A year ago last May, I posted an album of photos from Egypt that I took almost a decade ago with a small “consumer zoom” camera: the Olyumpus ZX-1 (that, surprisingly, you can still buy on Amazon). Now, I’d like to propose a second album of photos made in January 2012 with that tiny camera: this time from the highlands of the Indian state of Kerala in the South West of the continent.
I wanted to visit South India because I had taken a course on Indian culture and history with the great Arthur Basham at the Australian National University in Canberra in the late 1980s. South India is the centre of a Hindu culture that is (or was) distinct from the Mugal-influenced North and whose religious practices — particularly the caste-independent devotional practices of the bhakti cults — had interested me. I wanted to see the great temples of the South.
I found a Delhi-based travel agent who arranged a tailor-made tour for us with a car and driver with local guides at many stops. It was a great itinerary. But South India (we spent most of the time in Tamil Nadu and Kerala) was a shock for its public poverty and disfunction, despite private wealth. I found the temples I had planned to visit were dark, noisy and vaguely infernal rather than transcendent as I expect temples to be.
India is proverbially, however, a place of strong contrasts. The highlands of Kerala in the Western Ghats mountain range were a favorite temperate resort for the English during the period of the Raj. Their main interest for a tourist remains the dramatic difference between the humid, tropical, urbanized, trashy and crowded coastal plans of Kerala and the rolling, green hills, rich gardens and brilliant skies of the highlands. Both are India but it would be hard to deny that one environment is much more pleasant and attractive than the other.
As usual, I encourage you to download and view the PDF file of this album on a desktop or laptop computer, in ‘full screen’ mode. You may also download by clicking on the thumbnail assembly below. NOTE: Google will allow you to ‘view’ the PDF in their viewer. Don’t do it: please download the file (about 17MB to your computer and display it there).