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Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Real Kerala That I Explored

Kerala- God’s Own Country. But Gods have changed. Drastically, strategically shifted and hijacked.

I was very excited to visit Kerala with family as this was my first visit to this beautiful state. We had planned a trip covering Thekkadi that hosts the famous Periyar National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary and Munnar which is famous for its tea plantations. This was one of my most anticipated trips having heard about the enchanting beauty and culture of Kerala. The bounty of nature was indeed a reason, but I also love to explore the temples, particularly the Dakshin Bharatiya architecture. (Being naive I use the general term ‘Dakshin Bharatiya‘ and not distinguishing on the basis of regions and eras.)

We had reached Kochi and the very same day boarded a taxi with a local driver to take us to our planned trip. I was of the view that I will ask him to stop the car at small, local temples just to witness the local culture and mingle with them. With good roads and infrastructure, it was a smooth ride. My eyes were gazing outside the window to enjoy the beauty of nature and also spot any random temple that I wanted to visit.

I was, however, left disappointed. All along the main highway and main road, we could have spotted churches or small prayer places with a cross-sign and Mother Mary’s and Christ’s statue. And such site was common, like after every few buildings. Suddenly I realised that in this beautiful, green place we are certainly losing the centuries old culture, faith that have survived till now. The temples were hidden somewhere while cross was visible prominently all around.

I asked our driver if he could take us to some temple on the way. He agreed to that. Finally, we stopped at a temple. A Shiva Mandir. It was spread over a large premises. Men, women and kids dressed in traditional attire were going around and were indulged in daily pooja. I truly enjoyed the aura around.

I was more or less aware about the changing demography of Kerala. The drastic reduction in population of Hindus, the rampant conversion factory run by Christian missionaries, the growing impact of Islam- they all were read in articles and news reports. But going there and actually seeing the reality at the ground reaffirmed it, that yes, the conversion is real.

Even during the remaining trip, church sighting were more than the temples. The big churches, small churches, prayer spots, cross signs, Mary-Jesus statues. We crossed a small village wherein outside a church, a man was speaking (seemed like preaching) on mic to a big gathering. Due to language barrier, we couldn’t understand a word. Upon asking our driver, he said he is spreading the message of Christianity and trying to influence the people around. This was the scene in open, OUTSIDE a church which was next to the market of the village.

What was peculiar was that churches followed certain elements of Hindu temple architecture in certain manner. For instance, Dakshin Bharatiya temples have pillar like stambh in the temple premises, the same structure was noticed outside many churches as well.

During our visit to a spice farm in Munnar, after knowing that we have come from the North Bharat, our Christian guide suddenly started mocking and criticizing the festival of Deepawali for pollution in Delhi. Blame the media and liberals who run this narrative against Hindu festivals or over secularism that runs in Kerala.

There were sign boards in Urdu (or Arabic, I couldn’t differentiate but the script is same) with pictures of products from Gulf that gave the impression of strong presence of gulf culture and Islam in the area.

In the farms or along the road, there were Church Plantations, cross erected. In the bounty of nature, in the beautiful greens, in the serene tea plantations, one can, for the time being, forget all these religious issues and demographic changes. However, when coming back to the reality, one cannot ignore that Hindu population in Kerala is just around 54 per cent in books but real statistics differ (Read here.)

We went as excited tourists but returned with a different face of Kerala. As a Hindu, it hurts to see such drastic change in faith of a region that was the home of Adi Shankaracharya.

This was just my observation during my week-long trip to Kerala. People were helpful and friendly with tourists in general but that cannot make one ignore the visible change in demography of a part of Bharat.

(Featured Image Source)

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