Textiles, Mumbai, India

Temples, Textiles, and Thattukada

Kim Jane Saunders|March 31, 2011|Blog Post

“Traveling in this part of the world is no bed of roses but a bouquet of experiences.” 
- An old Indian saying

What is it that makes India and Sri Lanka such splendid destinations? They assault all the senses in an unforgettable kaleidoscope of color and chaos. Temple towns, textiles, and tantalizing culinary temptations combined on our recent Splendors of India with Sri Lanka expedition to make it a truly unforgettable experience.

The colorful temples of southern India, with their distinctive gopuram gateways, are visited daily by Hindu devotees. The spectacular Meenakshiamman Temple in Madurai and the 6th-century Elephanta Caves near Mumbai are dedicated to Lord Shiva. The key attraction in Kandy, the late 17th-century Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, is the most important Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, and a site of pilgrimage. All of these temples are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Colorful textiles and costumes are everywhere in India and Sri Lanka. The national costume is the sari, and no two are alike. The same is true of the salwar kameez—tunic, trousers, and shawl worn by women—or the sherwani, worn by men. A love of beautiful brocades, silks, and cottons keep weaving and wearing a dynamic tradition. The Kandayan folk dancers of Sri Lanka and Kerala’s Kathakali classical dancers don stunning costumes for their performances. Classical music and dance traditions remain vibrant.

And, of course, you must taste India. A trip on a kettuvallam boat through the tranquil backwaters of Lake Vembanad provided a wonderful contrast to the hustle and bustle of Kochi. Rice preparations dominate Southern Indian cuisine and lunch aboard the colorful boats included local favorites such as rasam (pepper water) and sambhar (lentil puree).  The cuisine of Goa reflects its Portuguese legacy. A cooking demonstration with lunch was served in a beautifully restored mansion, and featured Kaleen of Prawns, a delicately flavored coconut curry, rosemary sausage pie, chicken vindaloo, bebinca, and traditional Goan layer cake. The Khyber Restaurant in Mumbai is one of the leading restaurants in India and features north and south Indian cuisine including tandoori chicken.

However, the culinary highlight was served by the Clipper Odyssey’s Executive Chef Sajeev. He devised and hosted a surprise Kerala Dinner Expedition on the grounds of the Kochi Gymkhana Club. The extensive menu consisted of no less than nine appetizers, soup, eight salads, 14 local Thattukada dishes, 14 regional dishes from Kerala, and five desserts. An army of chefs were on hand, grilling freshly caught fish and making fresh bread.

Essentially this was the perfect trip for culture enthusiasts, history buffs, photographers, and foodies. Local and colonial architecture is all around. Museums, temples, and churches abound, yet nature is not neglected. Sri Lanka’s Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a must, as is Kandy’s tranquil Royal Botanic Gardens, famous for their orchids and memorial trees. There were visits to homes, villages, markets, and a demonstration of the traditional Kalaritpayattu martial art of Kerala. Of course, no trip in India would be complete without a ride in the distinctive yellow and black motorized rickshaws –bajaj and a stop at Mumbai’s huge outdoor laundry, Dhoby Ghaut.

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