Wednesday 26 January 2011

River Nila featured as a destination in Footprint India handbook

River Nila has been featured as a destination in Footprints handbook on India. The following is the part of the text that appears in the handbook.

"The blue thread of the River Nila, Kerala’s Ganges and the crucible of much of the state’s rich cultural heritage, stitches together a collection of fascinating sights and experiences in the rarely explored central belt of Kerala between Kochi and Kozhikode.

Along the River Nila

North of Thrissur the road and railway cut through lush countryside of paddy fields, quiet villages and craggy red hills mantled with coconut and rubber plantations, before crossing the wide sandy bed of the Bharatapuzha River at Shoranur. Known to the people who populate its banks as Nila (the Blue One), this is Kerala’s longest river, rising on the eastern side of the Palakkad Gap and winding lazily through 209 km to spill into the Arabian Sea at the bustling fishing port of Ponnani. Though its flow is severely depleted by irrigation dams and its bed gouged by sand miners, the importance of the river to Kerala’s cultural development is hard to overstate: ayurveda, kathakali and the martial art kalaripayattu were all nurtured along the banks of the Nila, not to mention the cacophonous classical music that soundtracks festive blow-outs like the Thrissur Pooram. Folk tradition too is vibrantly represented: elaborately-adorned devotees carry colourful effigies to temple festivals, snake worshippers roam house to house performing ancient rituals to seek blessing from the serpent gods, and village musicians sing songs of the paddy field mother goddess, passed down from generation to generation.

Despite all this, the Nila thus far remains refreshingly untouched by Kerala’s tourism boom, and few travellers see more of it than the glimpses afforded by the beautiful train ride between Shoranur and Kozhikode. This is in part because there’s little tourist infrastructure, few genuine “sights”, and no guaranteed way for an independent traveller to hook into the cultural scene. The traditional potters and brassmiths labour in humble workshops behind unmarked houses, and the performers – singers and dancers by night, coolies, plumbers and snack sellers by day – only get together for particular events. With your own transport you can search out any number of beautiful riverside temples, but without taking one of the superb storytelling tours run by local guides The Blue Yonder, the Kerala Kalamandalam might be your only direct contact with the Nila’s rich heritage."

©David Stott / Footprint Handbooks

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