Thrissur is considered the cultural capital of Kerala and with very good reason. More than the city, the suburban villages of Thrissur are the keepers of its rich cultural heritage. Neelambari was envisioned at once as a showcase and a vantage point to explore this rich cultural heritage, especially in the context of the fabled Peruvanam Gramam. Over the last few years, we have curated several beautiful cultural experiences with some of the acclaimed and highly talented artistes in our neighbourhood. We have also made it a regular practice to arrange for our guests to visit the numerous performances, cultural events and temple festivals in our region.
Navarasam is a new initiative from Neelambari in this direction. Navarasam literally means nine flavours. The term is closely associated with performing arts across India that have an element of acting (emoting) in it. Theater forms like Kathakali and Koodiyattam, dance forms like Mohiniyattam, Bharathanatyam, Kuchupudi all draw heavily from the concept of Navarasa. The word is an amalgamation of two Sanskrit words - Nava (nine) and rasa. In the context of performing arts and theater, the word rasa can roughly mean an emotion. In a culinary context, rasa would indicate a flavour or taste.In the context of our exploration, both the senses are intended with equal emphasis.
Navarasam is a 3N/3D package intended to give a delightful introduction to the cultural and culinary traditions Kerala. With the former, there is a special emphasis on its performing art forms. With the latter we are partial to dishes from central Kerala though we have borrowed without hesitation from the North and South (and even a few bites from across our borders). We will see some captivating performances, we will visit some interesting events and places, we will relish delicious dishes - but most importantly we will place all these in the context of an interesting narrative closely linked to the social and cultural history of Kerala.
Each edition of Navarasam would vary a bit depending on the time of the year it is happening, artistes and art forms being portrayed and often simply based on the inclination and inspiration of its curator. At a minimum however we will try to incorporate the following experiences in each edition:
We will do two live interactive sessions on performing arts of Kerala. These interactive sessions would involve a gentle walk-through along the history, nuances and practice of a chosen art form like Koodiyattam and Kathakali. We will use these sessions to gain a broader understanding of classical performing arts of India in general.
Almost all travellers (and even most locals) look at temple festivals of Kerala as mere spectacles. Most of these festivals are several centuries old and are magnificent repositories of history, tradition and culture. We will try and do an interactive session on some of the basic aspects of temple festivals in Kerala. We will try to understand the ritual and cultural significance that connects these events. We will also have a short introduction to melam, the elaborate percussion orchestra that is an integral part of of any temple festival in Kerala.
Each edition of Navarasam is scheduled around a temple festival in or around Thrissur. Most of these temple festivals are signified by a magnificent elephant procession accompanied by a percussion orchestra (melam). Other interesting variations are also explored at times, festivals that are more folk oriented. The primer on festivals is adapted to the specific festival we would visit, as such both these experiences would complement each other.
We will do a short trip to Thrissur city or adjacent areas to visit landmark cultural and historical institutions in the area. In keeping with the Navarasam theme, the narration that binds these landmarks to the larger cultural history and traditions of central Kerala would be our focus during these visits.
Each Navarasam edition would have at least two live performances. They will put in perspective the cultural explorations we do through our interactive sessions and local visits. Where possible, we will visit live performances in our vicinity connected to cultural events and festivals. Alternatively we will arrange bespoke performances in Neelambari.
Parallel to our cultural and historical explorations will run the culinary exploration integral to Navarasam. Each breakfast, lunch and dinner (and evening tea and snacks too) will explore a different theme. Some of them will be tied to our festivals like Onam, Vishu, Thiruvathira etc. Others would relate to specific regions or communities of Kerala, like dishes from Malabar region or delicacies of Moplah or Syrian Catholic communitieis in Kerala. Rest assured that we will leave you wanting more :-)
|Day 1 afternoon||Arrival and check in||You can come in to Neelambari for lunch (not included in the package). Or you may arrive early afternoon. We recommend that you arrive by 3.30 pm on Day 1. We can of course make special arrangements if you need an early or late check in.|
|Day 1 afternoon||Village and temple tour||We will explore our surroundings and village. Part of it will be done as a canoe cruise in the river and rest will be walking in the village. We will use this to get introduced to the temple, its festivals and traditions|
|Day 1 evening||Cultural performance||We will have a shadow puppetry performance in the outdoor performance arena of Neelambari|
|Day 2 morning||Intro to Kathakali||Kathakali is the flagship art of Kerala. This magnificent art is far deeper than being a colourful spectacle. We will try to deliver a bit deep into the various facets of the art form in this session.|
|Day 2 afternoon||Intro to percussion and temple festivals||We will do a very engaging introduction to the highly developed percussion tradition of Kerala. We will have special reference to melam, the elaborate percussion orchestra that enchants hundreds of laymen and connoisseurs alike during festivals.|
|Day 2 evening||Visit a temple festival||We will visit a magnificent temple festival in near Neelambari. This will give us an opportunity to connect with some of our earlier introductions to percussion and festivals|
|Day 3 morning||Cultural and historical exploration||We will do a brief outing to visit some of the interesting cultural and historical landmarks of Thrissur. This will be a guided tour.|
|Day 3 afternoon||Intro to Koodiyattam||We will have a highly interactive introduction to one of the oldest extant theaters in the world, Koodiyattam. An actor, a percussion artiste and a culture guide will walk you through the different aspects of this timeless art.|
|Day 3 evening||Cultural performance||We will conclude our Navarasam sojourn with a liver performance such as Koodiyattam or Kathakali. We may chose to visit a performance happening in our vicinity or arrange one in Neelambari.|
The schedule indicated above is only for reference. As explained earlier each edition of Navarasam would vary depending on the month of the year, performances and artistes available etc.
Similarly Ayurveda massages and Yoga classes can be weaved into the program if desired.
EUR 675 for two persons, on double occupancy basis
EUR 535 for one person, on single occupancy basis
The pricing is inclusive of stay for three nights, on full board basis. All experiences listed above (part of the Navarasam package) are included. All applicable taxes are included.
Additional services like airport transfers can be arranged on request. Same would be charged extra. Lunch on Day 1 and Day 4 can be arranged depending on your travel plans. This is not included in the package. Similarly Ayurveda massages and Yoga classes can be weaved into the program if desired.
Payment terms and cancellations: EUR 200 to be paid as advance. If you cancel 15 or more days before the start of the program, we will issue a credit for EUR 175. If you cancel with more than one week to go, we will give you a credit of EUR 100. With less than one week, no cancellation is possible.
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Sreeni and Meera made our stay at Neelambari feel more like visiting close relatives than staying at a resort. They made every effort to make us feel welcomed, comfortable and happy. Sreeni was very kind to take us on multiple occasions to the local music and dance festival with him aswell as organising day trips around the area to keep us entertained and excited. Meera spoilt us rotten with a desgistation of delicious local dishes for every meal! We were there for 7 days and not one meal was a repeat from the other and much of the produce was grown on the property or region. She even gave us a cooking lesson so hopefully we can recreate some of the meals at home. The resort itself is a work of art, literally! It feels like it has been part of the landscape for centuries. That being said the accommodation was luxurious and has all the comforts and percs you would expect from a 5 star resort. We had booked in for daily yoga and Ayurveda treatment, our Yogi and and Dr were really great and our daily routine left us invigorated and relaxed. I would stay at Neelambari again in a heartbeat.