I returned to India in the spring of 2018 after an absence of 5 years. Last time I hit the phenomenal and well known tourist spots of the North, like the Taj Mahal, the maharajah’s palaces in Udaipur and Jaipur. And the beyond incredible spiritual community that is Varanasi and Rishikesh.
This time I ventured to the South and my one of one two favorite spots was Kerala. The other was Hyderabad.
Ft. Cochin is the historical district which become known in the West when the Portuguese landed there in the late 15th century. They were followed the the Dutch and somewhere even Jews (from where I’m not sure) ended up there. Two synagogues and about 25 Jews are still there! There’s also a Jew Town where the Jews had their businesses right outside the synagogue. Now it’s full of shops selling typical generic goods of the region. This synagogue is small and simple, not too dissimilar from what you’d find in other tropical areas, say like in St. Thomas. [There is also a second synagogue there, but in a different part of town. Part of it is an aquarium store.]
Ft. Cochin is well know for kathakali — a theatrical art form which is quite exotic – the type of stuff that makes traveling half way around the world worthwhile.
Another art form, also contributing to a good reason to travel 24 hours to get here is Ayurveda. I wish I more time to have learned about this (& the theater) but what I experienced was just so different. Both luxury hotels we stayed, Brunton Boatyard in Ft. Cochin and the Kumarakom Lake Resort on the backwaters had Ayurvedic centers that offered various treatments and massages. According to the brochure from the Aryatheeram (Ayurveda Centre) at Brunton Boatyard, Ayurveda is 6,000 years old giving it the distinction of the world’s oldest healthcare system. I can tell you that 4 hands rubbing herbal infused oil on your shoulders and back (while seated) and all over your body while prone, is a very invigorating experience. You won’t find this at your typical resort!