29 Dec 2014

South India Pilgrimage: Day 7. On the road...

Day Seven of the South India Pilgrimage, written by: Bhakti Dasi, Leelavathi, and Sitaram

The sun was shining and hot but yet we were still looking forward to continue the pilgrimage. Kochi is the town where we were exploring this day. In the past, Kochi was a city with European influences and it is still possible to see that nowadays, mainly in the architecture.

One of the interesting things in this small town, is the coexistence of several religions, including: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and many others.

Santa Cruz Basilica by karmadude, on Flickr

After a wonderful breakfast, Guruji lead our group to Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, a catholic church downtown based at Fort Kochi; it is one of the eight Basilicas in India. Counted as one of the heritage edifices of Kerala, this church is one of the finest and most impressive churches in India and is visited by tourists the whole year round. It is a place of devotion where several saints can be found. One of the saints that Guruji spoke about was Saint Vicente de Paul, who was a priest that dedicated himself to serving the poor. Guruji likes him very much! Once a month it is also possible to venerate a relic from the Cross that Jesus was crucified on.

God’s own Country - Sights 08 by Pandiyan, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  Pandiyan 

After this inspiring visit we had some free time to go shopping for Indian cloths, local handicraft, spice shops, etc.

The group planned to catch a tuk tuk at 4 p.m. to go straight to the Cochin Thirumala Devaswom Temple. At this temple we did Parikrama (walking around the temple) while we were awaiting for the temple to open. We sat quietly and began singing bhajans. However, because this temple only allows Indian Hindus, we were forbidden to watch the ceremony.

As we were waiting outside the temple for the rickshaws to take us to the Kathakali play; the time reached 6pm and the temple opened for a wedding to take place. Muktaananda wanted to have the Darshan of the divine couple and entered the temple. Nobody asked him to leave and he took part in the whole ceremony. It also happened that he could talk with the manager of the temple so his explanation follows: "I said to him that our Gurudeva was very upset with this old rule that only Hindus are allowed inside. It's not appropriate anymore in our times. We should cultivate openness and love and welcome one another. He agreed with that but he said, "We can not change this rule." Nevertheless, the rule was changed a little bit this evening. Through this, the blessing of the wedding could reach the whole Bhakti Marga family."

Kathakali / ????? by Jogesh S, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Jogesh S 

The Katha Kali traditional dance of Kerala which 
depicts the test that Lord Shiva gave to Arjuna.

Travelling again in the famous tuk tuk, we made our way to the Kathakali show. Kathakali is a stylized classical indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of the characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures, the 33 mudras and the well-defined body movements presented. It originated in the country's present day state of Kerala during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved make up, refined gestures and added themes, including more ornate singing and precise drumming. Kathakali literally means 'to represent history'. It was a new experience and was awesome!!!

We hopped on the tuk tuk headed to the hotel. With a speech full of emotion and history, our driver gave us a passionate expression of the city. His words brought the city to life, you could tell that this local man truly loves the city he is from.

In the hotel we were presented with a delicious Indian dinner in a serene and charming courtyard setting, with a sound of a rhythmic Tabla flowing through the air.