top of page
  • Writer's pictureHawin Printo C

The Endearing Tale of my Native Land

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

The native land I hail from often referred to as “God’s own country” never fails to amuse me. The diversity of the native land reeks of a mix of Dravidian culture influenced by the traders and the monarchs of “Hindustan”. Every nook, corner and street has a tale to tell. The tale narrated by this land is an amalgamation of the rich culture, history and architecture. The cultural diversity varies as one moves from the Northern Kerala to Southern Kerala but the core binding force that ties all the Malayali’s together no doubt is the language, the festivities and art. The importance given to performance art and visual art is a true glimpse to capture. As we move across the poles within the native land, the true subtlety stands in contrast bringing out the beauty and the art of storytelling. The language and the narratives of the story in different forms, the inquisitiveness for visual art has kept the culture still alive. Theyyam, kalari, pullikalli are all different forms of performance art but what set them apart are the narration and the story telling.

Figure 2 : Kandanar Kelan Theyyam | Payyanoor, Kerala, India (by Author)

"As it was the incipience of the dawn the “gopurams” shimmered in gold reflecting the fiery lights of the “theyyam” dancers. The crowd surrounding the “chendamela” (the drummers) with the air filled with the rhythm of spirituality, devotion and most importantly the feeling of unity."

The element that unites everyone would also be the festivities. While the primary source of income back in the days was agriculture harvest festivals had prime importance. Though the shift from agricultural sector has taken place , yet the harvest festival is still given importance. This harvest festival – Onam , unites every Keralite within the native land and across the globe - celebrated in memory of the return of the king “mahveli”, the preparations and the meals prepared , the sadhya – consists of a vegetarian meal served on banana leaf an amalgamation of hot, sour and sweet dishes that would tingle all the five senses liked and eaten by every true “malayali” .

The great story and legacy is retold through Theyyam. The art form itself is of 400 different kinds each with its own rhythm, choreography and musical treat. Each artist tells the tale of the powerful leaders the land has seen through the musical piece accompanied by instruments,Chenda, Elathalam, Kurumkuzal and Veekkuchenda.

Figure 3 : Pulikali | Thrissur, Kerala, India (by Author)

The festivities embraced by the beautifully painted “pully” (tiger).

"The rhythm, the chaos and the color- the true gist of the state definitely lies in its street procession and festivities- A wonderful visual treat that showcases its cultural beauty at its best."

Figure 4 : Kodungallur Bharani | Thrissur, Kerala, India (by Author)

"The spirit of the festivities truly lies in the participation of the locals, the ornamentation, the ringing of the bells, the prayer chants are elements that brings in a sense of wonder and amusement to the viewers."

My inquisitive to capture the frames has helped me identify the nuances and diversity that lies within. The attempt to capture a frame has a lot of raw emotions, experiences and local tales attached. The attempt by the locals to preserve the richness is evident. The embalming of the cultural roots is not limited to the rural-scape but is also embraced with urban sprawl of the city in the native land. On a busy day amidst the hustle and bustle of the traffic in the concrete jungle of the urban cities of the native land one can find a procession headed by the beautifully adored elephant with the priest, the chendas and the beautiful chaos embracing the edges of the street on a Monday morning. What makes the sight endearing is the participation of the crowd for a brief moment, giving a pause to their busy schedule and watching the procession with awe. The co-existence of the traditional, cultural, religious diversity amidst the busy lifestyle is worth paying attention to.

Figure 5 : U Mohammed, Flower Vendor | Palaghat, Kerala, India (by Author)

Early dawn glimpse of a flower vendor setting up his shop at Palaghat

Figure 6 : Thondikulam Graamam | Palaghat, Kerala, India (by Author)

"The streets of “Palaghat” itself narrate the story of the rich history of the occupants depicting their culture and ideologies through the architectural elements."

The handicrafts from different districts is also noteworthy, the pulpayas or straw mats, the cane furniture, the tabla makers at palaghat, the vaalkannadis that require skills to make are still being produced by the ancestral families preserving the craftsmanship and the skill behind it. The importance given to these handi-crafts that stems from the distinct cultural values of the malayalis is seen through the various platforms often built to put forward these. Be it a temple festival, a church festival or a mosque festival these handicrafts often finds its way in the tiny makeshift stalls.

Figure 7 : Chinese Fishing Net | Kochi (by Author)

"The charms of the backwaters with the Chinese net embracing the shores tells

the story of the influence of the Chinese traders on the coastal shores of Kochi that is well

known for its spices."

Figure 8 : Tea Plantation | Kolukumalai, Kerala, India (by Author)

“The high ground caresses the cotton clouds, the cold air whispers into my ears, I often wonder is this how paradise feels like?” Often called lovingly as the Kashmir of the South , Munnar has charms of its own"

Along with the cultural and religious diversity the geographical diversity and the changing scape from hills to the lush green open fields, valley and beaches to the concrete blocks touching the clouds is noteworthy. The changing landforms along with the change in the climate and the adaptation to the same by the locals are seen through the subtle changes in the fabrics, architectural elements and food choices. The very hotspots of tourism that depicts the diversity in the geographical form is the beaches of Kozhikode popularized during the times of the Zamorins, the seafood and house boats of Allepey, the Chinese nets embracing the shores of Fortkochi, the cold hill stations of Munnar, the lush forests of Nelliyampathy and the high ranges of Wayanad . Along with the shift of landforms one experiences a shift in the heat, the winds and the precipitation levels throughout the state.

Figure 9 : Athirapilly Waterfalls | Thrissur (by Author)

"The waterfalls and the hidden communities within the high ranges with secret recipes of food and medicine is so endearing to me. I had the chance to experience the nuances of tribal community, their music and food. Their humble approach to life and the contrast of their lifestyle with the urban areas of the city will always be so endearing."

The diversities that exist unify the north and the South connecting them through the language – Malayalam. Interestingly the language is also connected to the Portuguese, the Dutch and The Arabs. The language comprises of something borrowed and something that is new. Local words like, jaggery (chakkara) , teak (thekku), jackfruit (chakka) has been adapted as Portuguese words as jagra, teca and jaca respectively. Similar adaptations have also been seen in other languages like Dutch. Influences of architectural elements of the Dutch, Portuguese and the Chinese have also been noted along the coasts of Kerala. The trade relations since the time of Zamrorins and perhaps earlier had significant cultural influences on its coast.

Figure 10 : Kadamakkudy Islands | Kochi, Kerala, India (by Author)

"Every element be it architecture, art forms , religion or food has had a deep impact on the cultural diversity of the naadu (the native land). What makes the land different is the harmony amongst the people and co-existence of different belief systems."

While one speaks about the regional diversity the politics as well takes its shape. While Kerala is famous for its cultural diversity, it is also well-known for its tolerance to various political beliefs and religious ideologies- truly the credits goes to the people who place more importance to the historical and cultural values of the native land over the religious barrier. It indeed is a wonder of how the regional diversity within the land co-exists be it the subtle cultural differences, religious beliefs or lifestyle the binding force that unifies and connects the state as a whole indeed is the people themselves.

Figure 11 : Cardamom plantation workers | Munnar, Kerala, India (by Author)

“The tribes of the Mammalakandam are not unknown to the magical secrets of the forest. The secret medicinal plants, herbs and potions that are known to heal still remain as a safeguarded secret, known only to the tribes.”

Whilst the city state has seen a massive urban sprawl, what will impress any observer are the attempts to preserve the diversities. While IT parks and huge metropolitan cities has taken its shape, despite the changing scape of the state what still remains constant is the regional diversity and the unity of the people. The juxtaposition of the rural and the urban scape imbibing its diversity and presenting itself as a whole indeed is an endearing tale of the native land.


73 views1 comment

1 Comment

Ahron Nursery
Ahron Nursery
Mar 14, 2023

Very Good Work

bottom of page