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Thanjavur

People call it the “big temple” and the talk is of the probably grandest structure in South India, the Brihadeshwara Temple at Thanjavur. The top of the temple is adorned by a 70 ton rock and till date the speculation is on, on how this giant rock was brought up there more than 1000 years ago. The tenple is not s colorful as many other and that makes him sort of a change. Is the size that impresses and its simplicity. The temple feels like an oasis, just a wonderful place to see.

If you are in Thanjavur you have to make sure to visit one of the famous Veena makers. The Sarasvati, or Rudra Veena is a South Indian classical instrument that hasn’t changed much since the times of the vedas, almost 3000 years ago. Its a string instrument made from the wood of the jack fruit tree and it takes a craftsman several weeks to create one instrument. To visit these craftsmen is like visiting a museum, where literally thousands of years greet you in a still active environment.

Chidambaram

Chidambaram might be considered by many just a stop over on the way to central Tamil Nadu. Yet just passing by would be a pity, because to the locals this is one of the most important places in the land. The Shiva temple in the town center is considered to be the magnetic equator of the world. The place is sacred to Hindus, because it is here, where the energy streams criss crossing the globe form a knot. And it is here that Shiva danced his Tandava, the dance of destruction and creation. It is from here that the dancing image of Shiva in the form of Nataraja was formed, multiple arms, surrounded by flames and balancing himself dancing on the body of a demon. It is said, that if you conquer your ego (the demon, destruction) the universe will open up and grant you all its secrets (ring of flames, creation). To Hindus this place is therefore holy as it is said to grant passage from our limited intellect into the knowledge and wisdom of the universe, known as Moksha. The temple is open to all visitors and allows us to witness the rituals at the main shrine.

Men and the sea

Its a hard life for these men going out at sea almost every day of their working lives. All night they spend on a small boat out under the vast canopy of the endless sky, trying to bring home the catch that nourishes the family.

Hardship that shows on their faces and on their hands. The fishing they do is not dominated by huge winches, but solely relies on the camaraderie  to bring in the precious catch to ensure a decent life for their families.

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Braving the storm.

Indigenous people of North Kerala

I recently had the good fortune to visit some of the small villages of the indigenous communities in Wayanad, North Kerala. Together with our GM Subi from Wayanad Wild, our Chef and a social worker we climbed the hills in the forested areas of the Wayanad plateau. People here still live a lot from the forest, collecting roots, honey and herbs for their daily needs. The create amazing bamboo traps for fishing in the rivers and I was told that earlier they were great archers too. Today the law forbids them to hunt.

wayanad2Their way of live is rapidly changing. Forests have been turned into Plantation, devoid of the food they used to find. National parks have sprung up, restricting their movements to collect honey, herbs and bark for the food and indigenous forms of medicine.

wayanad6Lately their way of using plants and barks for curing has caught the attention of scientists now probing into their secrets of the forest. Unfortunately their lack of school book knowledge will eventually prevent them from benefitting of their old age tradition and art to cure.

wayanad7To me it was a touching encounter with people that live on the earth around them and me a traveller from across the oceans. Their smile and shy laughter turns as always into exercise of humility for me. Communication is nothing but a smile and the words of the social worker in her broken english.

Walking trough their simple village, Standing Rock comes to my mind, where even today the erstwhile owners of the land still have to fight to get their rights respected. And I wonder how much the situation differs from the land across the sea.