Friday 15th January
Day 4, Ernakulam to Thrissur.
Thrissur Temple, showing the ground previously covered in a sacred grove
The Raja and his brother had been kind enough to take us into a plush hotel, after our visit to the Dutch Palace. As the evening drew on, it became clear that the strike was over, and out into the twilight were emerging many people who had obviously been enjoying a day off.
Soon the streets were packed as before. The whole scene around Fort Cochin was however disappearing under clouds of smoke. Cochin is suffering like so many cities in emerging economies from a breakdown in its litter collection system, under the sheer mass of new rubbish appearing every day.
As dusk fell the locals were taking matters into their own hands, and on every street corner men and women could be seen burning small pyres of rubbish. The effect was both picturesque, and slightly alarming, like so many demons in the night.
As dawn broke Richard and I looked out from our hotel restaurant windows once again onto the maelstrom of traffic that is the MG Road in Ernakulam. Hardly a moment passes without our seeing a car within microns of going under a bus, or a motorcyclist obliterated by a truck. Soon we too would be launching out into this bedlam of traffic.
Our host had arranged a car and driver for us, and was accompanying us for the first part of our journey to Thrissur. I was privately delighted to find that the car was one of those 1950’s Ambassador models.
Ramesh and Richard
Ramesh, our driver turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Without his great help and patience, we should not have achieved as much as we did.
Leaving Ernakulam we soon encountered a huge queue of trucks and buses, blockaded on the opposite carriageway, headed into town. Such is the congested sate of the city, that the authorities ban trucks during the morning rush hour.
The route soon left the city and headed out into the countryside. This turned out to be extremely beautiful, although rapid ribbon development is taking place that threatens to overwhelm the fields, and palm groves.
Passing over a substantial river, as we climbed up the other bank, we passed an obviously old and substantial house. At this point the Raja told us that he had stayed there frequently as a child, and how on one occasion a flood had risen so high, that it had entered the basement of the house, whilst they were in it.
This really gave me pause for thought as the river was twenty to thirty feet at least below us, and the width of the flood must have been perhaps half a mile wide to have reached the level of the house.
Arriving in the outskirts of the town, we were soon into a thoroughly rundown and weary looking street of old houses and shops. The Raja had been telling us about the Pooram which happens in April and May each year with 30 to 40 elephants, and thousands of people taking place. I was beginning to wonder how this could be true, when we drove out into a large park like area, with huge mature trees and the roofs of a large temple complex.
Kocha explained that when his ancestors had ruled the area in the 1750’s there had been a large sacred grove on the area surrounding the temple. In those days the town had been much smaller than it is today.
I could not help regretting that these trees had not survived, as the temple looked a very fine one, which must have been even more impressive in the centre of its sacred grove.
Copyright Nick Balmer, 5th January 2007.