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Monday, October 29, 2012

Drinking the Emptiness Away


Drinking the Emptiness Away

Kerala is a communist state. Off licences and cinemas are all run by the state. Education is a priority. This leads to the highest literacy in all of India. All this leads to very well educated taxi drivers and others in a state with low levels of employment, the only buoyant economic sector being tourism: medical, dental and general.

People in Kerala swear by the system and the Communists are voted in every time.


Old man with Communist heroes in the background

The religious traditions stand in stark relief to this programmatic ideology and in wild contrast to western progressive thinking.



Men hanging from hooks inserted into the skin.

The Indian authorities claim to ban activities like this but appear to turn a blind eye to it since they are present to police it. This is the second time I have attended the festival. Oddly, no one will tell me its name.

Does anyone know its name?

This is the Power of Now. There can't be much past or future at this moment. Not for those men.

Locals cram the streets of Trivandrum and physical skirmishs break out. What causes this aggression is a mystery. Many participants appear to be in a drugged state. This is unsurprising when you get a look at the hooks through the bicep, back and calves or the three foot skewers or swords that pass through the cheeks. These skewered boys have minders whose job it is to protect them whilst simultaneously pushing them around and generally making life even more uncomfortable. Perhaps this is a rite of purification or penance but this is Hinduism not Christianity and the procession and its meaning is quite unreadable to me.

Does anyone know what might be happening here?


Not all the participants in the procession have their skin pierced in this way.


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This elephant has got away lightly without even the chalk hieroglyphics that appear on many religious elephants.

There is a procession of many elephants which takes place maybe 100 miles north of where I am now in Trivandrum. I hope to attend this festival in the coming weeks.

Signing off until the first week of November when I write from Pachaloor near the Kerala coast.

Find me, Robert Karl Harding on Twitter: @socratesl


The writer at seven years old

Happy Travelling!

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