Monday, May 27, 2013

Temples of Kerala: Shree Muthappan Temple, Kannur

Resonating true to the nature of Kerala, its Temples too painted a picture of peace and calm. So peaceful were its precincts that there were a few instances when I was discouraged even ringing the bell so that its tranquility could be maintained! Presented in the following series are a few temples we visited while our stay in Kannur. Come along!

Shree Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu, Kannur

Highly recommended by our Kannur homestay host, Indu, we started our temple tour of Kerala with Shree Muthappan temple dedicated to a highly revered deity of northern Kerala - Shree Muthappan, characterized by Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.

A narrow lane lined by hotels and shops selling different kinds of toys amongst other things lead you to the main temple complex. In the complex, one comes across the gopuram before entering the main temple.

Lane leadind to the Shree Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu, Kerala
The lane leading to the temple

Lane to the Shree Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu, Kerala
The entrance to the temple complex

The temple is one of the most significant ones for the Kannur-ites and attracts many a visitors like me for more reasons than one; one of the chief features being the existence of dogs. You find them everywhere - Outside the temple, inside the temple and even near the sanctum - real as well as artificial!

Some keep themselves busy by catching a nap,

Dog sleeping at the Shree Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu, Kannur
Outside the temple

... while the others have an important job to do!

Dog at the Shree Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu, Kannur
One of the two temple guards at the entrance

The temple regards dogs as sacred creatures and this fact is very well highlighted at the entrance itself. The main temple is neatly defended by two fierce looking statue of dogs installed to keep a watch at the pilgrims and the visitors. Besides these, one also comes across a large number of bronze dogs guarding the sanctum. If one were to believe ancient stories, Muthappan used to have a dog accompany in his journey and that is how dogs have come to enjoy a special place in the temple today.

Entance to the Shree Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu, Kannur
A glimpse of the main temple, through the door

The second feature of the temple and probably the most significant one is the aura of a ‘Live’ God. Here, you not only pray but also interact with the deity through a special folk dance that is held everyday during the morning and evening time. Theyyam as it is called; this folk art entails an ornately dressed resident priest to perform a special dance representing the Lord himself. The devotees watching it from the sidelines get a chance to interact with the Lord at the end of the show.

Muthappan Theyyam (as Lord Vishnu) at the Shree Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu, Kannur
Muthappan Theyyam (as Lord Vishnu) at the temple
(Image courtesy:

Alas, I reached the place at odd times when the sanctum was closed and the Theyyam hours away. Hence, I could only imagine the feel of how ‘networking live’ with the Lord must be. But even then, peeping through the crevices of the closed sanctum door and getting His glimpse through the faint natural light was quite an enlivening experience as well.

At the other end of the temple, flows the serene and calm Velapattanam River. It is said that one should purify oneself in its sacred waters before entering the temple.

Velapattanam River of Shree Muthappan Temple, Parassinikadavu, Kannur
A family at the Velapattanam River

The last distinctive feature of the temple is the offering made to the deity. Fish and toddy are the favorite meals of the Lord but we rather chose to substitute these by our humble prayers.

Important travel tips and information:

1. Theyyam is held everyday all round the year, in the morning (7.30 am to 9.45 am) as well as in the evening (6.40 pm to 7.40 pm). Try to plan your visit around those times during the day and try to catch it live.

2. Festival: Muthappan Thiruvoppana Mahothsavam is the major festival of the temple, celebrated for three days every year on 19, 20 and 21 of Kumbham (the days correspond to 3, 4 and 5 March).

3. Accommodation: Hotels and other stay options are available outside the temple.

4. Photography is prohibited inside the temple.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tuning into God's frequency: Sunset in Kannur, Kerala

The hurrying sound of the waves is striking, even from a distance. It is the only significant sound I hear in the otherwise quiet retreat. Juggling my steps carefully through a heap of stones, naturally arranged in a haphazard manner, I make my way to the beach of Blue Mermaid home stay in Kerala. As I come down, the undulation, the ups and downs and the definitive roar clearly becomes audible. The melody is quick to charm my attention as is the magnificence of the evening setting sun.

Sunset in Kannur, Kerala
The magnificence of the evening sun

The golden persona of the sun tells me that there is still time for the sun to set. Water shimmers and part of green leafy tree tops glisten as the soft evening yellow kisses them with its glittery glow.

Across the lengths of the sandy silvery beach, silence fills the environs. There is hardly a soul in view. Breaking this calm constantly, are the lashing of the waves and the rustling of the leaves. The music is repetitive yet somber; and it seems to travel through the wilderness of the galaxies above. Whether it reaches the heaven, I wonder, but I already feel transported to His doorstep.

Waves and the ocean at the Kannur beach, Kerala
Musical waves

A few rocks protruding out from the water grab my attention. Waves come in, collide with them, bow down and recede back only to come back and repeat the entire cycle again. Fascinating as it is, this brutal water attack on the rocks leaves me wondering – 

Waves crashing against the rocks at the beach, Kannur - Kerala

Since how long have these rocks been struggling with the might of the ocean?
And, since how long will they ...

As if in a bid to wash all my thoughts away, the next wave comes in quick and there is a powerful clash yet again... the ensuing spray leaves me drenched, just a bit though. Tempted by the wet of water, I decide to venture into the seas.

Do not go very deep inside the waters, I hear the voice of my father warning me.

Frothy waves at the Kannur beach, Kerala
Stepping in...

Stepping just enough in the froth of the waters, I leave my flip flops at the shore and let my feet go free. The waves caress and cover them in rich soapy foam. A bit of sand slips under. Even as my feet are pulled in, I fix my eyes towards the ever changing color palette of the skies.

The sun, in its new avatar of faintly tinted yellow and orange, is all set to leave. The natural light gets dimmer and dimmer with every passing second yet the boisterous gushing of the ocean goes on...

Sun set at the beach in Kannur homestay, Kerala
Sunset at the beach in Kannur homestay, Kerala
Sunset in Kannur homestay, Kerala
Spectacular Sunset at the beach, Kannur - Kerala

A beautiful event planned by the Master, the Sunset... unfolds.

I sit down on the swampy seat of sand and let everything seep inside. The magical colors, the hushed silences, the transforming moments are simply beautiful. A few more moments and its gone... vanishing somewhere, faraway in the horizon or is it beneath the whirl of the sea?

Sunset in Kannur homestay, Kerala - South India
The final glimpse: Sunset

Time comes to a standstill as the world seems to be drifting apart. A meditative lull descends. A sense of peace prevails. Darkness befalls... Time to get back to the hotel, have dinner and catch a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is going to be another beautiful day.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Joys of a Local Train Ride: Kozhikode to Kannur

Wisps of wind caressed my face while my eyes remained stuck to the views outside. Palm trees ascended above the choppy blue waters and the traditional houses for most of the part through the journey. Kerala, for me, was rolling its way to glorious beauty in picturesque motion.

Accustomed to the madness that local trains of Mumbai offer, I heaved a huge sigh of relief when the local train ride from Kozhikode (Calicut) to Kannur, my destination in Kerala, provided for a complete contrast, in all possible ways.

Local train ride, Kerala

For starters, there were no crowds to suffocate my space or jostle me around, something that I had anticipated a few minutes earlier when I was standing at the ticket window. Sure, the weather was hot and I did feel some sweat trickle down my forehead soon after hopping on the train but that was amply compensated by my prized acquisition - the window seat - in the right direction.

For the next two hours or so, I witnessed an eclectic mix of charm, spirit and beauty mirrored in the picturesque landscape, covering the floors of this divine country.

Kozhikode to Kannur Local train ride, Kerala
Calicut to Kannur Local train ride, Kerala
Kerala local train ride views, South India
Views from my window seat: Feel the ecstasy of the moving train!

Even amid the stillness of the trees, the skies, the waters and the Zen-like views I heard the wind whisper a promise...

A promise...

Kozhikode to Kannur Local train ride views, Kerala

... to be a perfect companion on this nature trail of mine.

Traveler Tips:

1. Located at a distance of 85 kms., Kannur can be reached via road, rail or bus from Kozhikode.

By rail: The nearest station to Kozhikode airport is Faroq from where one can get access to a few direct trains for Kannur. The train that I have described above is the Calicut Kannur Passenger which departs from Faroq at 2 pm (and at 2.15 pm from Kozhikode Main), takes around 2 hrs. and costs a meager Rs. 18! You can get some more options to choose from if you decide to catch a train from the main Kozhikode station. Do your research on the internet beforehand to find the train suited to your timings and preferences so that you dont find yourself lost once you are there.

Other options: Cabs charge around Rs. 2500 for taking you to Kannur. As an alternative, buses are available too.

PS: Last 2 days remaining for 'One Picture From My Photo Album' Contest to close. Please participate if you haven't already! :-)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Planning, How to reach and Where to stay in Kannur

The itinerary for our trip to Kannur and Wayanad in Kerala came pre crafted and here’s a part of what it looked like –

- 2 nights stay in Wayanad in a bamboo cottage. Breakfast meals + a few activities included.

- 2 nights stay in Kannur in a traditional house.

- All meals included in Kannur.

Keeping our interest and time in mind, we cut down Wayanad from the itinerary and added Tirupati instead.

Plans were chalked out accordingly and flight tickets to
Kozhikode (the nearest airport to Kannur) booked. The trip did come with its fair share of hassles though, even getting completely cancelled at one point of time because of unforeseen circumstances. But thanks to the kindness of Shivya of India Untravelled and the host of our Kannur home stay Indu, the validity of our prized trip was extended so that we could avail it at a later date.

Finally, on 27th March 2013, I boarded my Jet flight from Mumbai to Kozhikode (Calicut) and took my window seat. Seat belt secured and mobile phone switched off, I waited for the final call of take off. As I sat still staring out to a long barren runway stretch beyond, my hurried mind decided to set off, in its own flight of fancy. A cascade of images flashed by – sand and the seas, idyllic lanes fringed with coconut trees, ancestral temples, lip smacking authentic South Indian cuisine, warm people and a lot of peace – all in a matter of a few minutes.

Amazingly enough, a couple of hours later when I finally did get there, I found all these images to be right. I had almost all of it... and in such abundance... that now, I can’t wait to go there again. Someday, I will... for sure, but for now, I have got loads to share and so I am all ready to set out again in this virtual yatra of ours!

Are you ready to explore?

How to reach Kannur

From Bangalore: A weekend getaway situated around 300 kms away; Kannur is a 5 hr. drive by road for the Bangloreans.

From Mumbai: 

Flight: You can take a flight to the nearest airport i.e. Kozhikode (Calicut). To get to Kannur from there, you can either take a cab (Rs. 2500) or the local train but I would recommend taking the local train. A rickshaw from the Kozhikode airport (Rs. 240) will drop you at the Faroq railway station from where you can find different trains leaving for Kannur at periodic intervals. Not only will this save you a lot of money but the local flavor in the journey will be something to savor for a long time to come.

Train: You can find a few trains running between Mumbai and Kozhikode if your preferred mode of travel is train.

Where to stay in Kannur: Blue Mermaid Homestay

Situated in Thottada village, approximately 8 KM and 30 minutes away from the main city of Kannur, Blue mermaid home stay is the place to go IF you are looking for a quiet run away from all the urban chaos and spending some quality time with none other but nature and nature alone.

Blue Mermaid Home Stay, Kannur
(Traditional stay towards the left and bamboo cottage towards the right)

The rooms are comfortable, clean and face the beachfront. Hammocks swinging from tall slender coconut trees in the lazily manicured garden add to the complete laidback-ness of the place. The home stay also has a bamboo cottage if you want to make your stay somewhat offbeat and unusual. I chose to stick with the traditional Kannuri house however, that came with my package.

Traditional room

Apart from all the above things that a traveler generally looks out for, what I really loved about the place was the hospitality and the warmth of our cheerful and chatty host – Indu - her dedication in hospitality and merry attitude ensured that it made our home stay experience indeed a homely one!

Traveler Tips:

Food: served is both vegetarian and non vegetarian. If you have any dietary preferences, make sure to suggest them to Indu well before meal times.

Location: Since the home stay is located a bit away from the main city, transportation and getting around can be a flip point but to counter that, there is an in house rickshaw available on call which can be used to get you out to the main city at a cost of Rs. 500. Further, you can save yourself money by clubbing it with a short tour of the nearby places.

Book yourself a half day cab: A cab can be booked from the home stay if you wish to explore the city and the nearby places. The cost is around Rs. 3500 for an entire day and Rs. 1500 for half a day. To avoid tiring yourself out, the half day option is recommended.

Talk to the locals: Do not forget to talk to your host while you chalk out your sightseeing plans. Besides being the gracious host that Indu is, I found in her one of the best guides ever willing to help.

Last but not the least: Do some googling well in advance to avoid any last minute hassles. There are numerous Kerala hotels and cottages available suited to all kinds of pockets and preferences.

Blue Mermaid Homestay:

Contact No:  +91-9497300234

PS: Last few days remaining for 'One Picture From My Photo Album' Contest to close. Please participate if you haven't already!

Monday, May 6, 2013

On a Nature Trail to God's Own Country: Kerala

27. 03. 2013:

Palm trees extend upwards at every stretch, neatly framed against an implausibly blue sky. Soft turquoise-blue waters cut through them, every now and then. As the local train from Calicut to Kannur chugs its way through the humble settlements, the muddy tracks and the tranquil streams... the quaint countryside of the city, the traveler in me peeps out of the window and scans the landscape; the place is a quiet retreat with no trace of chaos or commotion. Keeping in tune, I quietly slide my hand in my bag, bring out my pen and diary and start scribbling.

Postcard from Kerala - God's own country
Kerala: God's own Country

An extract: 

Nature rules here...

Pristine, pure, untouched and unscathed. Though it’s been only a while since I landed foot in this natural wonderland but I am already having a blessed feeling. No wonder, this is India untravelled, that part of sacred India where none other but the God’s reside... Swagatham, as the locals say,

Yes! I am in Kerala ... God’s own country...

Rewind: How I came to Kerala

A treasured post dedicated to my grandpa coupled with all your kind wishes had helped me secure a packaged 4D / 3N nature trail for 2.

This prize trip (organized by Shivya of India Untravelled), courtesy IndiBlogger and Kissan, meant we were left with a booklet showcasing 6 nature trails from different parts of offbeat India out of which one had to be picked. Flipping through our options ranging from an opportunity to experience the snowy Spiti valley or the royalty of Raison in Himachal Pradesh to the mountains of Sikkim in the North East, we soon realized what a tough job we had at hand. All the destinations were highly alluring and it was a difficult task to choose just one. After a lot of discussions, we decided to settle down for Kannur and Wayanad in Kerala, a quiet retreat in nature.

A trip down south after a long long time and a long awaited one at that... Ah! Excited that I was, I instantly got down to researching more on it.

( ... To be contd.)

PS: The 'One Picture From My Photo Album' Contest closing dates are extended! Now you can blog and stand a chance to win a shopping voucher worth $100 till the 16th of May. Please read more about it here.