Christmas in God’s Own Country

I spent the last week on vacation with some fellow Fulbrights in Kerala, a state at the southern end of India whose spectacular natural beauty has earned it the title “God’s Own Country.”

Kerala is India’s most developed state. It has a sizable Christian community, and also a small Jewish population in Kochi that dates back almost two millenia. We stayed in Kochi, where we attended a midnight mass at St. George’s Cathedral, saw a kathakali (traditional Keralan theatre) performance, walked around Jew Town, and visited Fort Kochi, which is famous for its Chinese fishing nets. The highlight of the trip was without a doubt taking a kettu vellam (rice barge) around the backwaters from Aleppuzha.

Kerala also has elections coming up in the middle of next year. Power in the state has rotated between the United Democratic Front (UDF), a left-leaning coalition led by Congress Party, and the Left Democrat Front (LDF), a coalition led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). It is the only state where the BJP has not won a single seat to the Lok Sabha or the Vidhan Sabha, though they performed strongly in the recent panchayat (village-level) elections. Most of the people I spoke to expect the LDF to take power again 

Most pictures below are mine; some are Tomoko Skinner’s.

Juhu beach

Layover in Mumbai: the Arabian Sea along Juhu Beach

Fort Kochi Beach

At Fort Kochi Beach, also along the Arabian Sea

Sipping coconut

Chopping coconut

CPI 90

St. Francis Church

St. Francis Church, where Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama was originally buried

Chinese fishing nets

Chinese fishing nets

Chinese fishing nets 2


Karimeen, a freshwater fish

Karimeen pollichatthu

Karimeen pollichatthu: the karimeen is cooked in a curry and wrapped in a banana leaf

Matancherry Palace

Matancherry Palace


Jew Town 3

Jew Town

Jew Town 2

At Paradesi Synagogue

At Paradesi Synagogue in Jew Town

Mass at St. George's

St. George Forane Church in Edapally during midnight mass on Christmas Eve

Mass 2



Santa Claus is coming to town… on a Harley

Kathakali makeup 2 Makeup being applied before a kathakali show at Kerala Kathakali Centre in Kochi


A scene from the Mahabharata: Kichaka advances on Draupadi

Village tour 1

Village tour in the backwaters

Village tour 5

Village tour 3

Making rope from coconut husk

Backwaters 1

On a kettu vellam from Alepuzzha

Captain Joseph

Captain Joseph steers the kettu vellam

Backwaters 2

Backwaters 3

Backwaters 4

Backwaters 5

Backwaters 6

Backwaters 7

Backwaters sunset 1

Banana chips

Banana chips in Aleppuzha

With Sajeev

With Sajeev the driver


At the Kerala Folklore Museum in Kochi



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