Prince Charles of Britain celebrated his 65th birthday in Kerala. He had a memorable time in the picturesque backwaters and also enjoyed slices of Kerala’s rich cultural heritage.
The centre stage of the prince’s birthday celebrations was the majestic Vembanad Lake in Kumarakom, where the Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall were joined by Mr. Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister of Kerala and his family.
As part of their visit, the British royal couple also visited the 16th century Jewish synagogue, the oldest in the whole of Commonwealth countries, located in the heritage town of Mattancherry near Fort Kochi. They also enjoyed a stroll through the narrow lanes of the old Jewish town lined with warehouses that once witnessed hectic activities as part of the spice trade that flourished centuries ago. The heir to the British throne and his wife also visited the Mattancherry Palace Museum, noted for its oriental and European architecture built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, which also houses outstanding works of Hindu temple art in India today.
“It is a matter of honour for Kerala that the Prince of Wales chose Kerala to celebrate his 65th birthday. We are truly delighted that the royal couple enjoyed their stay in our State and experienced the many facets of the cultural life of Kerala,” said Mr. A. P. Anilkumar, Minister for Tourism, Kerala.
During his three-day visit to Kerala, the Prince also went to the Vazhachal Forest near Chalakudy, about 70 km from Kochi, to see the famous Athirappilly waterfalls, described as ‘India’s Niagara’. Walking in the rains sporting an umbrella, he met representatives of a tribal colony situated inside the Vazhachal forest and inquired from them about their customs and traditions.
“The fact that Prince Charles spent his birthday with his wife in Kerala is an endorsement of Kerala’s international status among the world’s top destinations for a unique holiday experience,” said Mr. Suman Billa, Secretary, Kerala Tourism.
One of the highlights of the royal couple’s visit was the performance of Kathakali that they watched at the Kerala Folklore Museum and Theatre at Thevara. The expressive portrayal of ‘Narakasura Vadham’ or slaying of the demon king Narakasura; the performance, considered one of the most dramatic in Kathakali, prompted Prince Charles to interact with the artistes.
Prince Charles, who gave himself the rare birthday gift of Kerala’s old world charm and natural beauty, came to Kerala, towards the last leg of a nine-day tour of India. The decision of Prince Charles to choose Kerala for celebrating his birthday attains significance as the State, a top tourist destination in the world, receives the biggest number of foreign arrivals from Britain. It is Kerala’s biggest tourism market outside India, accounting for nearly 1,50,000 arrivals last year. British travellers form a sizeable chunk of repeat visitors to the State.