Festivals of Kerala
Kerala's culture grew and elaborated from contacts with the neighbouring Tamil Nadu and overseas influences via sea trade routes. You can find members of many religions and cultures in peaceful co-existence here. All major festivals of India are celebrated here including a few endemic ones like Onam and Vishu. Besides these, every temple, every church and every mosque has its own festivals that recur every year. Festivals celebrated across Kerala include Onam, Vishu, Navarathri, Deepavali, Shivarathri, Christmas, Easter, Miladi Sharief, Muharram, Ramadan and Bakrid. For a detailed festival calendar of Kerala, go here.
Biodiversity of Kerala
A fourth of India's 10,000-odd plant species can be found in Kerala. Among the 4000- odd flowering plant species, 1,272 are endemic to Kerala. Its 9400 sq km of forest cover includes tropical wet evergreen, semi evergreen, tropical moist & dry deciduous and montane subtropical and temperate forests. Kerala has 102 species of mammals (56 endemic); 476 species of birds; 202 species of fresh water fishes, 169 species of reptiles (139 endemic) and 89 species (86 endemic) of amphibians. This awesome and astonishing bio-diversity of Kerala can be considered its greatest wealth and beauty.
Temples of Kerala
There are 111 prominent Hindu temples in Kerala and numerous minor temples. The architecture of Kerala temples evolved to suit the humid and wet weather of Kerala. The inner framework of most Kerala temples is wood although the base is granite and the structure, of laterite. The roof projects outwards by several levels so as to protect the fragile woodwork from the fury of the monsoon rains. Colourful murals can be seen in most Kerala temples. Most of them have tiers of small oil lamps burning around the borders of the sanctum structure.
The central sanctum of a Kerala temple is called the Sree Kovil. This is surrounded by a cloistered courtyard, opened at one or more cardinal points with an entrance. The cloistered courtyard has a worship pavilion located directly in front of the sanctum. This pavilion also houses subsidiary shrines. A kitchen is located in the south eastern corner of this cloistered courtyard. The flagstaff is located outside the main temple. The outer courtyard houses other small shrines, and optionally a temple tank..
Domestic flight luggage: Prior to boarding your domestic flights in India as you leave the main terminal, please ensure that you "identify your checked baggage". To do so, ask the airline representative where you need to actually identify the baggage that you have checked for your specific flight. Failure may mean that your checked baggage will not be put on the flight.
Currency and Exchange Rate: The local currency in India is a Rupee abbreviated as Re. or Rs. The Rupee is further divided into 100 paisa, but since the value of the paisa is so small, it is hardly ever used. Internationally, within currency transactions, it is also abbreviated as INR. The exchange rates floats and has recently been varying between Rs. 40 and Rs. 50 to a US Dollar.
Clothes: Bring light rain gear. Consider bringing, as a minimum, one "Tee" shirt, one "heavy" flannel type shirt and one light jacket. This will allow you to wear layered clothing for a variety of ambient temperatures.
Shoes: When you visit places of worship, you will need to take off your shoes prior to entry. You are free to wear your socks, but may find that the floor is wet, thus it may be prudent to take off your socks also. Make sure that you bring comfortable and well supporting walking shoes. You will be walking a lot in the ruins of old temples and forts, and they normally do not have a clean and clear path with upturned stones, and steep narrow and broken steps.
Leather-wear: There are some Hindu temples that demand you do not take any leather goods such as belts, wallets and leather bags inside the temple. Therefore it is customary to take off ones belt and certainly not wear a leather jacket. Both men and women will need to cover their heads prior to entering a Sikh place of worship.
Document safety: Prior to start of your journey, send yourself an e-mail with all important passport and other numbers. Thus should you loose any documentation, then you can retrieve your mail and have all necessary information.
Electricity: The electrical supply is 220/240V,50Hz. The connectors are similar to the European (not British) round pin.
Camera Fee: You will have to pay a fee for using a still and/or a video camera in most monuments, national parks and game sanctuaries. This fee, which ranges from Rs 10 to Rs 500, depending on the place and the type of camera used, is payable at the entrance gate.
Special Permits: Even with a visa foreign nationals are not allowed everywhere in India like the Island territories for example. Your tour operator will guide you on this.
Time: Indian Standard Time (IST) is 5 1/2 hours ahead of GMT/UTC, 41/2 hours behind Australian EST and 10 1/2 hours ahead of American EST.
Disabled Travelers: Very few special arrangements exist for people with disabilities at airports, railway stations or hotels. However, people are very helpful, and if you don't mind receiving their help, then this will ease your travel difficulties.
Food and Drink: Street food can be eaten at your own risk. Do not eat any cold (unprepared food) which has been prepared previously, such as salads, cut fruit, cut vegetables sold off pavement shacks. Also do not eat any yogurts or cold milk products unless they are from an established and good quality restaurant. Feel free to eat fruit and vegetables which you peel yourself. Do not drink water from any source unless it is from a sealed water bottle purchased from a reputable shop (and NOT from a street vendor). It is common for street vendors to re-fill discarded water bottles with normal water. Do not consume any ice.
Train Journeys: Your itinerary may include either a day or an overnight train journey. Keep your valuables in your largest case and then keep this case such that it is difficult to remove without waking you up. Do not show high value equipment to your fellow passengers. Under no circumstances, accept any food or drink from your fellow passengers and equally do not offer your food to any other. This is normal practice, and no offence will be taken if you decide to eat or drink without offering to others. Use of a clean pillow, pillow cover, two sheets and a blanket for each of you for your overnight journey is included in your air conditioned coach ticket. Use these, and leave them when you disembark. Feel free to drink water which you buy in sealed bottles from the on- board train staff. Eat hot, cooked food served by men in uniform only.
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