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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Theyyam by the river Valapattanam

    If I was waiting to visit Kannur, it was to experience Theyyam. I had  heard so much about it from our homestay owners who  recommended it highly .I had also  read a lot about it ,which mentioned that Kannur was the Land of Theyyams. .The rest of it ,the beaches ,the  forts ,the beautiful walkways and the sunsets came as a bonus .

You might also like reading-The Chera Beach

Image courtesy junglekey.in

So what is Theyyam ?
     Its a ritual art form of north Kerala (not to be confused with the kathakali dance of the state ),which is held in the  months of December to April .It is held in almost all places of northern Kerala
  except the Parassini Kadavu temple in Kannur ,where it is held everyday .The thyyam is held in        front of the village shrines , with devotees surrounding the performers . It is performed in many ways in praise of various gods ,by the lower caste people of this region.for the well being of family and society. This has been a ritual for this area for several thousands of years .

The road to the Parassini Kadavu  Temple is a long winding one  with lush greenery and beautiful mansions all around .Just before reaching the temple we crossed a bridge over a river and the road culminated to a surprisingly crowded place .The place was lined with shops selling all possible things required for the visit to the temple and souvenirs to take back home ,leaving no doubt in our minds that we were at right place.
                                            Inside the temple complex we were amazed to see a voluminous river flowing alongside .The river was the Valapattanam.The Theyyam was yet to start since it does not start before sunset .So a boat ride on the river Valapattanam at sunset was the next evident option  . 

 It was a day of many amazement and surprises I guess, as nature put up a beautiful show for us.We were the only ones on the river that evening when the sun bathed the sky and the river with its last rays for the day.The golden hues of sunset lent an ambiance of  serenity with the Parassini Kadavu Temple gleaming at the edge of the river at a distance.
Peace and simplicity had a close relation,I wondered.

   The Parassini Kadavu Temple is also known as the Muthappan Temple,named after lord Muthappan. Legend has a very interesting tale about how Muthappan emerged as the Lord of the region but that is a different story .

    For the time being I can only think of our bewilderment as we entered the temple complex. The place had an unusual number of dogs roaming everywhere.It did not take us long to notice that there were two large bronze statues of dogs at the entrance of the temple and many more smaller ones near the shrine.It was palpable that our canine cohabitants had a very vital role in this temple.We later learnt that they were the bodyguards of Lord Mutthappan, and it is so believed that once when the temple authorities removed them the theyyam performers were unable to put up a performance.

The Parassini Kadavu temple from the boat

   With the setting sun the crowd which was till now dispersed all over the temple complex slowly gathered to the shrine.All lights were switched off in the hall which houses the shrine .Many oil lamps were lit up at the shrine in the dark hall, providing an enchanting atmosphere.

   All eyes were now fixed at it ,so as to not to miss a moment of what would come up next.What came up next did not disappoint us , the attire with the headgear, the drummers and other folk musical instruments being played ,together lent an atmosphere of awe. The ensuing performance was the story of Lord Muthappan,through folk dance and music.The performers are believed to take the form of the Lord during the performance  .The devotees touched their feet to seek blessings after the performance.

        The temple was unique in its own way.The devotees offered fish and liquor to the lord here and prasad is first served to the dogs here and then to the people.

   Be it the Muthappaan Temple or Theyyam at the village shrines,this age old form of art had its lasting  impact on me. I visualised how astounding it would be to watch the brightly coloured dressed Theyyam performers perform in a warm winter afternoon,in a picturesque Malabar village.

Image courtesy junglekey.in
       As the car crossed the dimly lit bridge once again as I returned to Kannur,I reflected at the strange relation man shares with nature. I wondered if it is the Maker who draws faith ,or merely faith which makes a man the Master. These and many more such thoughts jostled for space in my perplexed mind ,while the car drove past the now dark scenery of palm lined roads and glimmering mansions.
         The Parassinikadavu Temple is located at Anthoor,16 kms from Kannur city .If you are driving from Kannur.it is best to start in the afternoon and reach there by sunset,to witness theyyam .The temple has provision of serving tea and refreshments to all devotees .There are many shops outside the temple where snacks are available for the visitors.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Amban Heritage(Home stay)...a cosy nest in Kannur

   Home stays are the preferred option when travelling with kids. Most of the times they allow us to stay close to nature and is probably the best way to understand the local people or soak in the local flavours.We came to know about  the home stay Amban Heritage in Kannur from  "Trip Advisor".

The Kerala style cottage own us over,with the tiled roofs and pillared veranda in the first glance.Amban Heritage is actually an old renovated double storey house.The owners stay in a portion of the house,while the rest of the house is used by the visitors.Amban has a living room and one bedroom with attached bath in the ground floor.The kitchen and the dining is also in the ground floor. The other three bedrooms are in the first floor of the house.

      Sitting in an open area sipping tea has now become a luxury for many of us,though it must have been a daily affair for the occupants of this house many years ago. Our host told us that this house was nearly a hundred years old.It was built by her great grandmother and passed down the family chain.
The best part of it is, the seating has  a big garden area in front of it .One can sit here and chat while the children can play in the open space in front of it.The kids wanted to spend the maximum time in the homestay as they could be in the open ,something they completely lack in our apartment style living.
The house is maintained clean and tidy and has retained the old world charm along with all modern facilities.

These copper vessels  probably used by their forefathers,now add to the aesthetics of the house.

The first thing that comes to our mind about Amban is the food.They pampered us with the food. Of the three days we stayed there, every breakfast and dinner had a different menu. We started getting into the habit of discussing and guessing what would be served in the next meal. We had lunch outside when we visited the different places in and around Kannur. You can also read  St. Angelo's FortThe drive to Kannur,    The Chera Beach.  

The lady who cooked for us( sorry to forget the name) was an excellent cook. Even evening snacks were not made in a hurry.We got to taste Ela Ada (riceflour pancakes with sweet coconut filling) for the first time. We did not have much idea about Malabar cuisine but loved every bit of it.  Our host had got  a clear idea that we were sea food loving people. So we were served mackerels,squids crabs and more.We could not stop ourselves from taking second and third helpings.

            The lady who cooked for us offered to prepare Maggi for the kids (in case they are not comfortable with the food). But it was not required ,as the food was prepared moderately spiced keeping the children in view,and our children enjoyed the food as much as we did.They liked it to the extent that they even disagreed to have dinner outside Amban once we were getting late from the Parassini Kaduva Temple.

Food was prepared hot and served warm.But the most warm aspect of Amban was not the food.Though food was kept ready at the table and we were too happy to serve ourselves ,our hosts would graciously be present in the dining room during meals,engaged in conversation with us about the food. After all it is Indian hospitality you see...

   Though the flooring and much of the interiors have been changed to keep pace with modern lifestyle ,these old wooden windows still stand strong to give us a glimpse of olden architecture.

Here is another piece  to remind us of the good old days.

The stairs connecting the ground floor to the first floor

The living room

I just love the looks of that simple cot.

 A view from upstairs of the driveway and the garden area .

 Our hosts took  the children  and me around to show the different plants in their garden.Let me take you around for the same .

Can you spot the cocoa pods hanging from the cocoa plant?

  The pepper climbers...

  Betel nuts...

  A mace plant in the garden.

This is how they bring those coconuts down!The kids were amused to see the man climb the coconut tree hired by the home stay owners, to get the coconuts.

We were seven people in all including kids.So the whole house was actually left to us.The bedrooms ,though a bit small ,did not pose much of a problem for us.After all ,we retreated to the bedrooms only to fall asleep.The two cars could be well parked in the driveway.There was television connections but we had little time for it .We spent most of our time chatting and relaxing in the open area outside.There are no WiFi connections there,but then I would suggest that for a digital detox.
Our host were charming people with a good idea of the place.He provided necessary information for many of our visits to the different places around Kannur.
The place is a little away (about 7 to 8 kilometers on the average)from the beaches,but since we had our own vehicle we did not mind.Rather we enjoyed the drive through the town.
The food, although not included in the tariff was surprisingly nominal.

  We stayed there for three nights,but could have extended our stay,if Amban did not have other bookings.It was  a short and sweet visit to a place,a retreat from our maddening lives.If you are the type of person who drives pleasure from simple things in life ,Amban Heritage is the place for you.

  Amban Heritage is in the Kannur district of Kerala ,In the place called Mathanur.The Kannur district in north Kerala is about 310 kms. from Bangalore.It takes roughly 7 to 8 hours for a leisurely drive to the place(considering the Makkoottam Churan Ghat that comes on the way).
The route-Bangalore-Mysore-Virajpeta road-Makkoottam Churan Ghat-Koottupuzha bridge-Irrity-Kannur
  One can find many hotels and refreshments at Irrity,ATMs and hoispital facility is also available there.There are not many eateries after one takes the deviation from the Mysore road to the Virajpeat road.
The railway station at Kannur is also well connected to all parts of India.The nearest airports are at Calicut and Mangalore,while the new airport coming up at Kannur is expected to begin commercial operations in mid 2017.Kannur is on national highway 66 between Kozhikode and Mangalore.