As narrated to us by our field lead Vishakha Agrahari.
Nestled in the southern part of India lies the beautiful state of Kerala, known for its exotic beaches, breathtaking backwaters, and vibrant cultural heritage. As a traveller, one cannot help but be mesmerised by the serene beauty of this place. From the lush green hills to the swaying coconut palms, Kerala's natural beauty is unmatched. It's no wonder that Kerala is often referred to as "God's Own Country."
Among the many artistic traditions that Kerala has to offer, one stands out for its unique beauty and intricate designs – the Kerala mural paintings. These paintings have been an integral part of Kerala's cultural heritage for centuries, and their history can be traced back to the 7th century BCE. These paintings are created using natural pigments made from minerals, plants, and flowers, giving them a distinctive colour palette and a sense of organic beauty. They are often found adorning the walls and ceilings of temples and palaces, depicting scenes from Hindu mythology or everyday life in Kerala. What's truly remarkable about Kerala mural paintings is how they have been able to survive for centuries, despite the challenges of time and climate. In fact, when we visited the Padmanabhaswamy temple, we were mesmerized by its exquisite murals. We could have spent hours admiring their intricate beauty! For a moment, it felt like we were transported back in time, able to vividly imagine the temple bustling with activity centuries ago.
We journeyed to Kerala specifically for the Kerala Mural masterclass, where we had the opportunity to meet Adarsh, a master of this traditional art form. Adarsh had studied Kerala Mural painting at Guruvayur between 2003 and 2008, and had worked extensively with the government and UNESCO on the conservation of murals throughout the state. He also currently works at the ISRO campus in Thiruvananthapuram, which is where we spent the majority of our time recording the masterclass.
The natural beauty of the area surrounding our masterclass was truly breathtaking, and we were thrilled to spot pineapples growing amidst the lush greenery. It was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by such vibrant nature, something that we don't get to see every day in our own backyards. Our artist and gracious host, generously invited us to stay with his family and took great care of us during our time in Kerala. Despite the initial language barrier, we were able to pick up a few words of Malayalam during our time there, including the classic terms "Chetta" and "Chechi," which respectively translate to "older brother" and "older sister." These terms are particularly endearing to locals and allowed us to connect with them on a deeper level.
To document the masterclasses, we would typically spend part of the day with Adarsh, after which he would have to depart for work. During the rest of our time, we would practice the mural art techniques we had learned that day. One memorable experience was when our artist took us on a nearly 300-kilometer journey to Guruvayur, a long but rewarding trip that required us to wake up at 4am. This town is where Adarsh himself had learned about Kerala mural art, at an institute that functions on the traditional Gurukula system and offers a five-year diploma course. Guruvayur is also home to the Guruvayur temple, a significant pilgrimage destination in South India located in the Thrissur district of Kerala.
A visit to Kerala to witness its rich cultural heritage is an absolute must-do! The architectural splendor of the mosques, churches, and temples coexisting side by side is truly awe-inspiring. The cuisine, the people, the lush greenery, and the unique culture all combine to make Kerala a beloved destination for many. Amidst all of this, we couldn't help but notice the vibrant color palette of the geography, with a vast range of hues in varying vibrancy and saturation levels. This may very well explain the stunning array of colors found in the traditional Kerala Murals.
For anyone with an interest in art and history, delving into the world of Kerala's mural paintings is an incredible journey into the heart of a land that deeply treasures its cultural traditions. If you're curious about this unique art form, you can even explore our masterclass and try your hand at creating your very own Kerala Mural masterpiece!
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