Missing the boat to Fort Kochi
In the morning, I first arrange some practical matters related to my return journey. After lunch, I make my way to the ferry as I want to visit the Dutch Palace and the Jewish synagogue on Fort Kochi. The Dutch Palace was in origin another building of the Portuguese that was later taken over and restructured by the Dutch. It turns out that I just missed the boat to Fort Kochi, and the next one leaves in an hour. To pass the time, I visit a bookshop.
The Dutch Palace houses some beautiful Hindu murals
I am just in time to take the two-hour boat. Upon arrival at Fort Kochi, I head straight to the Dutch Palace. The showpieces are the Hindu murals depicting stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabarata. It is beautiful to see the walls full of images of gods, demons, gopis, and the like. Unfortunately, photos may not be taken. Also somewhat understandable, some pieces are already in pretty bad shape, camera flashes would only cause further damage. Adjacent to the palace is another Hindu temple, but non-Hindus are not allowed to enter.
Purchasing some Ganesh statues
Once back outside, I am asked to enter a shop again. I walk in – the selling remains much less intrusive here than in Madurai – because I am thinking of purchasing two small Ganesh statues – which are considered to be good luck charms. We arrive fairly quickly at a price that is acceptable to both parties. The shop keeper shows me some delicate pen drawings, but he also understands that they would never survive the return journey without damage.
Unique tiles at the synagogue on Fort Kochi
Back outside, I walk towards the synagogue where I meet Markose again, the driver I talked to for a while yesterday. He asks if I feel better today, which I confirm. He guides me to the entrance and waits outside for me to return. A unique feature of this synagogue on Fort Kochi is the blue and white tiling. Only fifteen people of the formerly prosperous Jewish community in Kochi seem to remain. Their collective is in danger of extinction, it is just a matter of time.
Turning into a tourist attractor myself
There are many tourist shops near the synagogue on Fort Kochi. And every store has someone inviting me to come in, but they never really insist. One guy wants me to go in, even though I make it very clear that I do not want to buy anything. However, his aim is to lure in the three German tourists who walk a few meters behind me. The trick does not work, though, the Germans do not follow my example. Markose, who has kept an eye on the whole thing, laughs at the fact that I let myself use as a tourist attractor. Afterward, he shows me the Jewish cemetery, but it turns out to be closed.
Other cultural attractions near the synagogue on Fort Kochi
Apart from the Dutch Palace and the Paradesi Synagogue on Fort Kochi, I know there are two more temples on the island, a Jain and a non-accessible Hindu temple. So I ask Markose if they are nearby. He proposes to take me there with the rickshaw. While cycling, he reveals one another. Also, here in Mantacherry and Fort Kochi, there are three Kashmiri stores. When he can bring in tourists to these shops, he receives 50 rupees, whether they buy or not. He sincerely admits that is how he makes his living.
Jains follow strict veganism
In the Jain temple, I get a personal tour by the monk himself. Jains are extreme vegans, with enormous respect for plants and animals. They do not eat flowering plants; they will instead use the roots for food. Furthermore, they do not wear cotton fabrics and always walk barefoot, some even completely naked. Jains form a Buddhist sub-community. In this 100 years old temple, there are 22 different Buddha statues, each with its own meaning. I get to see them all, but out of respect, I do not dare to take out my camera.
Encounter with a famous pilgrim
There is also a famous pilgrim temporarily present in the temple, Mr. Prasant. He has been on a pilgrimage for 4 years and already covered 55,000 kilometers on foot. Currently, he stays here in Kerala because, in this season, just after the monsoon, it is not allowed to travel around. That would cause too much damage to nature in full bloom. I have the opportunity to talk to this man. He is a friendly, engaging man originating from a wealthy family active in the diamond trade. However, Mr. Prasant does not own anything. He solely wants to spread his message of fruitfulness with his pilgrimage.
Not allowed to enter the Hindu temple of Fort Kochi
After I show him my respect, he blesses me by putting powder on my head and also by putting some more in a piece of paper that I have to keep in my wallet. Before leaving the temple, the monk asks to write a comment in a guestbook – a unique encounter. With the yellow powder on my head, I leave the temple. Our next stop is the Hindu temple of Fort Kochi. It is the largest of the ten temples that can be found here on the island. I take some photos at the entrance. As a non-Hindu, I am not allowed to go inside. I do not mind; I saw enough temples already.
Saying goodbye to my friendly guide
Markose asks where I want to go now. I tell him that it is more or less time to go back to the ferry, I have seen what I intended to visit today, the Dutch Palace and the Paradesi Synagogue on Fort Kochi. I am getting a bit tired, plus tomorrow I still have to fill another day. Without grumbling, Markose brings me back. When I get out of his rickshaw, to my surprise, he does not ask me for any money at all. But I do reward him generously, after all, he showed me some interesting places. Then we say goodbye because the ferry is coming. Satisfied with this lovely afternoon, I return to my hotel.