In retrospect, I needed Kochi leisuretime to acclimatize to India. I had met some fantastic new friends—a charming swiss couple exploring the depths of Ayurvedic treatment and the friendly chefs at two neighborhood cafes—and I was now replenished and ready to explore the Keralan waterways to the south. I took a three-hour train ride south, past palm-fringed lagoons and rural villages to the town of Kollam.
Now Kollam isn’t well-trod on the tourist path, and currently road construction renders the town center into a big, dusty traffic jam. I learned out of necessity to integrate myself as quickly as possible into everyday life: wearing my dusty sandals on every terrain imaginable, eating fantastically inexpensive and tasty local food (mashing, sopping and scooping with my right-hand fingers), coping with a perplexing lack of wi-fi in a city of its size, and unveiling my mosquito net in a padlocked room that just barely merited the designation of hotel. All of these perks were of minor import however: I had come to witness Kollam Pooram.
Each town in Kerala has its own Pooram, tied to the temple of the primary god of the Hindu community in that area. The main temple in Kollam venerates Krishna, and the ten-day festivities trail into the early hours of the morning with performances and rituals in his honor. There was so much to see and learn (and I’ve undoubtedly gotten a fair amount of it wrong) that the procession merits a few entries.
First and foremost I should thank the fantastic people of Kollam whom I met at the festival. They have been the friendliest and most informative that I’ve come across thus far, and I will leave missing them: Prasad & his gracious (and hilarious) family, Heymanth, Arjun, Cinilal, Subin, and many others who have suffered from my inability to retain foreign names.