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Rough Guide to South India and Kerala (The)

Abram David


Editeur - Casa editrice

Rough Guides

  Asia
India
India del Sud


CittÓ - Town - Ville

Milano

Anno - Date de Parution

2017

Pagine - Pages

528

Titolo originale

Rough Guide to South India and Kerala (The)

Lingua originale

Lingua - language - langue

Eng

Edizione - Collana

Rough Guides

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The Rough Guide to South India (Rough Guides)

Rough Guide to South India and Kerala (The)  

Questa guida si caratterizza per una serie di descrizioni dettagliate dei principali luoghi d'interesse: le celebri spiagge di Goa, l'immensa Bombay, la natura lussureggiante del Kerala, i templi-cittÓ del Tamil Nadu, i favolosi siti di Ajanta ed Ellora, i tesori architettonici dell'Orissa e del Karnataka. Di particolare interesse turistico sono le segnalazioni aggiornate di alloggi e ristoranti di ogni categoria, con suggerimenti sui locali pi¨ interessanti e oltre sessanta cartine con le indicazioni di vie, strade e principali siti e monumenti. Completano il volume le notizie fondamentali sulle tradizioni storiche, culturali, religiose e linguistiche dell'India meridionale.

SEGNALAZIONI aggiornate di alloggi e ristoranti di ogni categoria, con suggerimenti sui locali pi¨ interessanti.

NOTIZIE approfondite sulle tradizioni storiche, culturali, religiose e linguistiche dell'India meridionale.

OLTRE SESSANTA CARTINE con le indicazioni di vie, strade e principali siti e monumenti.

 


Recensione in altra lingua (English):

Though its borders are uncertain, there's no doubt that South India, the tapering tropical half of this mighty peninsula, differs radically from the landlocked north. Stepping off a winter flight from foggy Delhi into the glasshouse humidity of Chennai (Madras) or Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum), you enter a world far removed from the muted hues of Punjab and the great Indian river plains. In the south, the coconut groves seem a deeper green and the rice paddy positively luminescent, the faces darker brown and the vermilion caste marks smeared over them arrestingly red. The region's heavy rainfall means that lush wheatfields and palm plantations patchwork the sun-bleached volcanic soils during all but the hottest months. But under a sun whose rays feel concentrated by a giant magnifying glass, the ubiquitous colours of South India - of silk saris, shimmering classical dance costumes, roadside film posters and frangipani flowers - radiate with a life of their own. It is easy to see why Alexander Frater, faced with the shirt-drenching pre-monsoonal heat of southern Kerala, thought that at any moment "...with a whoosh and a muffled whump, the whole place must spontaneously ignite."

South India's three mightiest rivers - the Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri - and their countless tributaries, flow east across a low, fertile alluvial basin that has been inhabited as long as anywhere in the subcontinent. Separated from the prehistoric Indus valley civilizations of the northwest by tracts of barren hills, the earliest South Indian societies are thought to have evolved independently of their northern cousins. Periodic invasions - from the marauding Muslims whose descendants would later erect the Taj Mahal, to the evangelizing, pepper-hungry Portuguese and ineffectual French - left their marks on the territory referred to in some of India's oldest inscriptions as Dravidadesa, "Land of the Tamils". None, however, not even the ruthlessly efficient British, ever fully subjugated the south. As a result, traditions, languages and ways of life have endured intact here for more than two thousand years - a fact that lends to any journey into the region a unique resonance.

The persistence of a distinctly Dravidian culture in part accounts for the regionalism that has increasingly dominated the political and cultural life of the South since Independence in 1947. With the exception of Goa, a former Portuguese colony, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the borders of the states covered in this book - Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh - were drawn along linguistic lines. Each boasts its own distinctive styles of music, dance, architecture and cuisine, not to mention religious cults, dress and mutually incomprehensible languages. Moreover, attempts by New Delhi to homogenize the country by imposing Hindi, the most widely spoken language in the North, as the medium of education and government, have consistently met with resistance, stimulating support for the regional parties whose larger-than-life leaders beam munificently from giant hoardings in every major town and city.

More pervasive even than the power of politics in South India is the influence of religion, which, despite the country's resolutely secular constitution, still permeates every aspect of life. Of the four major faiths, Hinduism is by far the most prevalent, practised by around eighty percent of the population. If the sacred peaks of the Himalaya are Hinduism's head, and the Ganges its main artery, then the temple complexes of the South are its spiritual heart and soul. Soaring high above every skyline, their colossal towers are emblematic of the awe with which the deities enshrined inside them have been held for centuries. Some, like the Shore temple at Tiruchendur in Tamil Nadu, are thought to be as old as human speech itself; others, such as the Sabarimala forest shrine in Kerala are less ancient, but attract greater numbers of pilgrims than even Mecca. For foreign visitors, however, the most extraordinary of all have to be the colossal Chola shrines of Tamil Nadu. Joining the crowds that stream through Madurai's Meenakshi-Sundareshwar temple or Shri RaMalingeshwara in Rameshwaram, will take you to the very taproot of the world's last surviving classical culture, some of whose hymns, prayers and rites predate the Egyptian pyramids.

By comparison, Islam, South India's second religion, is a fledgling faith, first introduced by Arab traders along the coast. Later, offshoots of the Muslim dynasties that ruled the North carved out feudal kingdoms beyond the Godavari, establishing a band of Islamic culture across the middle of the Deccan plateau. Other elements in the great South Indian melting pot include a dozen or more denominations of Christianity, ranging from the ancient Syrian Orthodoxy believed to have been introduced by the apostle St Thomas, to the Roman Catholicism of Old Goa's Portuguese Jesuits. The region also harbours sites sacred to Jains, followers of the prophet Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, while in Kochi, Kerala, a vestigial population of elderly Jews is all that remains of a once thriving mercantile community.

Since Independence, these diverse groups have coexisted more or less peacefully, rarely succumbing to the waves of communal blood-letting that have often blighted life in the northern cities. Over the past five or six years, supposedly as a reaction to the rise of Hindu extremist parties, bombs and riots have erupted around the Muslim ghettos of Mumbai (Bombay) and Coimbatore (in western Tamil Nadu), but these are widely held as isolated flare-ups rather than a growing trend. The last decade has seen a dramatic rise in caste violence, however. The age-old hierarchy introduced by the Aryans more than three thousand years ago still forms the backbone of South Indian society, crossing all religious and ethnic divides. But recent political reforms have enabled members of disadvantaged minorities to claim a fairer share of government jobs and university places, as well as political posts (the current president of India is of low-caste South Indian origin), and this has generated widespread resentment, strengthening the very divisions positive discrimination was intended to dissolve.

South India, though, remains one of the most relaxed and congenial parts of Asia to explore. It is also among the easiest. In all but the remotest districts, accommodation is plentiful, clean and inexpensive by Western standards. Freshly cooked, nutritious food is nearly always available. Getting around is usually straightforward, although the sheer size and problematic geography of the South means journeys can be long. The region's extensive rail network is a miraculous feat, moving vast numbers of people at all times of the day and night, and if a train isn't heading where you want to go, a bus probably will be. Furthermore, the widespread use of English makes communication easy. South Indians are the most garrulous and inquisitive of travellers, and train rides are always enlivened by conversations that invariably begin with the refrain of "Coming from?" or "Your native place?"

The extent to which you enjoy travelling in South India will probably depend less on your luck with hotels, restaurants and transport than your reaction to the country itself. Many people expect some kind of exotic time warp, and are indignant to find a consumer culture that's as unashamedly materialistic as anywhere. It is a credit to the South Indians' legendary capacity for assimilating new ideas, however, that both the modern and traditional thrive side by side. Walking through downtown Bangalore, you could brush shoulders with a software programmer one moment and a saffron-clad ascetic the next, while bullock carts and stray cattle mingle with Japanese hatchbacks. There are, of course, the usual travel hassles: interminable queues, packed buses and constant encroachments on your personal space. Yet, just when your nerves feel stretched to breaking point, South India always offers something that makes the effort worthwhile: a glimpse of a wild elephant from a train window; a sumptuous vegetarian meal delicately arranged on a fresh banana leaf; or a hint of fragrant cardamom in your tea after an all-night Kathakali recital.