Crops Seen In South India

We traveled by train and car from Bangalore to Mysore to Melkote to Coonoor to Coorg and then back to Bangalore. Mostly we were in the southern end of Karnataka state, but Coonoor is just over the border in the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu. In Coorg we stayed less than 10 miles from the Kerela state border, and less than 40 miles from the Arabian Sea coast.

There are several large reservoirs in southern Karnataka which allows for constant irrigation, even in the dry season of crops like coconut and rice and sugar cane which are major cash crops in the area.

The agriculture was just so different than anything I’ve ever experienced I kept a list of all the food crops I saw being grown, followed by a few crops I did not see being grown but saw offered at the markets.
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Insisting on Truth

According to their website’s home page the Janapada Seva Trust is “a voluntary organisation functioning in and around Melkote a mofussil town” [meaning rural and not originally part of the East India Company regions of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras] ” in Mandya District of Karnataka, India since 1960. Inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Sarvodaya philosophy the Trust has been striving to create a non-violent, egalitarian order of society. Its core area of work is welfare, education, rural industry, environment and agriculture.”

“Over the years the Trust has built a fine infrastructure for its activities. The accent of the Trust is on self-help and people’s involvement, the Trust seeks support not so much from the State as from people who care.”

We were told by it’s founder, Surendrah Koulagi, that it all began when a 10 year old boy learned about Ghandi’s Salt Satyagraha, or Salt March, that took place in 1930 as one of the first acts of a self-declared sovereignty from the British Empire by the Indian National Congress. When Mr. Koulagi began to understand the philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience, the power found in the action, and the simplicity of its message (“Satyagraha” is a synthesis of the Sanskrit words Satya (truth) and Agraha (insistence on)) he wondered what other important things could be accomplished by a simple insistence on the truth.
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Melkote

…or Melukote, or Narayanadri, or Vedadri, or Yadavadri, or Yathishaila, or Thirunarayanapuram. We were guided to this small town north of Mysore and west of Bangalore by friends who had visited many times in the past to support the work of the Janapada Seva Trust. Part of the Trust’s work involves organic agriculture, and I wanted to learn what that was like for them in a very different environment (not to mention the different crops) than Maine. In addition, Alison and I always enjoy visiting out-of-the-way areas when we travel to try to get a better feeling on what “normal life” looks like. Melkote, although beautiful in many ways and full of ancient wonders and important institutions, does not get the daily visits from tourists that a city like Mysore does. It does host a significant festival (Vairamudi) once a year attracting many people (hundreds of thousands according to Wikipedia), but perhaps primarily Indian and religious. Our hosts told us that Melkote attracted the odd backpacker every so often but that white visitors were still unusual.
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Onward India

Many apologies for our silence post-Bangalore. We *had* some Internet access in some of our lodging, but it was never in our room, and it was often balky and temporary. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, sometimes not at all. Therefore we focused on our email during the brief periods on-line, but were unable to generate posts.

The meat of our trip to India took place after Bangalore as well, which makes the silence especially frustrating because there is so much we want to share, and will in the coming days and weeks now that we have arrived home to solid Internet AND electric power (we thought our power in rural Maine was irregular, but it’s nothing compared to multiple brown-outs and black-outs EVERY DAY we experienced outside of Bangalore…)

In the meantime I can at least share our post-Bangalore itinerary:

  • Melkote, Mandya district, Karnataka state: we were hosted by the Japanada Seva Trust where we learned about their work.
  • Coonoor, Tamil Nuda state: we stayed at Acres Wild Organic Farmstay: a cheese dairy perched on the southern slopes of the Nilgiri Hills surrounded by tea plantations.
  • Coorg, Kodagu district, Karnataka state: we stayed in the bosom of the Tata Industrial Empire, Plantation Trails, amid a working coffee and spice plantation with a real Colonial spirit.

Our touring after Melkote was organized by an Indian travel company that specializes in culinary tours. They were recommended by the culinary tour company we used in China which provided us with a fabulous experience in Chengdu.

Details and pictures (I’m currently sorting through 895 pictures and videos) to come!