Friday, June 26, 2015

Make-up art for Kathakali,

- By Trisha George

Kathakali is an Indian classical dance form that originated in the 17th century, in what is today the southern state of Kerala. Kathakali is known for its unique costumes, well-defined gestures and of course - the elaborate make-up. Although it is paint that is applied, the effect is more mask-like!

The colour and type of the paint-job helps the audience identify characters. A green faced performer is likely to be pious, while a red faced performer is probably evil. Female characters (played by men) tend to have yellowish, comparatively realistic faces. 
A female character
The paints are traditionally made of locally available materials: rice from rice four, black from soot, and colours from various stones. Coconut oil is used as a base for mixing these colours.

Nowadays, some Kathakali performances are preceded by the application of make-up for the benefit of the modern viewer or tourist. A performer painstakingly applies colour on his face - a process that may take over an hour.
'Make-up' application in process
 It does add a whole new aspect to the performance!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Road trips in India

One of the best parts about road travel through India is catching glimpses of entertaining road signs. Both, governments and locals are (often unintentionally) entertaining. 
Not sure which advice to take- sound the horn or keep the distance? Best bet would be the latter.
Photos by Sigrid, who travelled through Kerala capturing such tidbits with her camera.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Jews of Kerala

Malabar Jews meet the king of Cranganore.

The year was 70 AD. Rome had attacked Palestine and rent the land asunder. Handfuls of the Jewish people fled in small boats with whatever little they could.

One of the boats landed on what was then called Shingly (now Cranganore or Kodungulloor), a trade center for spices, ivory and coconut along the Malabar coast.

The people on the boat disembarked with gifts forth for the king, who had arrived - all dressed in finery and shaded by a royal umbrella. He permitted the people on the boat to make Cranganore their home. Not only that, he granted them social standing in his kingdom.

The group made the new place their home and came to be called the Malabar Jews. 

Parts of Fort Kochi today have a visible Jewish heritage, from synagogues to 'Jewish Streets' to signs in Hebrew.

Jewish synagogue in Kochi
Years passed and once Israel was formed, many of them opted to return and their numbers in this country dwindled. 

It seems like a part of history - of a time when rulers were inclusive, visitors were grateful and peace reigned for a while.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Santa Cruz Basilica, heritage church in Fort Kochi

- By Trisha George

The Santa Cruz Basilica was among built by the Portuguese in 1505, and was eventually consecrated by Pope IV and raised to the status of a Cathedral.

Strangely enough when the Dutch army captured Cochin, they were instructed to destroy most religious structures. This has been rationalised as a strategic move: "to draw Cochin into a more narrow compass" and reduce the area and structures that would have to be manned by armed guards. Whether or not this is accurate, it is true that the soldiers followed their order to a T. Only two churches from the Portuguese period remain today and Santa Cruz Basilica is one of them.

The original structure was however, demolished and rebuilt by the British in the 19th century and that's what we can visit today! Only one decorative pillars from the original remains, but the rest of the church is unique enough to warrant heritage status.

Ceiling of the church

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The "Hoy" in Hoysala

- By Deepa Krishnan

Ever since I heard how the Hoysalas got their name, I keep saying their name differently in my head. Here, join me, try saying it the way I do. "Hoy! Sala" And put the emphasis on that Hoy! There you go. Hoy!

Those who have visited Belur will know that in Haley Kannada (the old form of the language), the word Hoy means Strike! That that is what Sala, the young man in the statue is doing, striking at the lion which threatened a Jain guru. 
It led to the naming of the Hoysala dynasty, which he founded. The dynasty ruled for 300 years, from 1026 to 1343 CE. The legend of Sala is immortalised in stone in Belur. This is the royal emblem of the Hoysala dynasty, and it is depicted in different artistic forms. Just see the photo above. Look at the variations the artists have come up with. Stunning. The lion, the weapon, the stance, the tail....simply outstanding. It is not for nothing that Hoysala architecture is considered among the world's masterpieces. Go on. Play the "spot the differences" game.

Hoy! Sala. Hoy!