Cranganor Trails & Things To Do
Heritage, river, backwaters, wetlands, culture, religion, art, village life, fishing, food, Ayurveda and more...
Walking Tour: Jews Of Chendamangalam
“My kingdom has different communities
Only the Jews are absent
Of not less than ten members
Thus spake the King of Shingly, legend has it. The Jews who had been regular visitors to Shingly since the time of Solomon, took the warm welcome to heart and set up home here. This trail follows the intriguing story of the Jews of Chendamangalam, who came here arguably 2600 years ago, how they set up home in a far away land, how well entrenched in Kerala society they were yet how they held onto their unique identity. A community of more than 3000 people, 7 synagogues spread over 4 cities. Our trail begins at the synagogue right across the river. A ferry ride and a walk along a curving lane leads us right upto the Chendamangalam synagogue. Beautifully restored, this synagogue functional till 1950 is now a heritage museum. 5 kms away is the Parur synagogue, also a restored heritage museum. It is interesting to note how the intermingling of two cultures soaked into both. Appam which is considered quintessential Malayali food is said to be brought in by the Malabari Jews, and the language spoken by the Malabari & Cochini Jews , Judeo Malayalam, is a quaint mix of Hebrew and Malayalam.
Bike Trails: Monuments & Meadows
Ride across the river on the ferry to Chendamangalam and take the quaint winding road upto the synagogue. A little ahead climb up the steep stairs to one of the oldest temples of the region and come full circle at the ruins of the Vypinkota seminary. There are rumours of a caved in tunnel that would take you all the way to Kochi. The more adventurous could brave the dense undergrowth on the path leading to the cemetery of the Jews.
Or you could ride to the fields of Thazhanchira, lush green paddy fields now home to a few hundred migratory birds. Ride along the canal right uptil the end where the family of ducks live. Some times the fields are dotted white with a white lotus bloom spreading right upto the horizon. Right at the edge of the field you can see the tiny old temple with the old oak tree spreading umbrella like over it. Come monsoon the fields are flooded and you wuld see village women row in boats to the temple for its special monsoon festival.
Boat Tour: Life On The Water
Cruise along lazily on a large old vanji or rice boat watching life unfolding on the banks - kids playing, women chatting. Still like meditating buddhas, the fishermen dot the waters. Fish eagles swoop, king fishers dart and you can hear the ferry in the distance as it dully thuds alongs the water.
You could learn the story of the famed land of Muziris (Muchiri, Muchiri pattanam, Shingly) as it unfolded along these waters – the footprints of the apostle St Thomas, the arrival of the Jews fleeing from the burning temples of Babylon, the vibrant bustling markets rich with pepper, nutmeg, ivory & peacocks for trade with the Arabs, Greeks, Romans & Moors, the arrival of the Dutch, the Portugese, the British, these waters have seen it all. This is the site for one of the largest heritage conservation projects in the country. The story of the land of Muchiri that began 4000 years ago, played out in almost a hundred temples, mosques, churches, synagogues, markets, wharfs, forts & cemeteries that pepper the landscape. And the intangibles – the festivals, rituals, songs, cloth, food and art.
Temple Festivals: Mudiyettu
Mudiyettu, a ritual dance form, is a once in a year spectacular festival happening at the bhagawathi temple in the village. Defined by UNESCO as a ritual dance drama based on the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika, it is a community ritual in which the entire village participates. Kali wearing a headgear of about 30 kilos, face painted intricately, exaggerated bust and with a temple sword has to be brought out from the inner sanctum onto the ground. The temple drummers whip her into frenzy, the priests carrying torches blow fire into her face and the entire village boos & jeers her onto the ground. The drama has lighter moments too, Guligan is a favourite among kids for his clown like antics & sagely smiling grannies nod at Narada whispering gossipy tales to Shiva. The play reaches its crescendo when an enraged Kali slays Darika and balance is restored to the universe. Shrieking kids pelting marigold flowers at kali, a frenzied Kali rushing at people with her sword, its way past midnight but the village is awake and thrumming with excitement.
October is boat race season and our river comes alive with excitement. Unlike the famed boat races of Allepey, these races are a more cosier version. Villagers throng on both sides of the river to watch the races but the actual excitement is in the water. Large rice boats, medium sized vanjis, dug out canoes and all sizes of fishing boats are parked along the racetrack. In between races there is much merry making. Cheerleading is by way of synchronized back flips into the water. Boys float about in tyres, tableaus float past with folk dancing to the latest hit songs, men perform tricks with oars and Mahabali showers blessings on one and all from a rice boat. Commentators egg on the participants and urge the merry making revelers to clear the track. As the race boats edge close there is frenzy in the air, whipped up and up till it erupts at the finishing line, men jump over parked boats and flip with a whoop into the river.
Tuk Tuk Tour Of Kotappuram Market
Centuries old, this market is possibly one of the last living relics of the glorious city of Muziris. A wholesale market now, you can imagine pepper, nutmeg, betelnut, ivory and even peacocks being sold from this ancient market. Trade with the port town of Muziris was so prized that the ancient Romans had a settlement here complete with a temple to Augustus and a battalion of soldiers. Skull capped Jews, turbaned Moors, proud Nair chieftains all roamed the bustling streets negotiating with the Greeks, the Romans, the Dutch, the Arabs and the Portugese. The vintage architecture of the market reflects the influences of all those who came to trade but stayed and made it home. Cobblestone paths, crumbling balustrades, vintage wooden windows and paneled shutters. The market is crackling and live by early dawn, everything is sold here by the ton - pineapples, jaggery, vegetables, salted fish, tobacco and spices. A quaint set of steps lead to a jaggery merchant’s shop, where he offers us a taste of his finest. There are piping hot snacks and tea.
GUIDED WEAVING & HERITAGE TRAIL
About: Kerala has a rich handloom and basket weaving tradition, one where families worked together. Each family would do its own spinning and had one or two pit looms where the weaving was done. Usually the less strenuous jobs of winding the yarn, knotting the threads fell to the younger ones, or they would chip in when the older folk took a break. This meant that by the time they grew up they were expert weavers who knew every painstaking detail of weaving. In many ways the weaving co-operative societies of today are just larger versions of the family unit. We visit two co-ops by the river, where the head weaving master will take you through the entire process step by step. On some days, you can head down to the fields to watch them stretch the yarn and prepare to tie it on the warp. We then head over to the Kaithari Project studio where you can see these fabrics being converted to clothes. The trail will also make a couple of quick stop at some heritage locations enroute.
The Route: The trail will commence from Cranganor by boat. The first stop will be Kotappuram Muziris Heritage Market Jetty (35 mins by boat) and after a quick visit to a few old shops….the jaggery trader, spice trader and tobacco trader, you will be transferred by car to the Kotappuram basket weaving centre (10 mins by car) and then back to the jetty. From there the boat will transfer you to the Paliam Ancestral Home & Palace Jetty (30 mins by boat) and after a visit to Paliam, you will be transferred to Chendamangalam weaving society and weaving centre (10 mins by car) and back to the jetty by car. From the jetty, you will arrive by boat back to Cranganor (20 min by boat). There will be an ice box on the boat with some beverages and sandwiches. Apart from visiting the said places, the trail will also be a leisurely river cruise and will drive through quant verdant village streets.
Upto 5 people, Rs 8750
Upto 12 people, Rs 12000
GUIDED JEWISH HISTORY TRAIL
About: "My kingdom has different communities. Only the Jews are absent. Of not less than ten members”. Thus spake the King of Shingly, legend has it. The Jews who had been regular visitors to Shingly since the time of Solomon, took the warm welcome to heart and set up home here. This trail follows the intriguing story of the Jews of Chendamangalam, who came here arguably 2600 years ago, how they set up home in a far away land, how well entrenched in Kerala society they were yet how they held onto their unique identity. A community of more than 3000 people, 7 synagogues spread over 4 cities. Our trail begins at the synagogue right across the river. A ferry ride and a walk along a curving lane leads us right upto the Chendamangalam synagogue. Beautifully restored, this synagogue functional till 1950 is now a heritage museum. 5 kms away is the Parur synagogue, also a restored heritage museum. It is interesting to note how the intermingling of two cultures soaked into both. Appam which is considered quintessential Malayali food is said to be brought in by the Malabari Jews, and the language spoken by the Malabari & Cochini Jews , Judeo Malayalam, is a quaint mix of Hebrew and Malayalam.
The Route: The trail will commence from Cranganor by boat. The first stop will be Chendamangalam Synagogue Jetty (10 mins by boat). The boat will then amble through a backwater canal to Paravur Synagogue Jetty (40 mins by boat) from where you will walk through Jew Street to the Synagogue and then to Paravur Muziris Heritage Market. After a cup of Kerala filter coffee at a local cafe, you will be transferred back to Cranganor (40 min by boat). There will be an ice box on the boat with some beverages and sandwiches. Apart from visiting the said places, the trail will also be a leisurely river & backwater canal cruise and a walk through quaint verdant village streets.
Upto 5 people, Rs 7500
Upto 12 people, Rs 11400