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A MEMORABLE TRIP (Page 2) By Krishna Varier
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A group of people waiting in the raised footsteps right in front of the Padippuramalika, applied sandalwood paste on the forehead and offered jasmine flowers to welcome the guest to Kalari Kovilakam. Led to the enclosed veranda and made to sit in a bench. If you think this is for the welcome drink, sorry you are mistaken. That follows afterwards. But this seating is for making the guest bare-foot.

Kovilakam management is kind enough to give you Methiyadi (your size) in place of your own foot-wear. In the lawn and outside the main home, guests can use this foot-wear - Methiyadi. Old custom of the Palace doesn’t allow anybody to use footwear inside. No one likes to disturb the old system. In fact it gives satisfaction to uphold prevailed sanctity and purity of the Palace culture.

With Methiyadi to the guest wing. Separated from the main building and connected by a corridor was were the outsiders used to reside in the Palace. It has a Colonial ambience and furnished like wise. A connecting corridor centered by an Octagon had a green house atmosphere and filled with plants and ferns. We sat there for the welcome drink - tender coconut.

The Raja’s of Vengunad ( Venkunnu Nadu – white hilly place ) based at Kollamkode had for generations given the sole pan-Kerala right to permit Athiratra or Rig Vedic Soma Yaga practiced by Namboothiri’s of Kerala (Arya-Brahmins.) It was done by granting the convener of the Yaga, the ritualistic ingredients of Somalatha, Karinjali and Black Antelope skin.

In its hay-day fifty one people have been recorded in its rolls for the running and management of the palace and its estates. This included Karyastans (manager), Gumastan (record/store keeper), Palliyarakkaran (person valet for the ruler), Paachakakkaran (cook), Thottakkaran (gardener) and Valyakkaran (maid).

Mr. Tharoor was taken to the room allocated for his stay. It’s a suit having a carved four-poster bed with distinct atmosphere of separateness and quietness. After a short break Mr. Tharoor came out and joined us to Agrasala – an area with a raised floor to conveniently sit and have meal.

Valyakkaran in Kerala dress Veshti and Jubba came to us with water for hand wash. He poured water from the conventional brass vessel Kindi to my hand through its horn like pipe and kept another big mouth vessel Kolambi beneath to collect the washed/waste water. Royal treatment starts right from there.

Dishes started coming in. In tune to the transformation from Palace to resort, food/water served in plate/tumbler also got changed from silver to copper. Sitting Cross-legged on the floor and eating in plantain leaf also is a past story. Exclusive vegetable dishes served had definitely a distinct taste. Its quite natural because expert Palghat Brahmin cooks stirred delicious concoctions from the very same spot in great brass Urulis placed over firewood. Every sip of the drinking water served was boiled with jeera and dry ginger; Excellent preparation made Payasam (desert) one of the most favored dish of that meal.

Continued on the next page...

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