Traffic jam at elephant crossing

Traffic in the village of Anachal

Every day we passed the village called Anachal; the word means Elephant Crossing (ana stands for Elephant in Malayalam, and chal is path). One day we came to a stop. There was a small traffic jam. Some of the branches in the trees lining the road had begun to push at electric lines. There were people up in the trees hacking at the branches with machetes.

Shankumar was told to move the car back and to the center of the road. Next to us was a line of autos. One was driven by a girl. This is so uncommon in Mumbai that I’ve never seen a woman taxi driver yet. Here it is common enough that the tenth taxi I saw was driven by a woman.

Vive la difference.

A small temple festival

Anachal temple festival

We drove through the village of Anachal, near Munnar, in the morning. Shankumar translated the name for us: ana in Malayalam means elephant, so the village is literally an elephant path. There were no jumbos in sight, but the market square had a church, a mosque and a temple. Bright yellow flags were planted along the main road. They were an indication that there was a festival on in this small temple.

anachal2Passing by at night again we saw that the temple festival was ending with a procession. When one thinks of temple processions in Kerala one pictures the big ones: with elephants and drums. This one had no elephants. The percussion section was not restricted to the four traditional instruments. I saw the big edayakka and madhalam and the cymbals called the ilathalam.Anachal temple festival The small hour-glass shaped thimila was missing, and the largest section was the vertically held chenda which is beaten with a pair of sticks.

This band of drummers preceded a series of people dressed up as gods, goddesses and holy men. Preparing them would have taken most of the day. I’d spent a part of the day watching preparations for a touristy show of Kathakali, and wished that I’d spent the time in this temple, watching the preparations for the night’s procession.Anachal temple festivalNo matter. I was happy now to stand on the road and watch.

After them came a bunch of less identifiable characters.anachal5I had the impression of a few saffron clad people carrying tinsel trees on their backs (photo here). I don’t know what this section of the procession is called, and have no idea about its significance. If you do, please leave a comment.

The final section of the procession was a line of village women wearing the traditional Kerala sari, each carrying a lamp. In the dark this was the prettiest part of the spectacle. The procession walked down the road slowly, and an hour later walked back the couple of hundred meters to the temple. After gathering at the temple there was a dance. I watched for a while and then left.