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To the Palace, the Falls, and the Beach

A Day Trip to Tamil Nadu and Kovalam

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Last Saturday we hired a car and driver and drove a few hours southeast into the nearby state of Tamil Nadu. These state names and borders are all relatively new in this land of ancient cultures. We were headed to the Padmanabhapuram Palace, the former royal palace of the rajas (kings) of Travancore, the last of a long line of princely states stretching back to the second century BC. About 1750 the capital of the Travancore kingdom was moved to Thiruvanatapuram, which means "thiru-anantha-puram", or "the holy city of Anatha", the coiled snake on which the god Vishnu reclines in the midst of the cosmic ocean. Vishnu is given a special name for this non-activity of reclining- "padma-nahba" (lotus-navel) and is depicted lying on the sacred snake with a lotus growing from his belly button. Padmanabha is the principal deity of the Travancore family and the very large temple in Trivandrum.

The palace is a series of structures in a sprawling complex and is considered one of the best examples of traditional Keralan architecture.

Ornate and intricate wood carving

Ornate and intricate wood carving

The king fed 2000 of his subjects daily in these immense banquet halls

These were the king's living quarters. It's good to be king.

A polished stone floor shimmers in this performance hall.

The entrance to the Saraswati temple found in the palace.

Whenever we are out people love to have their pictures taken with us.


After the tour of the palace we had some coconut water and looked at a few shops.


Then our driver suggested we visit a waterfall that was "nearby". We bumped along for about 40 minutes and finally reached the Thiruparappu Falls. We headed down two walkways, Steve down one way for the men and the girls and I down another until we reached the falls where many young people were having fun under the cascading water. The area for the boys and girls were, of course, separated. I got into my bathing suit and joined the fun under the pounding water. Mari and Lena stood by feeling embarrassed, for many people where staring at the white woman. Fortunately, I don't usually get flat out stares at home so it probably had something to do with the fact that females in India don't wear bathing suits, even at the beach. The young women, a whole group of them who were probably college age, were having fun in the water, fully dressed. Our girls had worn their bathing suits under their clothes but it took some convincing that it was okay, this wasn't a religious site and it was just about enjoying the water. We have been talking with the girls about being respectful of the culture, especially the modesty of the women. I must tell you, we have been in India almost a month and the only female legs I have seen are my own!

As the pictures express, Mari and Lena soon joined in and had a blast. As has happened before, Steve was befriended by a hoard of college age boys who seem to think he is the king. They whooped and hollered and danced in circles around him.


After the falls our driver took us north to Kovalam beach, which is about half an hour south of Trivandrum.
A real farmer's market on the way to Kovalom

On the way we passed a Christian procession on its way to the local church. Probably a festival honoring the saint which the church is associated with.


At the beach the surf has been rough lately so you can't really swim. Just jump over the waves and try not to get tossed down. There was a group of girls on a school trip enjoying the water in their uniforms. Lifeguards patrol the beach, whistling and waving red flags to make sure that people don't go out to far. I sat and watched and tried to read a little, but the peddlers were about. I bought a fresh coconut from an older lady and then two silk sarong style skirts to hid my western legs.


It was no surprise that the life guards felt to blow their whistles at swimmers just as much as they sound their horns in traffic


I took the girls to a small hut to get de-sanded and then we enjoyed a dinner on a terrace restaurant overlooking the water. The weather was a bit overcast, but as it is low season we enjoyed the peaceful evening.

One never knows what will arrive when ordering "meatballs" in different parts of the world...

Posted by SteveJenn 10:00

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