Oh my goodness. I was planning to tell you what I learned about Ayurvedic medicine until this afternoon's activity trumped all else.
This afternoon we went to a religious festival. A woman and her husband had been trying unsuccessfully to have a child. They prayed to their chosen god for a child and promised that if the god would answer their prayers, they would build a temple to the god. The festival we attended today was at that temple.
Shagzil spent some time describing the festival but concluded that a festival cannot be described, it can only be experienced. And he was right. I have never seen such a joyous, exuberant, colourful, noisy, crowded event!
Villages collaborate in holding festivals. Each sends a beautifully decorated elephant to represent it - usually the elephants and muhoots (handlers) are rented - and there is some competition between the villages for best elephant. Today there were at least twenty elephants although another sixteen are supposed to be turning up, perhaps tomorrow. Villages also send bands and dancers, and people throng the open area around the temple.
During the ceremony, the elephants line up and then take turns walking around the temple. You can see from my photos that the elephants have face plates and that three or four people ride bareback, one holding a decoration on the top of the elephant's head, one holding a brightly coloured umbrella and one, the handler I think, just keeps an eye out.
All the elephants are "tuskers" - males. As the elephants move, groups of men - all the women and children stay safely out of the way - drum and dance and wave their arms in the air and move aside to let the animal through. The elephants seem amazingly oblivious to it all.
Men in the crowd shook our hands and practised their English on us: hello, how are you? They were happy to pose for photos and often asked us to take their pictures. Children too were pleased to have their pictures taken though the women usually giggled and got out of the way.
We were utterly delighted by the festival. Shagzil was right - you have to experience it. How lucky we are that we were here at the right time!
We are going to the coast tomorrow where we will board Kerala houseboats for two days of rest and relaxation after our hectic schedule. I suspect that I will be out of Internet range but will report in when we get to Cochin, the following - and our last :( - stop.