Once we left Sri Lanka it was a very leisurely ride to Cochin. In fact it was so leisurely that we could have arrived around 8 pm yesterday. However it would’ve cost the ship $45,000 extra to arrive early! The Captain chose to reduce speed so that we’d arrive at our regularly scheduled time.
We docked at the cruise ship terminal on Willingdon Island. Turns out that this Island was completely manmade. Our excursion started at 10:00 am but due to Immigration & Customs face-to-face clearance, we had to start our clearance process at 9:00 to be on-time.
Our tour today was “Kathakali Dance Performance”.
Once we cleared Immigration, we boarded a bus for a short ride to the theater. Along the way we noticed a large number of Christian churches and cemeteries. Our guide explained that this part of India is primarily Catholic! So we didn’t see the large ornate Hindu temples that are usual for India.
However when we arrived at the theater we walked down a covered hallway with Hindu gods and goddesses lining the walls to the theater entrance. At the end of the hallway was a shrine to the goddess Shiva.
Kathakali (“story dance”) is a major Indian dance form in this region and is known to be over 500 years old (many believe its root are much older). It is known for its makeup, costumes, dance, and elaborate hand and facial gestures. The actors speak a “sign language” on stage where dialog is expressed by those facial and hand gestures accompanied by a drummer and chanting narrator.
When we arrived one of the actors was sitting on stage applying his makeup. Each color he applies displays a specific personality trait about his character. The result is amazing. When he was done he left the stage and a new actor entered the stage.
This actor portrayed a woman but we weren’t sure if it was a woman as it is traditional for men to play all the parts. This actor’s job was to demonstrate the 9 major facial expressions/emotions called “Navarasas”. Love, fear, and disgust were some of the emotions and watching the actor’s fave and eyes helped us understand the action of the story. The actor also demonstrated the 24 hand gestures called “Mudras” which accompany the facial expressions. When this demonstration was completed, the play/dance began.
The play/dances are based on stories from the two main Hindu texts: Ramayana or the Mahabharata. Today’s tale was taken from the Mahabharata. Having just learned about the hand and facial gestures, it was exciting to see them actually used. Today’s show was about 30 minutes however these performances lasted days many years ago.
At the theater exit there was a small perfume shop. Besides perfumes they also sold these vividly colored chalk dusts. These are used to decorate homes during religious festivals.
We re-boarded our bus for the return to the ship and the most dangerous of all portions of the excursions, running the gauntlet of vendors at the port! Today there were 17 of them. For the most part, they all sell the exact same thing. It becomes a game to see who can get the best price for your purchases. It’s a topic of conversation at the dinner table that night.
We left the port on our way to Mumbai around 6:00 pm. As we left we had one more site to see and that was the “Chinese Fishing Nets”. The nets are over 30 ft tall. They are attached to the wharf and lowered into the water. After a certain period of time, the nets are raised via a cantilever system and the catch is dumped into baskets and sent off to the local fish market. You can see there were a lot of them in this area.