Tuesday 6 March 2012

Kerala locks

Fort Cochi, Kerala, S India
Ornate lock rather well polished
We came across this very remarkable lock on the doors of Rossitta Wood Castle hotel when we were having lunch at their restaurant - in a very attractive courtyard and many rooms were around it. All of the rooms had the same locks on their doors.
I was impressed. The building was rather interesting too; apparently it is a 300 years old house now converted to a hotel, I was told at the reception.

Later, at the Indo-Portuguese Museum we saw another ornate lock and the person in charge explained to us that it had the meaning of the symbols for five faiths: Christianity, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Chinese. 
I got rather excited about it and he let me take a photo so that I could show it here; extremely generous. This was a very big exception and it helped that there was nobody around. Of course, photography was forbidden, but we had had a very lengthy conversation with him about the role of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in the Portuguese arts and, above all, why Gulbekian had left his fortune to Portugal. So much so that he felt that he would like to visit Lisbon.   
Here it is!

Kerala lock with symbols for 5 faiths
With a stretch of imagination one can see the 7 Jewish candles, two overlap with the Hindu trident. But the most difficult faith to spot is the Chinese - look between the trident spears.  
The museum label informed us that it is painted iron Kerala lock (Manichitrathral) dated 19th-20th century.
Another blogger has commented on it too, no luck with a photo though. See http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/jackcaesar/1/1266087544/tpod.html
Now, if you compare both locks you can see that one faith is missing in the first one: Christianity. I wonder if the ones at the hotel were the originals? To me they all looked too shiny and unblemished to be 300 yeras old, but I might be wrong... 

Anyway, later in Munnar a new mosque had its own lock: just one faith.

Brand new mosque lock
A much simpler and humbler lock was on the door of a nearby dwelling.

Simple lock
 But the door had remains of previous locks...

Our last hotel room in Kerala, Tamarind Kalady, had a lock too. It was a charming budget hotel. 
An austere lock
As it happens we walked out with the key and managed to post it back from the Arrivals in the Mumbai international airport when we were ready to depart on on last flight back home. It took a lot of doing, but that is another story…
Guys, I've locked the blog with a Kerala lock! This is my last post about what it turned out to be a very exciting and rewarding 4 months trip! Thanks for visiting and your stimulating feedback.

Monday 5 March 2012

Flying squirrels

Periyar Tiger Reserve & Bird Sanctuary, Thekkady, Kerala, S India

We were staying at Aranya Nivas and somehow on our last evening David had a call just before dinner: it was a good night for flying squirrels and would we like to come and see some? Well I was in the swimming pool but quickly jumped out and fetched the camera.
The viewing place was beside the entrance to the hotel grounds, we had been there on a previous night and met some guides and other people hanging around, not tourists. Apparently it is a good spot for the flying squirrels.

By the time that I arrived David had already seen one squirrel flying: "it was just like a piece of paper being blown through the air". Wow! I wish that I had seen that!

My task was to capture the squirrels on the trees, rather a tall one because they were very high I and did not have a telephoto lens or a tripod! It was pitch dark but the guide had a very powerful torch which saved the situation because I could aim at focusing their shiny eyes. Below are the best results of my clumsy attempts.

A flying squirrel

 We were told that they were the Travancore flying squirrels, I did search in the Internet and found two kinds: the giant and the small and I'm not sure which was ours. Perhaps the giant? but if so it is a very species. Hmmm. Whatever it was, it was a lovely animal, love fur, brown on the top but much paler underneath. See below.
Ready to take off?

I did focus on the eyes, didn't I? I shall not attempt to correct this though, I think that it is rather charming ;-)

I did see one flying, it was just a glimpse of a floating creamy thing. An amazing sight! We went to back to our dinner  floating on air with the excitement. The highlight of our stay in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Friday 2 March 2012

Stingless bees nest

Periyar Tiger Reserve & Bird Sanctuary
Thekkady, Kerala, S India

Bees nest on a tree trunk, note the mud construction
We spotted this nest on the trunk of an old tree. Someone nearby got quite excited about it. He hadn’t seen one since his childhood and had fond memories of their honey that his father had given to him for medical purposes. Very tasty.
When a bee jumped onto my hand he promptly calmed me down, they were stingless! This gave me a clue and now I have found out that there is only one species of stingless bees in India: Trigona iridipennis.
Have a close look at the bees guarding the entrance to the nest. It is quite OK, they don't sting ;-)
They are rather small bee
Another nice encounter!