An empire lost in a kingdom of nature
The Portuguese first colonized Kerala in the 1500's and established a large Christian mission in the area. They maintained control of the area until the 1700's when the Dutch East India Company took over with the Treaty of Mavelikkara in 1753. In 1792, the British annexed the territory from the Dutch and held influence there until Indias' independence in 1946.
The Baker estate was built by Henry Baker of Essex England in the 1820's who came to India to perform missionary work in the field of education. Over the next 50 years, his family acquired over 1600 acres of rice paddies, rubber trees, and coconut fields. The property was slowly dissolved due to changes in a post independent India that prohibited argricuiltural land ownership by non-Indians. By 1962 the family had moved back to Essex England and managed the property from afar until 1977 when they sold off any remaining property.
A place to heal body and mind
The bungalows were built with a philosophy of incorporating nature into their design. Outside showers and bathrooms would seamlessly blend the outdoors into the indoor living spaces. French windows opened to large terraces overlooking manmade lagoons and canals that acted as a natural sanctuary for wildlife. Original teak furniture and carvings provided a rustic and charming living space that seemed at home in a Rudyard Kipling novel.
Nourish the mind as well as the body
A palace on the lake
After indulging in an Ayurvedic message, Nupoor and I chartered a houseboat to cruise around lake Vembanad and its backwaters. The boat was built with amazing craftsmanship in the traditional Kerala houseboat style. This boat had 3 bedrooms each with its own bath and shower and a second floor lookout all housed under a hand thatched roof.
Life in the backwaters
Often secluded, people make their living fishing and tending to their rice paddies. With no road access, the only transportation is via boat.
Harmony in nature
The backwaters of lake Vembanad contain manmade dams to flood rice paddy fields which is the major crop in Kerala. It is the second largest lake in India and mixes with the Arabian Sea to form its brackish waters. Its depth is relatively shallow at an average depth of 10 feet with the deepest parts being no more than 30 feet deep. This becomes the perfect habitat for wildlife on the waters.