Pallikere & the Bekal Fort

Despite leading us to the middle of a tiny-ass town, Lady Luck decided to throw us a party… or, rather, lead us to one.

In Kochin, we decided we needed a stop somewhere to break up the long trip to Gokarna, so we scoured the Kerala chapter in the LP. Bekal, according to the LP, is a town, with a keyhole-shaped fort and gorgeous beaches begging for “DIY exploration”.

According to the townies of Pallikare, however, there is no town called Bekal. It’s just the name of the fort and the beach that adjoins it. I just googled it up and the information online (wiki and some Indian website) seems contradictory but I’ll go with what the locals told me.

Our train stopped in Kanhangad, and we hopped on a public bus which dropped us right outside the fort. It was after 5 pm, which meant visiting hours were over and we’d have to wait til tomorrow morning. Somehow we managed to find one of only two guesthouses in the area, and took advantage of the last few rays of sunshine.

That night, a white-haired German by the name Reinhard came looking for us and found us at the internet cafe. Turns out he was our neighbor at the guesthouse and the manager had told him about us.

Over cups of chai tea, he told us about a Hindu shaman festival, one that only happened once every two years, hence his reason for being in town. He refused to tell us any more, wanting us to find out for ourselves, but he promised that it was quite a spectacle.

The catch was that it’d start around 1 o clock in the morning and would last a few hours.

Curiosity piqued, we decided to go for it.

We got up at 1:30 in the morning (Reinhard left around midnight) and walked around for an hour, trying to find the temple. The directions we’d gotten said, “go south until the circle, go right then you’ll find the path.” There was no circle. And all paths we found seemed to lead to mosques (they were decorated with Muslim green.)

There were barely any people up, and none of them had any idea of the festival we were talking about.

But eventually Xiker’s sharp ears picked up some noises that were unmistakably festival-ish and I followed him down some dark alleys and unlit pathways until we found the Sri Rakhteswari temple.

It was packed with people, and I was quickly ushered to a place in the front where I could see the, uh, performance. Ritual? Insert appropriate term here?

It was certainly interesting, to say the least.

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In my head I was thinking, “jingle bells, jingle all the way…”
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The man behind the mask.
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He repeated this action at least 5 times! People would shovel the coals back into a pile as he danced around (presumably cooling off his fanny).
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Xiker being interviewed.
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We finally crawled into bed at 6:30 am for a short nap, and woke up an hour later to visit the fort in the morning light.

Bekal Fort is Kerala’s largest fort, built between 1645-1660, and has gone through a succession of empires over the centuries… I liked the laterite bricks, which makes me think of reddish-pink coral. The palm tree fringe and the coastal view of the Arabian Sea along the laterite made for a beautiful sight, especially in the early morning mist.

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