Tropical Kerala with a touch of Dutch

In Kerala – South West India – a surprise is waiting for the Dutch among us. Walking through the streets of Cochin – the spice capital of Kerala –  you stumble on the remains of a lesser know part of the Dutch VOC history.

Peter Celli Street

Street names – Burgher Street, Princess Street and Peter Cellie Street (who was Peter Selie?) – , old warehouses and colonial houses, the Dutch Palace and a Dutch cementary show the influence of the Dutch in India. You will also find some small outside stairs next to the frontdoor, for the popular Dutch hobby to ‘discuss’ the latest news in the neighbourhood.

From 1604 tot 1795 the VOC has been active in India, mainly along the coast, in an area larger than the better known VOC strongholds in all other Asian countries together.

VOC in India

VOC posts in India

In Cochin the Dutch chased the Portuguese away in 1663, leaving the city in 1795 to the Brits. Good business was done, but the Dutch had difficulties coping with the tropical coastal climate. This led Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede, the VOC Governor in the coastal area called Malabar, to write a monumental work on the medicinal properties of the Malabar plants – 12 volumes and nearly 800 illustrations – the Hortus Indicus Malabaricus – which remains unsurpassed even to this day.

I didn’t learn this at school but from the most aimable hotel manager in Cochin, who also showed me an old map with city wall towers bearing the names of the 7 Dutch Provinces.

But Kerala is not only about history. It is perfect for an exciting & relaxing holiday. Great beaches, rolling hills with tea and spice plantations, backwater boat trips, wild elephants (if you are lucky), friendly people and gorgeous seafood – the best I had in India.

And you can do and see some fun things. Kerala is famous for its snake boat races and elephant processions. But what would you think of washing an elephant or taking an elephant shower?

Elephant shower

Elephant shower

Very very wet!

If you are interested and would like to know more, please contact me or have a look here.

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Very very impressive, but also a lot of people ……….

World

What’s billed as the largest single gathering of humanity is taking place right now in the northern Indian city of Allahabad. At the confluence of the Yamuna, Ganges and (mythical) Saraswati Rivers, as many as 100 million people will participate over the next month in an ancient Hindu festival known as the Kumbh Mela. The pilgrimage, which dates back millennia, occurs in 12-year cycles — in 2001, the Indian government estimated a staggering 70 million congregated by the Ganges’ banks to ritually bathe in its sacred waters.

News-agency photographers, of course, have a field day (or month) during the Kumbh Mela. It’s a time when India’s rising global clout and simmering social tensions take a backseat to images of ascetic sadhus — their faces doused in ash, their feral, matted hair coiled like serpents upon their heads — charging the river in religious ecstasy. Of course, it’s nothing new…

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