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When most Americans visit India they either go to well known tourist destinations like the Taj Mahal or to well known sacred sites...most of which, are in North India. But of all the places in India that I have visited, the southwestern coastal area including Kerala and coastal
Karnataka State are the most special. Although most of India is quite dry during much of the year, the Kanara coast has enormous rainfall in the monsoon season. Because of this, there is a strip of tropical rainforest which stretches along the Western Ghats. This area is extremely beautiful and also very interesting. There are many medicinal plants which grow in this area as well as exotic hardwoods such as sandlewood, cinnamon androsewood.

Comments of “Ms Pam Small” on 19th of January’ 2001
Associate Proff. Of Microbiology,
Dept. of microbiology, 409 Walters Life Science, University of Tennessee,Knoxville, TN:37996-0845. U.S.A
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There is enormous biodiversity here. As one moves down from the mountains closer to the coast, forest gives way to terraced rice fields. The local methods of agriculture have been maintained to hundreds of years with little lose of fertility. Until one reaches the coast, the area is hilly. The countryside is punctuated with large outcroppings of black rock...some of these, such as Kodanija kallu near Moodbidri, offers interesting rock climbing opportunities along with a visit to a local holy man (saddhu) who lives halfway up the rock in a cave.Because of the lush rainfall, coastal karnataka is extremely rich in terms of culture. This culture takes many forms. Historical dance dramas, (Yakshagans) are performed throughout the area in small villages and towns alike. These dramas often last all night during which a singer sings the stories of ancient Hindu mythology which are then acted out by dancers in elaborate costumes. Buffalo races also occur during this time in flooded paddy fields. And perhaps most interesting is the large number of festivals held at small temples throughout the region. In addition to festivals honoring deities present all over India, such as Shiva or Drug (Kale) there are many regional festivals to local deities known as Bhutas. These festivals, the Bhuta Kolas last all night and involve the participation of elaborately costumed dancers who again relate the story of the deities honored. Fire and unique music accompanies these festivals. Almost any night during the dry season the sounds of loud drums and fireworks can be heard at night. I have spent many nights following these sounds on narrow paths through moonlit paddy fields to experience a Bhuta Kola put on by a particular family.

But all of this is really on the surface. I have found that the Canara coast is filled with sacred places...not just ancient temples, but also trees, and small village shrines. And perhaps most important is the spirit of the people in this area. Interestingly, many of the people in this area of India have a social system where property is inherited through women. Because of this, women in south Kanara have had a particularly strong impact on the culture. The hospitality of people in this area is something rarely experienced by Americans. I have met people here on the street who invited me home to share a meal and introduce me to their families. This is also a very easy place to travel with children. We visited this region several years with several young children. People love children and are very welcoming. Not only did our children thrive here, they have returned with their spouses to share the very special place and friendships they formed while here.

Although there are many languages spoken in the area, many people speak some English. This makes travel, even by bus, easy. Despite the magic of this place, South Kanara is largely unknown to foreigners and you may travel for many weeks or even months without seeing another westerner. So though this is a fairly easy place to experience, it is definitely off the beaten track. In the States, we read that most of India is rural....and yet very few Americans ever experience rural India. It seems inaccessible. But this is not the case with the coastal south canara region. A trip through South Canara provides the opportunity to experience a type of rural Indian culture rarely experienced by Americans. The natural beauty of the region from the tropical forests in the mountains to the beaches on the coast are unforgettable. But it is the warmth and sense of humor which characterizes the many peoples in this region, which makes a person want to return here over and again.