Tag Archives: kerala

Pookalam – A Photo Feature

Hello Fellow Gallopers,

Pookalam, a colourful and intricate arrangement of petals and leaves laid on the floor, is a ritual that is part of the celebrations associated with the festival of Onam in Kerala, India. The word ‘Pookalam’ is comprised of two Malayalam words – ‘Poo’ which means flower and ‘kalam’ which means drawing or artwork.

I had the unique opportunity to see these intricate and elaborate designs being created. From transposing the design drawing from paper to the ground where the pookalam will take shape to transforming a heap of myriad coloured petals and leaves into a colourful feast for the eyes, the process is laborious for those involved and awe – inspiring for the spectator. Spatial awareness, a steady and artistic hand and a keen sense of colour are all necessary attributes for those involved in creating a pookalam. Pookalam competitions are also held where teams showcase their creativity and designs can get really complex!!

Showcased here are three images of what these floral pieces of art look like when created:


To see images of these and similar masterpieces taking shape, kindly click the link below:


Till next time, take care and gallop free.

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The Year that was 2010 – Part 2

Hello Fellow Gallopers,

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, here are the images that I’ve selected for the months of July to December 2010.


This bird needs no introduction – the National Bird of India.



Took this image at the famous Snake Boat Race (Vallam Kali) held in Alleppey, Kerala, India during the Onam festival period.

All images in this set can be viewed here:





Took this image on a road in India – pushing both man and machine to the limit!!!



Traditional Oil Lamps that are lit during the Indian festival of lights – Diwali.



Captured this fishy image at a street market in India.

All images in this set can be viewed here:




The star of Bethlehem forms an integral part of the Christmas decorations in India and a star is hung outside the house at Christmas time.


Thank you for dropping by and hope you can keep visiting us at Black Stallion Country from time to time in 2011. We love to have you around.

Till next time, take care and gallop free.

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A ‘Water Bus’ Journey – Part 2

Hello Fellow Gallopers,

The ride on the ‘Water Bus’ from Alleppey to Kottayam takes a good two and a half hours one way and the leisurely pace at which the ‘bus’ navigates the backwaters gives you ample time to sit back, relax and ‘take in’ the real Kerala; the real beauty that has rightly earned Kerala the title – ‘God’s Own Country’.

Kerala’s backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (also known as the Malabar Coast) of Kerala in South India. Five large lakes linked by canals, manmade and natural, are fed by 38 rivers and this is what makes up the backwaters of Kerala. National Waterways (Backwater Motorways!!) have been set up that help to navigate this intricate backwater labyrinth hence offering a mode of transportation for the people living in the towns and cities along the backwaters. Vembanad Kayal is India’s longest lake and the largest of the backwater lakes and is bordered by Alleppey, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts and the Port of Kochi is located at the lake’s outlet to the Arabian Sea.

A common sight as you cruise along on the backwaters are the House Boats also called Kettuvallams. Traditionally used as grain barges to transport the rice harvested in the fertile fields along the backwaters, the thatched roof covers over the wooden hulls provided protection from the elements.  Today these boats have been converted into floating cottages that come complete with air-conditioned bedrooms, toilets, dining areas and sit out areas on the deck and these luxurious floating accommodations can be hired out for one’s cruising pleasure – just recline out on deck as you get bathed with the tropical sunshine and get caressed with the gentle tropical breeze as you slowly glide down a corridor of tall palm trees that extend into the horizon. And if you think I just made all that up, why not have a look at the images that accompany this entry and some of the images will really make you wish you were there!! 🙂

As we approach the hustle and bustle of Kottayam (കോട്ടയം), a major city in Kerala we leave the open waters behind us and we start navigating through canals that finally lead us to our last stop. On both sides of the canals are houses and one gets a flavour of life in this part of Kerala. As we slowly navigate our way to Kottayam, we are greeted by the curious looks on the faces of children looking at yet another ‘water bus’ bringing its cargo of foreigners and locals. Women are busy washing their clothes or cleaning utensils in the canal waters while men are either bathing or going out to sea. Life goes on and while these activities seem novel to me, I, with my camera, my modern attire and my peculiar accent seem novel to them.

I would highly recommend this journey on the ‘water bus’ to anyone visiting Kerala. As you cruise along, you get to see the real Kerala and you get a chance to be a real citizen of God’s Own Country.

To see all the images in this set, kindly click the links below:



Till next time, take care and gallop free.

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A ‘Water Bus’ Journey – Part 1

Hello Fellow Gallopers,

I was in Alleppey recently to see the famed Snake Boat Race (Vallam Kali) that is held every year on the second Saturday of August and when I was there I seized the opportunity to explore the intricate network of backwaters that flow in and around Alleppey.

Alleppey (Alappuzha – ആലപ്പുഴ) is a town with picturesque canals, backwaters, beaches and lagoons in the Alappuzha district of Kerala State in South India. It is one of the places that is referred to as the Venice of the East and one realises how it got that title when one sees the myriad canals that meander  through Alleppey town.  Alleppey is bordered by Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts in the East, Kollam district in the South, Ernakulam district in the North and the Arabian Sea in the West. Alleppey is also said to have had trade relations with ancient Greece and Rome in the Middle Ages.

The best way of exploring the backwaters is by taking a boat ride and that is exactly what I did. One can easily hire a private boat for any period of time or one can take a government boat run by the Kerala State Water Transport Department from the many boat jetties (piers) just off the town High Street. Boats leave at regular intervals from Alleppey to various destinations and the one I took was from Alleppey to Kottayam. I like to think of the Government run boats as a ‘water bus’ of sorts as it is exactly that – chugging along the National Waterways (Backwater Motorways!!) and stopping at regular intervals at jetties (bus stops) that dot the route, these boats serve as the transportation lifeline for people living in small towns and villages along the backwaters – their only link between the serene backwaters they call home and the hustle and bustle of urban life.

In addition to being rewarded with spectacular and breath-taking views of the backwaters, you also get to meet people from a cross-section of society as well as folk from all over the world while on board the ‘water bus’. The young, the old, the farmer, the businessman, the clerk, the student, the person who gets on board with just a bag tucked under his arm to a person laden with sacks of provision. You find them all on the ‘water bus’ – a truly serene, slow and leisurely way of navigating through the backwaters in God’s Own Country.

To see all the images in this set, kindly click the link below:


Please do join me in a week’s time for the conclusion of this journey.

Till then, take care and gallop free.

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Snake Boat Race – Vallam Kali (വള്ളംകളി)

Hello Fellow Gallopers,

It’s been sometime since I’ve made an entry and that’s because I’ve been travelling quite a lot of late. I was in Alappuzha (Alleppey), a town and district in southern Kerala, India, where an annual traditional boat (paddled war canoe) race is held on the second Saturday of August during the season of the harvest festival of Onam. The traditional name for this boat race is Vallam Kali (വള്ളംകളി) in Malayalam.

“Thei thei thei thei thithai thakathaithaithom

Thithithara thithithara thithai thakathaithaithom”

goes the rhythmic tune of the boatmen’s song. The jewels in the crown of the Vallam Kali at Alleppey are the sixteen long wooden boats of serpentine appearance (Chundan Vallams – Snake Boats) that race for the coveted Nehru Trophy. As if carried on the wings of lightning and accompanied by the thunderous cheers from fans on both shores of the Punnamda backwaters, the snake boats epitomise sheer energy and team work.

The snake boat has the record of being the biggest water vessel used for sports purposes. It is the sporting event that has the highest number of members in a single team. Usually a snake boat is manned by 4 helmsmen, 25 cheerers / singers and 100-125 oarsmen who row in unison to the fast rhythm of the boatmen’s song. The 100 – 120 foot long snake boats are made of a forest wood locally called Aanjili. The Vallam (boat) is under the command of the captain called Karanaathan. Three hands under him control the pace and movement of the boat. All along the two sides of the boat, in two long rows, sit the oarsmen, 64 in number (supposed to represent the 64 shires). In their midst sit 25 singers with traditional accompaniments. They provide the rhythm which the rowers follow with their oars as they row in sync. In the second half of the boat there is a platform for eight singers – they represent the eight directions and regulate the pace and song.

This famed boat race in Kuttanad can be likened to the bull fights in Spain. The vigour of the Spanish matadors, who hail from various villages with their fighter bulls, is evident in the Vallam teams that hail from the surrounding Kerala countryside.

This sport belongs to an era when kings ruled Kerala. Boat racers are leftovers from the legacy of Chembakasseri kings who ruled Alappuzha about 400 years ago. The snake boats now bask in the grandeur that radiates from royalty. There existed the tradition of ushering in kings on the boat, making the boat really special.

In addition to the Chundan Vallams (Snake Boats) other categories of boats such as the Iruttukuthy Vallam, Odi Vallam, Veppu Vallam, Vadakkanody Vallam and Kochu Vallam also take part in these races in their respective categories. People from across the globe usually flock to Punnamada Lake to soak in the spirit of this exciting yet graceful boat race and is a prominent event on the tourism calendar of God’s Own Country.

To see all the images* in this set, please click the links below:



Till next time, take care and gallop free.

* – images taken with the Canon 50D.

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God’s Own Country – ൈദവത്തിന്റെ സ്വന്തം നാട്

Hello Fellow Gallopers,

Have been doing a bit of travelling lately around parts of India and especially the state in India that I originally hail from, Kerala –  കേരളം* (also referred to as God’s Own Country – ൈദവത്തിന്റെ സ്വന്തം നാട്).

Kerala, in the Southern Region of India, was established as a state in 1956 and has a literacy rate of 90.92% (the highest in the country). Kerala has earned itself the unique reputation of being the country’s least corrupt state; the state has witnessed a significant migration of its people to the Middle Eastern countries and the state is uniquely dependant on remittances from its expatriate community. But with a population of close to 32 million (2001) (that is around 6 times the population of Scotland in mid 2009) jam-packed into an area of 15,005 square miles (around half the area of Scotland) one would wonder how could this place ever be conferred the title God’s Own Country – a congested, over populated, over polluted state with the highest literacy rate.

To see God’s Own Country and fully appreciate the beauty that this state holds one must travel to the interiors of Kerala where the real beauty lies.  With its lagoons, backwaters and tropical greenery, Kerala reveals the treasures held within its bosom as one travels deeper and deeper into the rural areas of the state. Tourists flock to this state to experience the exotic surroundings and to partake in the holistic treatments exclusively offered in Kerala, especially Ayurvedic Treatments.

In addition to what it has to offer tourists by way of holistic treatments, Kerala is rich in its biodiversity and is truly a Garden of Eden for the environmentalist . Almost a fourth of India’s 10,000 plant species are found in the state. Almost 24% of Kerala is forested – tropical wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, tropical moist and dry deciduous forests and montane subtropical and temperate forests cover the forested landscape of the state. 102 species of mammals (56 of which are endemic), 476 species of birds, 202 species of freshwater fish, 169 species of reptiles (139 of which are endemic) and 89 species of amphibians (86 of which are endemic) roam the state.  As one roams the forests of Kerala, one could easily cross paths with an Indian Elephant, a Bengal Tiger, an Indian Leopard, a Nilgiri Tahr or a Grizzled Giant Squirrel or one could as easily see a King Cobra, viper or python slither past in front of you. And as one looks up to the blue skies through a break in the canopy above, one could as easily see a Great Hornbill, an Indian Grey Hornbill, an Indian Cormorant, a Kingfisher or a Jungle Myna fly overhead.

You feel life all around you as you walk through the thick vegetation – the constant sound of crickets, the song of birds in the air, the rustling of leaves on the forest floor as something slithers or scurries past you, the sweat on your brow and the heat and humidity in the air – all goes to offer you a true sense of the Tropics – a true sense of God’s Own Country.

To see all the images** in this set, please click the link below:



Till next time, take care and gallop free.

* – This is Malayalam – the local language spoken in Kerala. If you haven’t noticed, the word “Malayalam” is a palindrome.

** – images taken with the Canon 50D.

Ride with the Black Stallion: www.blackstallionphotography.co.uk

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