Finn Family Fieldwork

Our travels on the Malabar Coast and lovely Kerala

we’re HOME

But my mind still lingers by the sea in Gokarna: a big ox, seller of flowers for puja (with that unique Gokarna-style of tying her wrap), and a priest of the Rigveda.

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Down, down, into the sweltering plains of Karnataka. And so we find ourselves sightseeing at one in the afternoon: first, remove your shoes and check them at the shoe room. Next, put on overpriced polyester souvenir socks to protect your feet from the hot rock steps you’re about to climb. (Addie: “Ow! Ow! so hot!”)

Waiting to greet you at the summit is the Jain colossus of Shravana Belagola, Gomateshvara. He is hewn out of the mountain and so deep in his meditative austerities that stone vines have grown up around him.

This Jain devotee sits in the shrine and answers questions like: why is Gomateshvara’s left index finger so short? He tells Amy that no one has ever asked him this question before! It is a “drishti,” a visible sign that wards off the inauspiciousness of creating an entirely perfect image.

The view from the top. Addie thinks it looks like Oz (so green!)

Eating dosas in town below.

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Found in the streets of Mysore:

a teeny little altar with Sai Baba and a Smithsonesque pile of rubble

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Some scenes from the Ooty market:

The bag man has been saying “pie, pie, pie, pie, pie, pie” (bag) all day every day for at least 30 years. 

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Carrots are one of the main crops in Ooty but it’s the keeping warm style that rules

Carrots are one of the main crops in Ooty but it’s the keeping warm style that rules

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Mango masala peanuts

Mango masala peanuts

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Keeping warm in Ooty

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From the summer palace of the Mysore Maharajah in Fern Hill, we descended the Nilgiris to Mysore town.

The Chamundeshwari temple in the Chamundi Hills near Mysore.

Nonstop homas inside: “svaha!”

Demonstrating powder puja supplies outside the temple.

This man tied on fire-colored thread bracelets with a mantra for each of us. Two weeks on, we’re starting to suspect strange vibes…We had a rough ride across Karnataka after this. But with Nandin the cosmic bull looking out for us, we’re still smiling.

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Tea, tea, tea…It’s everywhere in Ooty. The tea plantations are good for exploring…

and they are no doubt a big employer…(Here the tea ladies head off to their afternoon shift)…

but the monoculture is steadily edging out the slow-growing native species, like this crooked shola tree.

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Sighted by Addie in Fern Hill, near Ooty. Maybe it’s the altitude?

Sighted by Addie in Fern Hill, near Ooty. Maybe it’s the altitude?

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One day we drove to a nearby mund of the Toda people, indigenous inhabitants of the Nilgiris high altitudes who speak a Dravidian language. Vyasa and Cosmo sit above one of the dairy temples for which the Toda are famous: the priest lives inside in strict purity and tends to milk products from the buffalo herds. This one is now empty but may soon house a priest again.

Monuments: the ball in the foreground is for feats of strength.

Toda women working and showing embroidery for sale.

Photo of old print of Toda.

Family snap in front of the conical temple.

Toda kids.

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Scenes from the Narayana Gurukula in Ooty. The swamis made us feel completely at home as they went about their busy days…Above Tanmaya sprays the veggies.

Our host Vyasa would take us out on field trips everyday around the Nilgiris in his Vyasa-mobile—a tough vehicle and a deft touch at the wheel.

A brahmacarin at the gurukula, Bijju, at work in the kitchen. The best cook for miles around.

This is the corrugated tin hut where Nataraja Guru lived for a decade or more in the early days. Eventually a Scotsman became his first disciple, and so the gurukula was born.

These devotees came up from sweaty Kerala on an 8 hour bus ride to visit the place. They stayed one night and returned the next morning.

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No better summer spot than Ooty in late April: Finn and Vyasa after a walk down the railroad tracks.

No better summer spot than Ooty in late April: Finn and Vyasa after a walk down the railroad tracks.

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We have departed our lovely friend Vyasa and the most wonderful Narayana Gurukula.
I include Addie’s handmade thank you card.

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In memoriam of Lucia from Jarred

In memoriam of Lucia from Jarred

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