Sri Lanka was glorious, peaceful, relaxing and we enjoyed ourselves immensel. It didn’t satisfy our India cravings though, as we naively thought it would. And so the cravings grew.
Our first stop in India was to be Varkala in Kerala, where we would stay with our dear friend Debra, who runs Kaiya House. We had visited there 2 years before and despite only staying for three nights, a beautiful friendship blossomed. We met up in London a few times and also had the honour of Debra attending our wedding last year. Needless to say we were all quite excited about being reunited. Kaiya house is the most popular guesthouse in Varkala. Every wall is adorned with beautiful artwork, from masks to tapestry. Each room is themed and decorated lovingly by Debra herself, who has spent years collecting all of the magnificent treasures that fill every nook of the house. There is also an amazing roof terrace which is perfect for relaxing, nattering, doing yoga or in Debra’s case, dancing. As soon as you arrive, it’s obvious why Kaiya House is the number one place to stay in all of Varkala. Debra herself is the reason why guests have such a memorable stay. Her passion for India is infectious and she makes it her mission to ensure you have a comfortable and authentic stay. The kindest lady you’ll ever meet.
Our arrival in Varkala coincided with the start of a ten day Hindu festival. This was a lavish display of all of the wonderful eccentricities of Keralan Hindus. Devotion at its most colourful and imaginative. Celebration at its noisiest, for around 22 hours a day, every day.
The festivities at Janardanaswamy Swarmy Temple usually began at around 4am. If you’ve never awoken to the sound of a nadaswaram accompanied by a small continually clattering cymbal, you haven’t lived. Ok, so that’s not entirely true. The sheer relentlessness of this particular style of traditional music offered a lesson in acceptance, shall we say. Not only were we able to hear the sounds of the festival directly from the temple, which was just down the road, we also had the benefit of a monstrously large speaker attached to the lamp post outside the guesthouse. This combined with the natural reverberations meant that we kind of got to hear everything 3 times in quick succession.
It wasn’t all horns and cymbals though. Throughout the 10 days there were many styles of music, as well as dancing, chanting, mantras, parades…
On our first day we actually headed away from the nearby temple festival and went to an elephant festival in a small village, where thousands of locals were gathered to welcome 25 temple elephants adorned with golden headdresses, colourful saddles and of course those lovely big silver chains that shackle their legs together.