part 2 – Big temples, Cosmic Dancers and meditating in golf balls

Good morning, hopefully you had a better sleep than most Indian residents last night? So Diwali, imagine the fireworks evenings of your youth, then take away the restrictions in selling them and let every tom, dick and harry have his own fireworks display on roof top, front step, public path, road, beach, cuortyards…

But money exhausted we should have a good nights sleep tonight

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So I left you as we bussed it to Thanjuvur from Trichy, we check into the hotel Valli, holding our breath so as not to faint from the fumes of the pig, goat, cow shit just over the road, before heading out on a walk to the Royal Palace. After paying 50 rupees entrance fee we visit the Durbar Hall, a hall where Raja Serfoji II held his audiences, with lovely murals still visible on the walls and take a look at some of the statues whilst I shameslessly desecrate the statue of a lion by doing what any of you would have done.

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We climb the miniscule & steep steps of the bell tower to see views of Thanjuvur just before the rain hits and I hit my head on the stairwell. Realising that 50 rupees doesn’t get you much these days we reluctantly pay another 30 to enter the art gallery, but are rewarded by some amazing statues and chola bronzes, just resentfully wondering what the entry fee actually covered.

Spirited away to the magnificent Big Temple Caty attracts a small fan group who want to take our pictures (yes we have been resorted to the role of circus freaks, despite our attempt to blend in in our indian garb) and get deafened by old men and their rather large horns during a puja involving the (yes probably named Laskshmi) temple elephant.

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With our camera’s bursting with images of temples and people with magnificent moustaches we enter a digital camera shop to get them burned onto a disk, for the camera’s lens to be turned on us and the people in the ‘professional’ photography section make us pose for ‘family’ photos with them and then give us photos and our disks for free in return, asking us to send all our funny looking white skinned friends in for similar treatment.

Laughing we get high on chocolate, I call my lovely little nan and the unconventional swiss family robinson goes to sleep.

We fill ourselves on masala dosas in the guesthouse restaurant and get the bus to Chidambaram, a Chola capiral from 907 to 1310 and home to the spectacular Nataraja temple, Shiva’s Lord of Dances. A sprawling labyrinth of small temples, Chidambaram is gold to Meenakshi’s silver and before we are disenfranchised too much in the relentless pursuit of ‘donations’, Ganesh a Brahman priest whisks us away and deposits us at the fire ceremony. Watching a throng of hindu’s queue for Darshan with Lord Nataraj we sit peacefully in meditation, filling the energy of this immense temple throb through the stone. After the ceremony Ganesh takes some time to chew the fat with us and invites us to go up one of the towers in the morning and view the temple complex from above.

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Beseiged by beggars and sadhu’s at the complex, Caty gets additional meals wrapped up at the canteen but finds the beggars unwilling to look her in the eye and continue their cries of ‘Amma’ (mother not a spelling mistake) whilst bringing their hand to their mouth and then their belly. In a country of over a billion people and something like 80% below the poverty line, she is unable to give food away!

A hot sweaty night in the room before ascending the gopura and viewing the temple from above whilst Ganesh holds my hand in a bid to read my palm/nature etc… Brahmin priest or no, he was unable to resist the Batch’s charms… well he was almost completely blind. Buoyed by our experience and happy for small kindnesses we take 2 buses & eat tasty Tapioca chips before reaching Pondicherry.

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Pondicherry, our escape to civilisation, a break from temples, home of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and unfortunately delhi belly all round. We drink coffee, use the internet, shop and eat chat that still brings a feeling of nausea to my throat (i believe this is the cause of our upset tummys). Not to be diminshed by our reducing waistlines we pay a visit to Egle and Beth in Auroville one day, the 40 year old community of many nations started by The Mother and seemingly working in principle.

We put put over on our hired mopeds, as JP and Caty brave the Indian roads and I relax in my role of passenger. The centre and ‘heart/soul’ of Auroville is a pure white meditation chamber encased in a 3 storey high ball decorated in gold leaf. Quite a magnificent achivement and incredibly space age, we try to mediate amidst the sudden and intreruptive phantom coughs of the Indian tourists, so fat with wealth they struggle to ascend the sloped walkway or sit still for 15 mins.

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We have wood fired pizza at the youth centre and have a small drama trying to get the bike started and find the way out in time for our 10.30 curfew, but we make it victorious and despite surviving some pretty hairty road moments JP and Caty both stub their toe/foot on a 2 foot high post.

With Caty having exhausted Pondicherry’s supply of shops we migrate to Mamallapurum, fit to burst with Kashmiri shop owners asking you to “come look my shop, looking is free”, home to lovely relics of the Pallavan rulers and with a beach and a swimming pool my holiday retreat for the next week or so whilst I wait for Melanies sentence at the charity to finish and I gird myself for some more temples!

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I sadly say goodbye to my travel buddies JP and Caty (Bon Voyage my friends!) and fill my days with swimming, reading, writing travel updates, uploading pics online, yoga, chatting to locals and not much else…. NICE!!!

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Phew, consider yourself updated, that’s me over and out for a few weeks whilst I build up some more experiences to regale you with and save up my rupees for Internet cafes.

I do obviously expect an update from you in return 😉

Love you all

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