th to Aug 15 by the ITDC. The evenings during the events was a colourful and festive occasion at the haat. At the entrance of Dilli Haat Janakpuri, there were bands playing mellifluous music and you could spot participants dressed in various costumes showcasing the Indian Culture. The beautiful costumes were a feast for the camera and the participants were willing to pose for the camera, As part of the event, there were food stalls from different parts of the country.   The entry ticket is free for the event which is held from 5:00 -10:00 PM until Aug 15th.

One of the basket towers has a big hall where frequent exhibitions and shopping fests are held. In July there was a Mango fest in the spacious hall where Mango Planters from around the country exhibited hundred of varieties of Mangoes.

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On the occasion of the Teej Festival, many events were organized at Dilli Haat Janakpuri. There were many entertainments for family, especially children. And much to the joy of the women to make the This Teej festival and Independence day was truly unforgettable as there were be special stalls for Ladies items: handlooms, ornaments, perfumes, and much more. There was also a gala of events: Teej shopping, cultural food, theme exhibition, rides, kids zone, kite festival and rain dance.

As the festive season is yet to begin you can except more entertaining and creative events at the haat, providing more than a feast for the eyes and palate but also an insight into the variegated culture of India.

Paika Dance of Jharkhand

Paika is a Jharkhand dance form performed by men in which many martial art forms are used. Paika dance is used to welcome guests during any occasion. The dancer carry swords and wear shields to protect them from harm. Paikas are said to a group of people who used to protect the kingdom during ancient times.

Watch the paika dance of jharkhand performance on the occasion of Independence day celebration at Dilli Haath, Janakpuri. New Delhi.

 

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Kerala Tour with a difference: A visit to the historical onattukara

Kerala, which is popular for lush green tourist destinations like Munnar, Kumarakom and Thekkady, also has many historical places and monuments dating back to the stone ages.  One such place is Onattukara (the land of Onam), a feudal kingdom believed to have existed from 12th to 19th Century. Mavelikara which was the Capital of Onattukara is relevant in the modern cultural history of Kerala as Onam is celebrated in memory of the great king Maveli who ruled here.

History of Onaddu

Many historically relevant places of ancient Onattukara feudal state are found in the towns of Mavelikara, Kayamkulam and surrounding villages. By sparing a day of your Kerala tour to visit the historic Onattukara region you can get an insight into ancient religious, cultural and political history of Kerala. You will be visiting two Towns which are just 10 kms apart – Mavelikara and Kayamkulam.

The must visit tourist spots

Mavelikara

Mavelikara was the capital of the Onadu dynasty from 11th to the 15th Century, until the head quarters was moved to Krishnapuram, in Kayamkulam. Mavelikara still remains the cultural centre producing many renowned artists including Abu Abraham the famous cartoonist. The internationally renowned Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma, married from the royal family here. Raja Ravi Varma School of Fine Arts is located here producing many eminent artists like famous cartoonist R. Shankar Pillai. There is also a Buddha statue dating back to the 9th Century which shows the presence of Buddhism in Onattukara dynasty.

Kayamkulam

As the name suggests ‘kulam’ means ‘pond’ which indicates the presence of water bodies in this area. From the 15th to the 18th Century Kayamkulam was the capital of Onadu and Kayamkulam became the commercial centre. Even today Kayamkulam is a commercial centre because of the road and waterway connectivity. There are many temples and traditions here reminding the history of Onadu.

Buddha Statue 

buddha statue
Buddha Statue at Mavelikara

The statue of Lord Buddha which was discovered in a paddy field, near Kandiyoor Temple, is said to date back to the 9th Century. The statue indicates the prevalence of Buddhisim in Onattukara. Now the idol is installed beside the road that leads to the Sree Krishna Swami Temple. The 4ft. tall idol in a sitting, meditating posture with a smile on the face, is kept inside a pagoda like structure. You can easily locate the monument as the place is called Buddha Junction.

Kandiyoor Temple

kandiyoor temple
Kandiyoor temple

This is one of the ancient temples in Kerala known as Thekkan Kash (Kashi of the South) which has around twelve sub shrines. The Kandiyoor temple, some historians say, may have been an old Buddhist temple as the temple architect is different from that of other Kerala temples.

Evoor Temple(The Fire Temple)

Evoor krishna temple
Evoor Temple

This temple is famously known as the Guruvayoor of Onattukara. According to tradition Evoor Sri Krishna Temple is mentioned in the Mahabharata (burning of Khandava Forest) and  believed to be built in the presence of Lord Krishna.  “Raktha-pushpanjali” is a special offering here which is unavailable in any other Vishnu temples. About a century back the temple caught fire, and the king of Travancore reconstructed the temple with all the latest infrastructure available in those days.

Krishnapuram Palace

Kayamkulam palace
Krishnapuram palace

It is said that the Kings of Kayamkulam ruled from here when the Onadu capital was shifted from Mavelikara. The exact date of construction of the present palace in not known however it is said to have been built in the 17th Century by Marthanda Varma, the King of Travancore after defeating the Kayamkulam King. The palace is an epitome of the traditional Kerala architecture consiting of gabled roof, inner courtyards, narrow passages, ponds, etc. The greatest attraction is the 49 sq.m mural painting, Gajendra Moksham done with natural vegetable colours depicting a Mythological story of Lord Vishnu redeeming an elephant caught by a crocodile. The painting, is believed to be the biggest in Kerala, is place at the entrance of the bath area of the palace so that the royals can pray soon after bathing.

There is also an archaeological museum exhibiting ancient coins, the famous two edged Kayamkulam word and ancient urns used for burial. Outside the Palace, there is a beautiful garden with native Kerala flowers and plants. One of the four Buddha Statues discovered in Onatukkara is installed here.

Shankars Cartoon Museum

shankars museum
Shankars Cartoon Museum

A few kilometers away from Krishnapuram you can visit the museum of the famous political cartoonist of India, K. Shankar Pillai, whose cartoons were appreciated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Apart from his work, personal belongings like reclining chair and table that he used to create world famous cartoons are exhibited here. Also, there are sculptures made by  renowned artists depicting the culture of Onattukar.

Also Read: Food Fest Delhi confirms Delhiites love Good Food

Beaches

After visiting the historical sites, you can enjoy the cool breeze from the sea at the Azhikkal Beach (Aayiram Tengu) and Valiya Azhikkal beach (Kochiyude Jetty). These beaches are new and relatively unexploited destinations in tourism hence you can enjoy the beach and sea in all its natural beauty.

House boating in Backwaters 

Houseboat
Houseboat in Kayamkulam

Finally, you can take a house boat and head for a three hour cruise to the Venice of the East – Allappuzha through Ashtamudi Lake watching the Sunset. Or else you can enjoy a boat ride in the lagoon watching the lake opening into the Arabian Sea. If you visit on the Fourth Sunday of August you can watch the boat race held in the backdrop of the famous Chinese Fishing nets. The story goes that when the Kayamkulam King was defeated by the King of Travancore, he immersed all his wealth in this lake and escaped with his family.

There are many more monuments and traditions that preserve the ancient culture of the Onattukara region. Another town Karunagapalli was also part of the dynasty. You can visit the Ochira temple, which does not have an Idol. You can also see the procession of the Chettikulangar Festival know as Kettukazhcha where the devotees display decorated chariots with large colourful pyramid decorations.

Legend of Mahabali

maveliAs everyone knows Onam is the festival of Kerala, celebrated by all Keralites without religious or cast differences. The legend of Onam is that when the benevolent King Maveli/Mahabali (great sacrificer) ruled Onattukara there was peace, prosperity, wealth and harmony. He was so powerful that he became the ruler of the heaven and earth under the guidance of his guru Shukracharya.  Lord Vishu came in the form of a boy, Vamana when yagna was being conducted by mahabali to get a powerful weapon against Indra. The boy asked the King for land as much as three paces of his foot. The kind king agrees, but when the boy kept his first foot the earth was covered, the second measured the heaven and so the King asked the Lord to place his foot on his head as there was no more land left. Lord Vishnu sent him to the underworld, but granted him a gift that he could visit his subjects every year on Onam day.

Mahabali in history

According to experts the written history of Onatukkar is less in comparison to the songs and poems of those era which narrates stories originally without adding creative element. According to one such story King Maveli in his old age abdicated the throne to lead an ascetic life. To his emotion ridden subjects he promised that he will come to see them every year on Onam day. Until his death he is said to have visited his people on Onam. A popular Onam (Maveli) Song gives the heavenly atmosphere prevalent during  his reign:

Maveli nadu vaneedum kalam,
manusharellarum onnupole
amodhathode vasikkum kalam
apathangarkkumottillathanum
kallavum illa chathiyumilla
ellolamilla polivachanam
kallapparayum cherunazhiyum
kallatharangal mattonnumilla
adhikal vyadhikalonnumilla
balamaranangal kelppanilla

When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people were equal.
And people were joyful and merry;
They were all free from harm.
There was neither anxiety nor sickness,
Deaths of children were unheard of,
There were no lies,
There was neither theft nor deceit,
And no one was false in speech either.
Measures and weights were right;
No one cheated or wronged his neighbor.
When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people formed one casteless races


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