Our trip to Chalakudy (30 km south of Trissur town) this time was full of travel, but it was also a real holiday as I see it – far from the responsibilities of home-making, school and work. Peak-season bookings (not done in time in our case) ensured that we reached home well after 5 hours past the usual 9 am, after travelling in two trains, two buses and two autos. Soon after lunch and banter to catch up with neighbourhood ‘gossip’, we went on a usual round chez friends and neighbours, a visit to the laughter club hour at the riverside and then to the village temple. Next morning was another visit to the temple, and thereafter lazing around having the occasional ‘karikku (ilanir - tender coconut water)’, munching on the tender sweet pulp and, well, doing nothing.
An impromptu decision to go direct west to the beach in Trissur district and we packed in the car bound for Kodungallur, famous for its Bhagavathy temple. (Actually legend has it that it was a temple for noble and pious Kannagi of ‘Silappathikaram’ fame. Later a saint invoked the Goddess Durga to come and reside in the temple). Perhaps because of the controversy or due to plain lack of care by the powers that be, the temple appears unkempt and run-down, populated by nomadic beggars. Regular pujas though, are obviously performed.
Having logged this temple for Kannagi, we wended our way through winding roads to the beach…to be met by the strong smell, nay stench (I beg pardon, dear fish-lovers: I love them too - when alive and water-kicking, so there) that is part of fishermen’s livelihood. Once we went beyond the heaped mounds, it was enjoyable and we splashed around in the water watching the sunset, an occasional boat coming in, and birds going to roost – and we even got round to munching a few tit-bits we had carried from home – and we carried back a few snapshots of the red glow and the waves and laughing faces (it being my nephew Arun’s first visit to the seaside, he didn’t take to it like a fish). All too soon it was time to go home, but another ‘first’ was in store: a different route took us across the backwaters on the Krishnankotta ferry, car and all (and saved nearly 10 km of travel).
Next morning we lazed at the river, my husband pretending to have a bath, me pretending to swim (Let me put it this way: I was actually trying to remember instructions I had read in a book ‘Learn swimming in 30 days’ bought 8 years ago in waterless Chennai), and our son feigning fear of getting in and wet. An hour and several efforts (by me at flapping woefully webless feet and by father at cajoling son) later, I reluctantly climbed back home to shower and lunch.
Post tea, we set off for Irinjalakuda and the famed centuries-old
Bharata temple. The Irinjalakuda road is narrow, but very, very smooth. As we turned in from the Trissur highway, we were in for a 20-minute wait at the railway crossing. Allepey express passed, and we continued on our way, fleeting past shops and houses. The ‘Koodal Manickya Kshetram’ (Om Namo Bhagavathe Sangameshaya!) is a vast and beautiful space. We ladies nearly missed entering the uniquely circular sanctum sanctorum, the watchman kindly directed us to the temple office, which lends dhotis to just such hapless lady visitors (Most temples in Kerala do not allow any kind of tailored clothing near the sannidhis).
The temple pond is revered so completely that it is totally off bounds for use except by the priests, that too after a cleansing bath elsewhere. One can feed 5-rupee worth ‘meen-ootta’ though – the fishes are said to be divine incarnations and a circuit of the pond is considered special. Adu for the first time in his life did a namaskaram (prostration) – a la stone symbols depicting prostrating human figures on the ground.
The only other Sannidi is that of Ganesha just ahead of the entrance. I later learnt that one usually makes a pilgrimage of 4 temples for the four brothers in Ramayana (Thriprayar, Irinjalakuda, Muzhikulam, and Payammal in that order, all within a half-hour drive of each other). Well I can look forward to that in a future visit. The drive back was memorable: it was well past sunset on a December evening. Colourfully lit houses, churches and shops were indeed a sight; it was Christmas Eve. At nearly every set of lights it was tempting to stop and admire a tree décor here, the star there, lights on trees spanning the road, and scenes from Bethlehem – we made do with fleeting glimpses and occasional bellows of ‘Merry X’mas’ to groups of choral singers (In Kerala, almost every house heralds Yuletide with a star hung at the porch, whatever faith the inmates follow). The ride was over all too soon, and we were back on the highway, after rummaging in a brass vessel shop for riff-raff.
Another morning at the river and then it was time for packing bags to board the train to Chennai. Now don't you agree that that’s a real holiday: no phone calls, no committed obligatory visits, no rules to eat and sleep, M-I-L cooking delicious fare...... !