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Keralan culture in Cochin

Cochin Travel Blog

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Just a normal day on the road to Cochin

Back down to the coast to Fort Cochin - Portuguese, then Dutch, then British, now mainly a tourist enclave for westerners. Vasco da Gama was buried in St Francis Church here before his body was removed to Lisbon. The Church was originally Catholic, then Dutch Lutheran, then C of E, now Church of South India. Inside, the punkahs - cloth fans- still hang above the pews. The streets are pretty with old houses, they're relatively traffic free, and there are plenty of nice cafes and restaurants. A 20 minute ferry ride away is the bustling real India of Ernakulum, and in between is a busy port. The famous Chinese fishing nets are by the harbour mouth, great wooden spider-like contraptions, with counter weights balancing nets that get lowered into the water.

The Chinese nets at Vypeen
After 5 minutes or so the nets are lifted out and the fishermen rush along the planks to juggle any fish (often only 3 or 4, sometimes none) out of the net. On the Cochin side, about a dozen nets work, and on the opposite shore, on Vypeen Island, you can see another six. Hard work for little return, but very picturesque for the tourists.

We took the opportunity to sample Keralan culture, a demonstration of Kathakali Theatre and a demo of Kalarippayat, the local martial art. The Kathakali artists spend hours getting made up, green face good guy, red face bad guy. They wear huge heavy costumes, with high headdresses, and the story is told in mime in a series of particular facial expressions and hand gestures, with drum and song accompaniment. The all male performers traditionally play all night.

Hauling on the nets
Our 2 hour demo - fascinating and curious - gave us a small insight. We wouldn't be up to an all-nighter!

The Kalarippayat demo was active and sometimes disturbing and frightening, with swords, knives, staves and a metal tawse, but you had to admire the agility of the performers - especially in their hand to hand demo of how to break legs, wrists and arms.

We also attended an Indian classical music concert, tabla and sitar, which was for the first 20 minutes relaxing and peaceful. Then a group of about 150 Indians entered the hall for a later performance, to join the existing audience. About 50 used the loo (just near the stage) others changed seats, they talked, ate ....The dirty looks from a section of the audience made no difference (not us - we giggled - quietly), nor did the disruption to the performers, who carried on regardless. Quite an Indian experience.

 

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Just a normal day on the road to C…
Just a normal day on the road to …
The Chinese nets at Vypeen
The Chinese nets at Vypeen
Hauling on the nets
Hauling on the nets
Punkahs
Punkahs
Old Cochin
Old Cochin
Old Cochin
Old Cochin
Kathakali
Kathakali
Good overcomes evil
Good overcomes evil
Home from the sea
Home from the sea
Cochin
photo by: Vikram