!ncredible !ndia: retreats to the land of yoga

Bharatanatyam – Indian classical dance

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Lord Parasurama asking Lord Varuna to recede to make land known as Kerala

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Known as the Paradise of India, Keralam is blessed with unique geographical features that make it one of a kind. The tranquil backwaters, paddy fields, sun-kissed beaches, cascading waterfalls, verdant mountains and exotic wildlife all contribute to this unique locale.

The name Kerala is derived from the root word “keram” which means coconut tree in Malayalam. Coconut trees are abundant in Kerala, so it naturally came to be called the “land of coconuts”.

Most literate state in India! Kerala was the first state to reach 100% literacy in India and it has continued to maintain this distinction. The local language is Malayalam (മലയാളം).

Life expectancy – According to 2011 census data, Kerala has the longest life expectancy among all the states in India. The national average is 65.6, while for Kerala it is 75.1.

Ayurveda (science of life) is a natural system of medical treatment, developed in India around 3000 BC – is still followed as mainstream medicine in Kerala. Being a tropical paradise, it’s richly blessed with numerous medicinal plants and the right climate most suited for healing and natural treatments.

The Backwaters is one of the most interesting geographical features of Kerala. These brackish waters lying almost parallel to the western coast of the state, are an interconnected network of canals, lakes and inlets that is estimated to be about 900 Kms of maze-like waterways.

Kerala and elephants: Elephants have been an integral part of Kerala’s culture since ancient times. Elephants are titled as the state animal and have a place of honor in the emblem of Kerala’s Government. Richly adorned elephants are used for temple festivals and are associated with the Devine.

The history of Keralam dates back many millennia. Stone age carvings in the Edakkal Caves feature pictures believed to date to at least around 5000 BC, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilisation. From as early as 3000 BC, Kerala had established itself as a major centre of the spice trade. Keralam had direct contact with all the major Mediterranean and Red Sea ports as well those of the Far East via the Arabian Sea. The spice trade between Kerala and much of the world was one of the main drivers of the world economy. For much of history, ports in Kerala were among world’s busiest trade and travel routes.

Contact with Europeans after the arrival of Vasco Da Gama in 1498 gave rise to struggles between colonial and native interests. By 1795, the area was under British dominion. After independence, the state of Keralam was created in 1956.

Kerala culture is a synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures, developed and mixed for centuries, under influences from other parts of India and abroad. It is defined by its antiquity and the organic continuity sustained by the Malayali people. Modern society in Kerala took shape owing to migrations from different parts of India and abroad throughout classical antiquity.

Many of the mythological stories in Kerala are common with the rest of India coming from the same Vedic Storytelling History. At the same time Kerala has always been a mix of Sanskrit and Tamil culture. Perhaps the most famous festival of Kerala, Onam is deeply rooted in Hindu traditions. Onam is associated with the legendary Asura King Mahabali, who according to the Hindu Puranas, ruled the Earth and several other planetary systems from Kerala. His entire kingdom was then a land of immense prosperity and happiness. However, he was granted rule over one of the netherworld (Patala) planets called Sutala, by Vamana, the 5th Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Onam is celebrated in Kerala with respect to Maveli Thampuran.

The oldest of all the Puranas, the Matsya Purana, sets the story of the Matsya Avatar (fish incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, in the mountains of Dravida, which lie in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The earliest Sanskrit text to mention Kerala by name is the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rig Veda. It is also mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

There are myths dealing with the origins of Kerala’s geography and culture. One such myth is the retrieval of Kerala from the sea, by the warrior sage, Parasurama. It proclaims that Parasurama, an avatar (6th of the ten incarnations) of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of Kerala arose, and thus was reclaimed from the waters. The word Parasu means ‘axe’ in Sanskrit and therefore the name Parasurama means ‘Ram with Axe’. The aim of his birth was to deliver the world from the arrogant oppression of the ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. He killed all the male Kshatriyas on earth and filled five lakes with their blood. (yikes!) After destroying the Kshatriya kings, he approached assembly of learned men to find a way of penitence for his sins. He was advised that, to save his soul from damnation, he must hand over the lands he had conquered to the Brahmins. He did as they advised and sat in meditation at Gokarna. There, Varuna the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi – Goddess of Earth blessed him. From Gokarna he reached Kanyakumari and threw his axe northward across the ocean. The place where the axe landed was Kerala. The Puranas say that it was Parasuram who planted the 64 Brahmin families in Kerala, whom he had brought down from the north in order to expiate his slaughter of the Kshatriyas.

 

I t i n e r a r y : Oct 16-26, 2017

16 Oct: Arrive in Kochi

Arrive at Kochi International Airport. After clearing customs and immigrations (expect things to be slower and less efficient than what you are accustomed to), we will meet you in the arrival hall and transport you to the hotel in Athirapally. The journey is breathtaking – snaking roads filled with an amazing range of flora and fauna – rubber, palm and coconut trees and small streams running amidst them.

A magnificent manifestation of the fusion of the ancient with the modern; an escape into a world which invigorates your senses in an absolutely enriching way.

Overnight in Athirapally at Ayur Soukhyam Ayurvedic Resort –  a perfect blend of nature and health; it’s a place where nature meets heaven.

* 17-19 Oct: Rejuvenation and Relaxation Program *

The term used in Ayurveda texts for the rejuvenation treatment is Rasayana-chikilsa (therapy). Rasayana is one of the eight branches of Ayurveda. Rasayana means that which destroys the old age and disease through the conservation, transformation, and revitalization of energy. Stress is nothing but an uncomfortable state of mind, the state of mental or emotional strain. Ayurveda or the Science of Life believes this to be Maanas Dosha (mental disorder). There are several single herbs and compounds that relieve this stress. According to ayurveda, the human body is made of three doshas — vata, pitta and kapha, which are also present in the nature. These three doshas are in constant interaction with each other inside human body.

These services await you:

Abhyangamm: Full body massage with medicated oil proceeded by medicated steam bath

Navarakizhi: Pouch of medicated rice puffed all over the body which will help in relaxation of muscles

Shirodhara: A unique form of ancient therapy of pouring oil on the forehead from a specific height and for a specific period continuously and rythmatically allowing the oil to run through the scalp and into the hair.

These treatments enhance the relaxation of muscles, increases the blood circulation in the body and help in maintaining general health and wellbeing.

We will also find time to visit Athirapally’s picturesque and majestic waterfalls, situated on the edge of the Sholayar forest ranges. Athirapally Falls, known as the Niagra Falls of India, is the destination for those who love the magnificence and beauty of nature. The cool spray covers a large area near the falls makes Athirapally a scenic location. The Athirapally falls join the Chalakudy river after plummeting down 80 ft. Favoured by Bollywood directors for its magnificence and beauty, many of the blockbuster movies are filmed here. As you walk higher and higher through the forest, the silence is only broken by singing birds and croaking frogs to be followed by the majestic sounds of the water falls.

Oct 20: Athirapally/Munnar

Enjoy the scenic spots and nature during this 5 hour drive. On arrival at Munnar check into the Hotel and relax for the rest of the day.

Overnight stay at Copper Castle, Munnar.

Oct 21 : In Munnar

Situated at the confluence of three mountain streams – Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundale, Munnar is 1600 m above sea level. This majestic hill station was once the summer resort of the British government in South India. Visits include, trips to Mattupetty Dam, Kundale Lake and Echo point. We also visit Rajamalai were the rarest species of mountain goat, “Nilgiri Thars”, can be spotted.

Overnight at copper castle.

Oct 22: Munnar-Kumarakom

A tiny backwater hamlet perched on the western banks of the Vembanadu Lake. The stretch of backwater is spread over 900 sq. km. Choose a canoe, motor boat or houseboat and devour the beauty of this backwater paradise.

Overnight at Whispering Palms

Oct 23: Boat cruise on the  backwaters 

Set out on an enchanting backwater cruise in traditionally decorated houseboats. While cruising in these floating luxury-villas, let your eyes settle for the rare and the unusual – skim past Chinese fishing nets, bowed-down paddy fields, and local inhabitants engaged in making coir products, rustic homes, and ancient temples and swaying coconut groves.

Overnight at Whispering Palms

BBC documentary on Kumarakom

Oct 24-25: Kumarakam/Cochin/Vypeen Island

Cochin has been a port since 1341, when a flood carved out its harbor and opened it to Arab, Chinese and European merchants. Sites reflecting those influences include Fort Kochi, a settlement with tiled colonial bungalows and diverse houses of worship. Its use of cantilevered Chinese fishing nets dates to the 13th century.

Cherai Beach, a picturesque beach, located on the north-end of the Vypeen Island is ideal for swimming. Lined with luscious green coconut groves and paddy fields, this sandy beach is a unique combination of the sea and the backwaters, studded with seashells of various hues and shapes. Dolphins are occasionally seen here. Thick coconut groves and Chinese fishing nets on the waterfront are added attractions. Overnight at Cherai Beach resort

Some of the options for the last day include:

  • A trip to a nearby village to see the typical day in a Malayali’s life.
  • An evening attending classical performing arts Kathakali or Bharatanatyam performance. Bharatanatyam, a dance form nurtured in Tamil Nadu (our Sachita has been learning this since she was 6, see her recent performance, she is at the center in purple & gold sari). This dance form denotes various 19th and 20th century reconstructions of Sadir, the art of temple dancers called Devadasis. Sadir in turn, is derived from ancient dance in the treatise Natya Shastra by Bharata of 3rd or 4th c BCE. A possible origin of the name is from Bharata Muni, who wrote the Natya Shastra to which Bharathanatyam owes many of its ideas. It is a reworked dance-form from the traditional Sadir known for its grace, purity, tenderness & sculpturesque poses.

Originated over 500 years ago, Kathakali is a spectacular classical dance form of Kerala. It is a combination of drama, dance, music and ritual. Kathakali is one of the oldest theatre forms in the world.

Oct 26: Departure for home. Transfer to Kochi airport.

 

Package include:

  • our host, who grew up in Kerala, speak the language and understand the culture and do’s and don’ts, as your personal escort with you the entire time – from the time of your arrival at Cochin airport till the time you leave for home.
  • Accommodation for 10 nights twin/double room at hotels mentioned or similar.
  • The 3 day Rejuvenation and Relaxation Program in Athirapally – including DAILY ayurvedic oil massages
  • Daily yoga and meditation class
  • Attendance at a Classical performance arts form
  • Daily Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and bottled water
  • All transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Services of local guides during sightseeing tours
  • Entrance fees to the places of visit as per the itinerary
  • All applicable taxes, tolls and parking fees
  • All camera/video camera fees at monuments
  • All gratuities will be taken care of on your behalf 🙂 – so you don’t have to worry not knowing the local culture and customs

Package does not include:

  • International Airfare and Passport and Visa fees for India
  • Any Insurance or medical expenses
  • Expense of personal nature like laundry and telephone calls, alcoholic beverages, airport departure tax etc.
  • Expenses caused by factor beyond our control like flight delays, roadblocks, and vehicle malfunctions, political disturbances etc.

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Organising yoga and cultural trips to India and stay at high-quality resorts. Surprisingly affordable pricing through personal contacts on the ground in India.