Mich - Mike's dhosa had nothing in it. It was a mere shell. I always order Masala Dhosa that has a dry potato and vegetable mixture inside. I am able to risk eating dhosas with my fingers as there is nothing sloppy involved, nothing to drip!
Now here comes the great Sri Ekambaranathar temple dedicated to Shiva which covers 12 hectares in the middle of the town. Its name is said to derive from Eka Amra Nathar which means The Lord of the Mango Tree, and indeed there is an old mango tree in one of the courtyards that has 4 large branches each said to represent one of the four Vedas (sacred Hindu texts). I think that the photos give an inkling as to how special this temple is.
Last Edit: May 12, 2013 10:54:39 GMT by spindrift1
I am so enjoying your report Spindrift. The symbolism is indeed present everywhere it seems .It is mind boggling the amount of intricate detail worked into everything.
The kolam is very similar to the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas. (One of which will be in evidence here in NOLA when the Dalai LLama pays us a visit this month. A sand mandala is to be made downtown and then swept away into the Mississippi River at sundown).
So sorry about your pashmina experience. I have a strong penchant for them and would have easily been seduced into buying several.
Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us. I can't wait for Pondicherry. Something about that particular place has always intrigued me. From the very name itself and the fact that it is on the sea has always been alluring.
Thanks for your encouragement, Casimira. I am glad you are enjoying this thread. Yes, I know much about sand mandalas; indeed they are similar in many ways to kolams. Will you get to see the Dalai Lama? I do hope so. I will expect to hear about it if you do!
Pondicherry has always fascinated me too although the reality doesn't live up to the high hopes! however we spent two days there and enjoyed the town. The French influence seems to have disappeared however the colonial areas still stand and look quite good, considering... (the neglect)!!!
A few more photos taken at the great Shiva temple. There was a puja in progress the day we visited. We did not stay for all of it. It was being officiated by many Brahmin priests with music being played by instruments and drums and lots of incense. I was riveted. There were not many foreigners present, only a handful.
Walking along the outer corridors the temple was gloomy. We tried to see and take note of as much as we could.
The next temple we visited in Kanchipuram was Kailasanatha Temple which was built of sandstone by a Pallava king as early as the 7th century. Some of the carvings are of half-animal deities that were popular during the Dravidian period of architecture.
A large Nandi (the bull) guards the temple entrance... It is another Shiva temple.
and it is a small one
Last Edit: May 13, 2013 10:34:08 GMT by spindrift1
And now there is only one more temple to look at today and this one turns out to be amazing in many ways. We arrived just before a puja (ceremony), attended by many Brahmins, took place. We were allowed to stand and watch it. The Vaikunta Perumal temple is a Vishnu temple and many offerings would be made to the deity.
These are all Brahmin priests waiting for the puja to start.
Last Edit: May 13, 2013 11:41:26 GMT by spindrift1
Your photos really capture a sense of timelessness Spindrift. It's as though time is standing still and were the pictures not in color, they could have been taken any time in the last thousands of years. (I hope that makes sense, it's early yet and my brain hasn't fully kicked in gear yet. ).
Again, the intricacies of the carvings is mind boggling. The second pic in this last series is haunting and so austere, the light captured beautifully. I too, could feel a sense of the vastness of the temples. Did you ever get to feeling a saturation point? This happened to me when doing an extensive tour of Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. I had to take a break on the final day and do something totally different.
So pleased everyone is interested and liking my thread. It's full of fascinating details and I don't know the answers about everything!
Bixa - I shall find out for sure about the bright gold/yellow column. At the top of this one was a solid flag. I do not know what it means but it had occurred to me that it might be a form of 'lingam'.
Kerouac - some of the outer corridors of the great temples were indeed very unsettling. I could feel it somehow. Yet I was not very afraid. I had a belief in the concept of overall goodness around me. I won't be able to expound on the subject of Brahmin priests for I don't know enough; probably you know as much as I do since you made that statement!
Casimira....yes that picture could have been taken a millenia ago...i was spellbound watching the entire scene. My friend took that picture. He got it just right! Do you see that they are wearing a thread over one shoulder? This thread signifies that they have been born Brahmin - a double thread if they are married. A single if not.
The following day we drive south down the coast road to Pondicherry, also known as Puducherry which is a large town having a population of nearly 220,000. It is at this stage that I feel I should put up a map of India showing Chennai down as far as Rameswaram....
...not a clear map, here is another one.
You can see how very close Sri Lanka is to Rameswaram..more about that later.
Thank you dear friends... I really don't like taking pictures without a viewfinder, especially when the sun is overhead
Pondicherry was a two hour, or so, drive south of Mamallapuram. I was fascinated to go there because I know that some people like the town (Kerouac for example) and others dislike it. I cannot imagine why people don't like it. Maybe it's because it seems to be impossible to find alcohol anywhere! But on the way to Pondi, on the coast road, sometimes with the sea on both sides we came across a large area where people were harvesting salt from the sea. We stopped the car and piled out into the blistering heat where the workers were women carrying large pans of salt on their heads from the salt-beds to dump it onto a huge salt pile near the road. What terrrible work for a few rupees per day! Here is the scene - you can see me looking at the salt flats...
Last Edit: May 15, 2013 16:36:28 GMT by spindrift1
I have been enthralled by your report and photos spindrift. This is a world very foreign to me and I have not a lot of knowledge so I am really enjoying all the insights (from you and all the others and the questions of course) and of course the absolutely beautiful photos you are capturing. The carvings and the temples are incredible but I am also really enjoying the pictures of the people (the bathing women in the sarees as well as the young lady with jasmine in her hair are just gorgeous), the Elephant and the fishing village/beaches just as much.
fgrsk8 - i am delighted that I am opening up another world for you. Although I have travelled in India many times, yet I also discovered so much on my temple trip in Tamil Nadu....I constantly feel the need to return there where so little has changed over hundreds of years. Tamil Nadu is one of the most conservative parts of India and resistant to change.
htmb - unfortunately I don't know much more about the Indian silk industry, but in a thread to come I will show pictures of village silk-making in the forests of Laos!
A very brief history of Pondicherry - formerly governed by France! France was the last of the major European powers in the 17th century to enter the East India trade in a large way. In 1673 a French officer took up residence in Pondicherry and the French Period of Pondicherry began. The objectives of the French, like the British, were purely commercial. The independence of India in 1947 brought about the union of France's acquisitions in India to the former British India. In 1954 four enclaves of Pondicherry were ceded to the Indian Union and became the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The Tamil name 'Pondicherry' means New Town and some consider it to be the French Riveria of the East
We stayed in a Heritage Homestay in a quiet street
This is where we ate our breakfast each morning -
The reception area is in this shady and cool hall.....
Here are some street pictures of Pondi - some are taken in the French quarter (near the sea) and others across the dividing canal in the Indian quarter (the back area). We did not take a lot of photos of the buildings as our prime interest was on temples.
This is the famous sea-front promenade where crowds of people walk every evening. We joined them of course!
Lovely ladies dressed in sarees enjoying the sea views, however only a few metres away, crouching amongst large rocks, several men were relieving themselves directly into the sea
Last Edit: May 16, 2013 10:03:52 GMT by spindrift1
Kerouac? When were you there? You are probably right. I don't think much changes over the years. Just as well....
We did visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram but it was a very quick visit. When you enter the gate you are guided through a small garden to the place of 'samahdi' covered with flowers and then ushered out again through the bookshop were one is allowed to make purchases. I felt there were people watching us (the visitors) and not in a very nice way. I don't think I would return there for any reason.
At night we walked to the promenade to join masses of people strolling around. We had supper in the garden of a popular cafe where we could people-watch but I have to say that the attempts at European food were dismal.
I was very happy to see Indian women dressed in sarees/salwars and many had sweet-smelling jasmine in their beautiful long hair. It's wonderful that, as a rule, jeans are not worn.
Last Edit: May 17, 2013 21:00:00 GMT by spindrift1
Actually, I had a pretty thorough tour of the ashram and the Matrimandir was far from complete back then. There wasn't all that much to see besides the construction sites and some scraggly trees which had been planted recently but I don't remember any unfriendliness.