Views of Two Varkalas

Editor’s note: my blog host has become stupid and made it impossible to blog as I’ve been doing for more than five years. This has made three of the four posts I put up for Kerala invisible to most readers. I’m fixing this now by acting like I posted some of them in different months, later. I’ll fix this more permanently, some time soon I hope, by changing the host of my blog. Suggestions on this topic are most welcome. For now, look at the “previous posts” listing on the right-hand side of the main page, and scan past posts, in order from top to bottom, or you may miss things… Sorry!

There are two Varkalas. There’s the internationally-popular beach resort where pale-skinned (or lobster-skinned, depending how well they applied their sun screen), imported men and women wearing far less than any decent Indian would be caught dead in wander the cliffside path past trinket stores, Tibetan-prayer-flag stores, and restaurants with names like “Clafouti” and “Cafe del Mar,” nearly all of which specialize (their own word) in most cuisines known to modern man — North & South Indian, Chinese, Italian, Continental, Thai…basically, you name it you get it. Except Mexican. Didn’t find that, even at Cafe del Mar. [Sad Face.] Then there’s the ancient temple town to which pilgrims come to pay homage to Krisha at the 2,000-year-old Janardhana Swamy Temple, a place pure enough of practice that non-Hindus are normally not permitted entry; the town like many Indian beach and river towns where sunrise rites and blessings are conducted by the religious and their teachers at water’s edge. In Varkala, this means the beach has two distinct shifts: the sunrise shift of worshipers and purifying bathers (always quite clothed: religious Indians don’t strip down too much before entering the water, and are NOT thinking about their tan lines) plus the occasional early-rising Euro-American meditator, jogger, or beach-comber (often most incongruous in shorts and sports bra passing through the wafts of incense and chanted prayers). Once the sun’s fully up and prepared to burn those tanlines deep into backs and waists, out parade the Euro-chic in their gauzy wraps over thongs, madras shirts over speedos, straw hats with hair tied back in ponytail (unisex styling, that), books and frisbee in hand. Ne’er do the two groups, the two Varkalas, seem to really meet or interact. It’s rather remarkable, and all most beautiful and fascinating. And I do have tanlines again…

I couldn’t help putting both these photos up – the blurred and the unblurred: it was quite unintentional but when I looked at them I rather liked the one where my hand moved.

Above: temple zone on a festival day; below: morning religious shift at the beach.

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