We rose early to have breakfast before we began our trip to Kanchipuram. After a breakfast of boiled egg, Appam with sweet milk, we loaded our small bags into Stephen’s Tata car for our adventure. We stopped and looked through the fence at the memorial garden, a stop that brought memories of the contemplative walk I took last year through Rajii Ghandi’s memorial, the place where he was slain by a suicidal person. It is a beautiful peaceful, place. The five tall spires with golden tops stand for the issues that were important to Ghandi. We did not take that walk today, but certainly could appreciate its beauty and peacefulness as we continued on with our journey. Of course we encountered the ubiquitous cows and a few goats on the roadway, but the surprise was to see Ganesh statues either being delivered in small pick ups or in the process of being unloaded. The music, drums, and general festivity of this holiday is pervasive on our drive today. It is still the Ganesh holiday and traffic reflects that. After passing though one of the toll booths we experienced a true traffic halt. I anticipated an accident, but I was mistaken. There was no accident and there were no police officers; rather a number of young men were stopping traffic and demanding contributions to their collection jars. After the contribution was made one of the young man moved from the front of our car so we could pass.
We did arrive at Kanchipuram before the day grew too hot. The temples are as magnificent as I had remembered them and the history and stories about the gods, the people and the temples were so very interesting. India is indeed a country rich in its beautiful temples and stories of its gods.
Not only are the temples beautiful and awe inspiring, the people proved to be interesting as well. Over and over again we were stopped with requests to have our photos taken with families. And, yet, for Dehvan, the highlight had to be her elephant adventure. She sat on an elephant and absolutely beamed. Clearly, there is a connection for this lovely young volunteer and these beautiful large animals. Whether one is Hindi or not, the time one spends at the temples in Kancheepuram inspires awe and contemplative thought. It is truly an impressive sight and experience.
We continued on to Punducherry, where we checked into our hotel. Dehvan and I shared a room while Bobbi slept solo for the night. The highlight of the hotel: warm water and a shower and Wi-Fi. The room is rather pleasant as well. After we settled in and rested a bit, we were ready for our next adventure, and adventure it was.
We walked the boardwalk (not really a board) along the Bay of Bengal. The walk on this evening was especially interesting. Tiny pillars of smoke rose from where small groups gathered before small statues of Ganesh, the aroma of incense wafted through the air, small blossoms of flickering fires burned low, young men carried the small clay statues over rocks to the waters of the Bay, boys and men peddled festive wares of pink cotton candy, noise makes, little elephants with bells, and joy. The walk way was alive with children running about, families walking, men, young and old, walking hand in hand or with arms over shoulders or just walking together, exotic women gliding in their saris with shimmering gold trim. Dusk turned to evening as we made the one km stroll along the beach to a French multi-cuisine restaurant, Spice Garden, for our evening meal. The cuisine was multi-cultural and most interesting. We returned to the Lotus Hotel for the night.
We were provided with a breathtaking experience of India and we still have another day ahead.
The Lotus Hotel provided us with a very cool, temperature that is, evening. I awoke early, as I usually do and tried not to disturb Dehvan, my roommate. Apparently I was successful. I took what I hoped would be a warm shower, but found that the faucet to the sink provided warm water; the shower did not. The not warm shower still felt lovely. Dehvan was still asleep so I took myself and my IPad to the lobby to use the internet service. While I was there, the hotel desk clerk asked if I wanted omelet plain or mussel omelet. Our conversation involved what Bobbi and Dehvan wanted as well. When I told him that they were still sleeping, he grew concerned because breakfast was to be delivered at 8:30 and it was already 8:00. I told him not to be concerned since we would all be eating in our room. Finally he made a call to Dehvan and another to Bobbi to get their orders. Much ado about nothing. It proved to be a lovey breakfast of orange juice, omelet, bread (dried and apparently supposed to be toast with Indian butter and jelly), and milk tea for me and milk coffee for the other two. We finished about the same time that our driver Stephen arrived to pick us up for the first part of our day as tourist students.
The most impressive experience the meditative walk in the Peace Area, and the Matrimandir and its gardens. The Matrimandir is a beautiful golden globe, the soul of the city. The atmosphere is one of peace and tranquility as well as universal with people from many lands and the Urn of Human Unity that contains the soil of 121 nations and 23 Indian states. Auroview is an example of care for our environment, it is a green, green landscape that was once barren and it contains a lake to help create an atmosphere of calm and serenity and to serve as a groundwater recharge area. It is not entirely correct to say that Auroville is “completed” for Auroville is always a work in progress. At the end of our meditative walk, we sat and waited for our ride at the banyon tree, which had been the lone tree at this location when the Mother first contemplated Auroville in 1965. Although we viewed a short video about Auroville, the three GV volunteers agree that we need to find out more about this place.From there we continued to Mammalapuram to see the stone wall and other features. I found it most important in my own mind to once again listen to the stories about the wall. What a magnificent creation and what interesting stories it tells. I enjoyed viewing the wall and some of the sights, but opted to spend time under what I shall call Sheeba’s tree. While Bobbi and Dehvan went on a tour of the wall and its other sights, several young men came over to spend the time talking with me. They are engineering students, with one of them most interested in improving his English skills. We discussed the economic issues that face young people growing up in India and the importance of being able to speak good English. I remember with fondness the stories told at each stop last year and so vicariously, I enjoyed the time that he led my companions on their tour. Stephen, our driver, met me under Sheeba’s tree, and we waited for the two volunteers to join us so we could make the trip back to Chennai. Before we began the drive to Chennai, we stopped for lunch at Mammalla Heritage. As we entered the area, I recalled the lovely lunch that I had there with Stephen, Sheeba, and Roshan last year. It is a place worthy of memories.
We managed to celebrate India in two days, with its great stories and knowledge of history.