Human by Nature – 7 Things to Experience in Kerala
7 Bucket List Experiences in Kerala that Redefine ‘Human By Nature’
Being an Army brat, I’ve always been in close proximity to Kerala. Not physically, but it felt like that only, as many of the troops in the units where my dad has been posted over the years, were from Kerala.
My tryst with festivals like Onam and Pongal happened way back when I was a kid, and the traditional meals served on the banana leaf have always been something I looked forward to.
However, it was only in 2019, when I finally got the chance to visit Kerala and experience the true essence of Kerala, which is in literal terms Human by Nature ! Human by Nature, is also Kerala Tourism’s latest global campaign which is drawn from real stories of the land, and is centred around this way of life. It is an ode to the people of this land whose everyday lives are, in a way, epic in scale.
While my trip was basically a week-long Staycation across Kerala, these 7 experiences were the true highlight, as there was a human element that formed the backbone of the experience, and I would definitely recommend you to have them on your Kerala Bucket List too.
- 7 Bucket List Experiences in Kerala that Redefine ‘Human By Nature’
- Have a Traditional Meal while cruising the backwaters of Alleppey and Kumarakom in a Houseboat
- Learn to make Banana Chips and local dishes
- Tea picking in the Tea Gardens of Munnar
- Visit one of the many Spice Gardens
- Witness a Kathakali Performance
- And a Kalaripayattu demonstration
- Go Local – Stay with the Locals and Experience the Rural Life
- Subscribe via Email
Have a Traditional Meal while cruising the backwaters of Alleppey and Kumarakom in a Houseboat
Cruising the backwaters of Alleppey and Kumarakom is in itself a bucket list experience, but imagine combining it with another local experience – A Gastronomic experience involving a traditional meal cooked with local spices and served on a banana leaf!
The traditional meal is also known as Sadya, which is a vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf. It consists of boiled rice, Vegetable Curries, side dishes, savories, pickles and desserts.
The curries can be Sambar or Parippu, while the side dishes are two or more varieties Avian and Thoran.
The savories include Upperi, Pappadam, Vegetable salad, Ginger pickle, Pachadi and Kichadi, out of which Upperi is deep fried banana chips and Pappadam are fried creamy yellow sun dried wafer of black gram flour. The Dessert you will be served is known as Payasam which is a thick fluid dish of sweet brown molasses, milk and spices, garnished with cashew nuts and raisins.
Now, while there are plenty of houseboat operators in Alleppey and Kumarakom, I would recommend you to first interact with the boat captains themselves, convey what you want to experience, and you’ll be surprised by how the locals go the extra mile to make sure that you have one of the best experiences of your life.
If you are lucky, the locals might invite you to their homes as well, for an even more rustic local experience, which might just be the highlight of your 7 Day Kerala Road Trip Itinerary.
Learn to make Banana Chips and local dishes
While Kerala may be the land of coconuts, there are two things that you definitely need to try – Banana Chips and the Spices. Golden coloured, thin crispy banana chips, make for an amazing snack.
If you take a stroll around Kumily, you will find plenty of legit shops selling Banana Chips, where you can also see how they are made.
But to get the best experience, I recommend you to head to a local shop, interact with the locals, and learn the art of making banana chips, first hand.
You will see how the locals first gather up all the coconut husks and make oil, followed by peeling bananas and slicing the lot in an electric slicer. And then you will see magic.
The whole experience of interacting with the locals and learning the art of making the famous banana chips, is definitely something that should be on your radar, as it is something, you might not get to experience elsewhere except here in God’s Own Country.
Not only making banana chips, there’s one thing else that you should experience as well, and that is learning how to cook the local delicacies from a local. Dishes like Avial, Thoran is something that is best cooked by a local.
While Avial is a blend of vegetables, coconut paste and green chilies, Thoran on the other hand can be minced string beans, cabbage, Beetroot, Carrot or grams, mixed with grated coconut and sautéed with a dash of red chilies and turmeric powder.
Attending a cooking class, and getting first hand experience of cooking local dishes is also one of the highlights of this Thekkady Weekend Travel Itinerary.
Tea picking in the Tea Gardens of Munnar
The Tea Gardens of Munnar date back to the 1800’s, when in 1880 A H Sharp, a european planter, started Tea cultivation in the 50 acre land at Parvathy. Tata Group entered Munnar in 1964, formed a partnership with Finlay group, and became Tata – Finlay Group, which eventually turned into Tata Tea Ltd in 1983.
Today they produce over 20 million kg of Tea that is exported globally.
The tea gardens of Munnar definitely need your time, and you can even meet and interact with the Tea harvesters, and learn about the whole process.
The tea harvesters are mostly women, and are a delight to interact with. A lot of them also love getting clicked, so do show them their pictures if you do click them.
And while you are experiencing the serenity of the lush tea plantation, don’t forget to check out the Tata Tea museum at the Nallathanni Estate of Tata Tea, right outside Munnar. Here, you will get acquainted with the history of Tea Plantation in Munnar, and also learn about the entire process of how the tea leaves are steamed, rolled, dried and sorted according to size, and variations before they are shipped around the world and end up in our cups.
Visit one of the many Spice Gardens
If there’s one thing that should definitely be on your to do list when visiting Thekkady, it is nothing else, but going on a tour around a spice plantation. Thekkady is the heartland of spices, and you’ll learn about different medicinal and ayurvedic benefits of various spices like cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, clove, etc, from a local experienced practitioner.
During our visit to one of these Spice Gardens in Thekkady, our Guide not only briefed us about the medicinal properties of the different herbs and spices, he also recommended us what specific herbs and spices we need to include in our diets, based on our current lifestyle and existing ailments.
You can also purchase fresh spices to take back with you, once the tour is over.
Witness a Kathakali Performance
Dating back to the 17th century, Kathakali, which is said to have evolved from Ramanattam, another classical art form, is the most stylish form of classical dance that echoes the true culture of Kerala throughout the world.
To perform Kathakali, an artist needs minimum 4 to 5 years of training, and It easily takes around 3-5 hours for the facial makeup which is designed to highlight the characters.
A Kathakali performance has 8 different components namely, Keli, Arangu Keli, Thodayam, Vandana slokam, Purappadu, Melappadam, Kathabhinayam and Dhanaashi, and it takes around 6-8 hours for the artists to present the complete version of the Kathakali performance.
Be informed that the characters of Kathakali do not speak and the story is presented through songs from the background. So keep your ears open, and observe the hand gestures aka mudras, the priceless expressions and the body language moulding with the rhythm and beats of classical music.
And a Kalaripayattu demonstration
‘Kalary’ means school or gym and ‘payattu’ means the art of combat. This age-old form of martial arts, believed to have been created by Parashurama ( sixth avatar of Vishnu), incorporates hyper-athleticism with extensive knowledge of pressure points on the human body, Ayurveda, yoga, compassion, discipline, respect, and is performed inside the kalary under the guidance of a master. You’ll surely get amazed by the agility and gravity defying stunts of the performers.
Go Local – Stay with the Locals and Experience the Rural Life
If there’s one experience that will enable you to experience the rural life of Kerala first hand, it’s staying with the locals in one of the many local homestays. Not only will you experience their hospitality, but also appreciate how the Mallyalis seek happiness in the small things in life, and that might become one of your most treasured memories of your life.
This article is Sponsored by Kerala Tourism.
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1 thought on “Human by Nature – 7 Things to Experience in Kerala ”
Such a colorful post. I am so dying to visit Kerala.