Yes Sir, No Sir, Thrissur

Flying to Trivandrum in the morning, so have to keep this short.  Had a very productive couple of days, including finishing and submitting one paper and completing the revisions for a second.

But no one cares about my academic career.  What you want to hear about is India.

You can’t visit India and not see a movie in the cinema.  India is the last place in the world that really knows how to publicly enjoy a film.  In the West, cinemas have become the domain of rude teens, people who walk in and out, or who talk throughout the entire performance.  In India, movies are everything.  People pack in, and cheer and clap loudly for what we might consider to be innocuous parts.  Hey, but as long as they are involved with the film, I am totally okay with it.

We saw Hangover 2 in Eranakulam.  The theatre was  jam packed (with almost entirely men).  Seductive Kama Sutra images peppered the walls in the form of sculpture… but this was not a porn theatre.  (No, really.)  Whenever a main character appeared for the first time, the crowd would erupt with cheering.  This really was an interactive audience.

Today was a totally different adventure.  My old friend John, a Keralan I’d known in Ottawa, married his fiancee Kiran.  We hired an all-day taxi to take us the 3 hour drive to the town of Palayur in Thrissur District where the wedding was to take place.  After much hand-wringing and some frantic driving, we arrived precisely on time.

The wedding took place in St Thomas’s church, which is the oldest Christian church in India.  It’s a fascinating historical artifact.  See, Thomas (“Doubting Thomas”, Jesus’s direct apostle) arrived here in the first century AD and started converting people.

The first few Brahmins that he converted to Christianity are supposedly revered to the extent that community leaders still try to trace their descent from them.  As a result of their conversion, ancient Hindu temples began to be transformed into churches.

This was one such church.  The Wikipedia entry suggests that it has both Persian and Hindu designs.  Indeed, the massive lingham now has a cross on it.  The dia, a traditional Keralan Hindu lamp, also now has a cross adhered to it.  The Christian ceremonies themselves, from what I could follow, have elements of Hinduism woven in.  It really was a fascinating blend of ancient Hinduism and early Christianity.

It should be pointed out that Christianity in India predates Christianity in much of Europe!  In fact, when Dutch and Portuguese first arrived here in the 1500s, they were shocked to find Christians already living here… who’d never heard of the Pope!

It’s a strange thought, even for a non-Christian like me, that this little structure in India was where once preached a man who actually personally knew the historical Jesus.  Or at least that’s what they say!

Okay, off to bed.

Wedding attendees inside St Thomas's Church in Palayur