Thrissur was my introduction to Kerala some thirty odd years back. As a young bride. Thus, for the next so many years, all visits there were basically confined to the four walls of an in-law’s house.
And so it was that, this year, I finally got to see a bit of the town, loitering around on my own.
Thrissur or Thrushivaperur is so named because it is home to three Siva temples. We stayed near the Vadakkunnathan Temple. The black stone piece (villakku) in the centre of the picture is for lamps. It was interesting to note that it had a tortoise as base.
Apparently, only Hindus are allowed into this temple. I’m somewhat ok with that as I’d not like to see a horde of tourists thronging the place just for the heck of it.
However, this temple has many items of archeological worth which, tragically, evidence neglect. There are murals and more which would benefit from the right kind of care and attention.
The temple has large grounds and somehow brings to mind a Buddhist ambience. I’d have dearly loved to have spent more time there, preferably with someone who had many relevant local myths and legends to relate.
Thrissur was my first introduction to life as a Hindu. Although I’d grown up in a Hindu family of sorts, my father had a very unique outlook on all things, including religion and, thus, meeting the in-laws was my first formal foray into that world. I confess it was more than a bit bewildering.
In later years I acquired a friend who came from one of Thrissur’s Christian communities. Her Thrissur world seemed a far cry from all I’d experienced.
It was serendipitous to be in Thrissur in time for Christmas and the roads were serene on Xmas morning as we took a post breakfast walk around.
We passed Our Lady of Dolours and went into the compound. The history of Kerala’s Christians is ancient and, thus, churches appears to have evolved in harmony with local architectural frills. The tall thin pillar you see in the above picture, for example, is similar to what is to be found in a local Hindu temple.
Unlike what I’d experienced in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode, the Muslim population was more muted here.
Nonetheless, a biriyani still rules, even in Thrissur. My most memorable biryani is one we had at the Shornur Railway station on my first journey to meet the In-Laws.
Most places, unless specifically advertised as Vegetarian, serve a biryani. And most biryanis are like the one in the picture above: rice conceals a generous and fiery meat dish. I had this at a place my husband said he used to haunt in his youth but apparently it’s now run by new management.
Besides the ubiquitous biryani, the Kerala parotta with a dish of meat fry is also characteristic of the region. This was a place we found out about on line – a small eatery.
Kerala has a lot of vegetarian dishes that are unique and yummy but, at a restaurant, you’re apt to get regulation fare: sambhar, rasam, avial, another coconut based vegetable dish, some thair, a pappadam, some pickle and a sweet dish. In Thrissur, as in other parts of Kerala, the rice helping can be overwhelming, especially since it is the fat rice much preferred in that region. Prasada was ok in terms of ambience and decor but, for Rs. 100, the food was nothing to write home about.
A lunch at this eatery, run by a women’s coop, with a famous documentary film maker and cartoonist, was far more enjoyable.
Bharat Hotel was handy for a tasty sampler of a local vegetarian lunch. The jug to the right contains sambharam while the smaller one has rasam. These jugs are to be found in most Kerala eateries. This meal, at Rs. 80, was delicious as are most eats at this restaurant.
Pathans was right in front of our hotel and was also a favourite with locals, always full and served good fare, though Bharath will remain my favourite.
These hawker carts emitted such delicious aromas that I cursed myself for possessing weak digestion. Youngsters sat around stuffing their face with these fluffy pancakes and what seemed to be quail eggs among other exotic fare.
My addiction to filter coffee had me visiting the Indian Coffee House twice a day.
Alas, coffee in the Indian Coffee House is not served in the typical South Indian style!
Filter coffee is not served in local homes where tea brewed from tea dust is a staple.
There are much too many cars on the narrow roads for comfort but, thankfully, not as many young men speeding around on fancy bikes as in Kochi.
Given we were based near the temple, we could still spot many people in local attire but the truth is that people in Kerala increasingly sport North Indian dresses (the women) or Western attire (the men).
Such quaint buildings form part of the charm of a walk around Thrissur.
This little corner shop sells items which will soon only grace an antique shop.
Thrissur is, for the moment, a gateway to a fast disappearing world of yore.