In Erratupetta, Kerala, the vegetable merchants take particular pride in extravagant displays of local produce. Cabbages, pumpkins and squash make up the lower half of this particularly lavish arrangement, while carrots, bitter gourd and beautiful red banana flowers peer through a dangling canopy of the aptly named long bean. Our South Indian Culinary and Cultural tour in February 2012 will explore the myriad ways in which these simple ingredients are transformed into delicious vegetarian dishes.

 

The Padmanabhaswamy temple in southern Kerala uncovered billions of dollars worth of jewels in its vaults which have not been opened in almost 150 years. Bags of diamonds, gold coins and more were part of the largest find of its kind in India. The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple was built in the 16th Century by the kings who ruled over the then kingdom of Travancore. The haul’s value is now thought to have risen from 25 billion rupees ($500m) to 900 billion rupees ($20.3bn).

Read the New York Times article on this treasure trove discovery at this 16th century Hindu temple .

India temple treasure search team suspends their search (BBC).

 
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We checked into our beautiful resort. It’s tucked away in a village, almost hidden away on the shores of India’s longest lake.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A lot of the hotel is built in the old Kerala style homes giving it an old world charm. Everyone loves it and are happy settle down here for the next few days and dive into their study and practice of meditation.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A lot of the locals travel by boat on the backwaters.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We take a little cruise and Mandy is enjoying the backwaters.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Each morning we gather for a guided meditation.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

The setting is perfect. As the sun rises we go within in meditation seated right on the shores of Lake Vembanad.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

katherine from New York.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

The group enjoys each others company and we have lunch and dinner together every day.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We also have classes in the morning.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We explore the subconscious and ways to clear unresolved emotional experiences.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Anne from Connecticut.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Chris from San Diego.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A variety of birds can been seen from the resort.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Another gorgeous sunrise over the lake.

 

In today’s class we explored the 3 phases of the mind – the instinctive, intellectual and intuitive. Our study each day has been taking us deeply in to the understanding of the mind and to give us the necessary framework to begin successful meditation practice.

We looked closely at how to identify the instinctive, intellectual and intuitive phases of the mind.

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

 

Our day started early and by 7am we were in Periyar National Park ready to begin our 3-hour hike through this jungle. We were all eager to see wild life.

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Our first encounters were the Nilgiri Langur monkeys.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Then across the lake we spotted families of wild boar plus a few bison.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Our guide pulls a bamboo raft to shore so we can cross the lake.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

The first team heads off across the lake…
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

…and into the jungle.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

82-year-old Anne and Dandapani make up team number 2 and it is our turn now to cross the lake. Anne is truly an inspiration. In our 3-hour hike she only took a 5-min break and kept up with the guide and me the entire time.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Our guide spots a tiger paw print which he says was made the previous night.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We come across our first team in our hike.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A colorful ginger flower.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

The absolutely beautiful Giant Malabar Squirrels. At 3-feet long they are the world largest squirrels. They are maroonish in color with some baige around the bottom neck region. We also spotted Samba Deer (which were too fast for the camera), hornbills and many varieties of other birds.

 
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

83 year old Anne on an elephant. She has been an amazing spiritual adventurer on this trip and has kept up with the group in all the inner and outer adventures.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Our team is ready to ride off into the forest on elephants.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Katherine and Mandy.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Anne feeds one of the elephants a squash. It requires briefly putting your hand in the elephants’s mouth.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Now it’s Peter’s turn.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Posing with our elephants.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Anne and her son, Peter.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Mandy enjoys a moment with her new friend.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

The mahouts or elephant caretakers pose with their elephants.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Upclose on an elephant’s eye.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

An elephant’s trunk.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

After the long ride our elephant is hot and sweaty and has requested a bath.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

After scrubbing her down she returns the favour. Mandy is first to get sprayed down.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Peter holding on to her tusk.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Katherine.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Dandapani enjoys a quiet moment with the elephant.

 

It is no wonder that the Europeans desperately seeked to find a sea route to India. And in Kerala they landed and discovered the amazing world of spices.

It’s day 4 of our Kerala Spiritual Adventure and our first full day in Periyar and we are enjoying being here in the Sahyadri Mountains. Our morning started with a class on Hinduism which I conducted. We learned about the 4 sects of Hinduism, about God and Gods, the Hindu temple and explored the foundations of Raja Yoga.

After class our friend and guide, Taj, took us on a wonderful tour of a spice garden. We tasted and smelled an array of exotic spices right off the tree, bush or vine. It was highly educational and fun. Taj is very entertaining and would have us identify each spice. 5 points if we got the answer right and minus 5 points if we got the answer wrong.

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Cardamom flower
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Wikipedia shares “Cardamom refers to several plants of the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the ginger family Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to India, they are recognised by their small seed pod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds……read more about Cardamoms here.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Can anyone guess this spice?
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A clove.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Taj shares that these chillies are super hot.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

More cloves.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Cocoa seed. Chocolate milk anyone?
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Red ants march across a wire in the spice garden.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Taj gifts Anne a beautiful white flower.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A cinnamon tree. Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods. Read more about Cinnamon on Wikipedia.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

King of Spices – Pepper. Pepper grows on a vine.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Taj demonstrates how to climb a bamboo ladder.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Close up of the bamboo ladder
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Our spice tour is interrupted and we step aside to let Mr. Elephant walk by. He seems undisturbed by our presence as he happily chews on leaves walking past our group.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A very unusual looking eggplant. Small and red and on a thorny bush.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Tiny black tomatoes.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Yummm….jack fruit!
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Mandy browsing through Taj’s spice shop