Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekend Trip: Kerala

Kerala is fondly called "God's Own Country" by its people, and for good reason. Although it can be fairly humid, Kerala is also lush and green and lined with natural waterways that has earned it the nickname "Venice of the East".

Our focus during our time there was the Indian economy with classes taught by Vichara, a collective of academics passionate about educating people about how the economy, globalization, theology and social justice all tie in together. These are some of the heavy topics that we have all been struggling through this semester - is development and globalization good for India? And how does our faith fit into this picture? 

Sitting in class with Vichara.
We spent several days discussing these issues together with the professors at Vichara and possibly left with even more thought-provoking questions than we came with! But this semester we have also been talking about how we learn to live in the tension, and how to live with the questions that may not have answers yet.

Exploring the steps where St. Thomas was said to have arrived in India.
Our afternoons were filled with field trips to the surrounding areas. Christianity was said to have been brought to India by St. Thomas himself in 52 A.D. so we went to explore the legacy he has left in the area. Our first stop was the steps where he first stepped into India, followed by one of the churches he founded. For several people in our group this was the first time they had visited a site connected with the Bible - what an experience!

Checking out one of the churches that St. Thomas established in India. It is said that he built seven (and a half!) churches.
Next on our list was Amma's Ashram. Amma is a guru, or spiritual teacher, who has a reputation for affecting her devotees spiritually just by hugging them and is also known for her many humanitarian projects. This was a difficult site for many of us. We wandered around the Ashram and spoke to several devotees, many of whom are Westerners, about their lives there. Their stories were compelling and challenging - they spoke of Amma's compassion and how her love for the world had called them to live better lives devoted to the service of others. It was certainly a different perspective and we are constantly encountering this idea of how to live in a world of plurality here in India.

Amma's Ashram, home of the hugging saint.
Lastly, we spent an afternoon on the backwaters! This is one of National Geographic's Top 50 Places to visit in the world, so needless to say we were quite excited. 

A kerala houseboat!
We watched the houseboats drift by as we wound our way around the backwaters of Kerala. In some ways, Kerala reminded us of India herself - a place of both beauty and challenging questions.

Enjoying the sunset on the backwaters!

1 comment:

  1. glad to see director-ji rocking the mundu kerala style!