Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 9 On the Road to Tanjore

Day 9 - Jan 15, From Chidambaram to Thanjore

- Additional notes
- More temples
- Making bronze sculptures
- Lunch at a resort
- Resting up for dinner

  1. A few days ago we saw a motorcycle accident, man and woman spilled into the street, people (there are always people around, even on highway, which is just a two lane road) rush over to help them to the side and move the bike. We saw several incidences in Viet Nam as well, there is just too much congestion to not see something happen.
  2. Last night at the hotel in Chindambaram, a priest was rinsing off the statue of Ganesh in the shrine out front. He used milk and yogurt, very liberally applied. Odd sight, bright white coating on top of very black statue.
  3. As we’re leaving the hotel this morning, we can see across the street a huge lot full of bikes, it is a commuter bike parking lot!
  4. At the Temple in the early evening swallows come out to feed on the bugs. We also see egrets in almost every patch of low water puddles, of which there are many in the countryside.
  5. Part of the theory behind the amount of public litter or rather the litter in public is that for all of India’s history until recently the litter was biodegradable and the cows and goats and dogs wandering around ate the discarded items. With the invention of plastics, the litter become non-biodegradable and the lack of a work ethic (and the total absence of trashcans and government infrastructure) means the stuff is piling up. Hmmmmm….

Along with the litter, we got some stats on how well the villages are supported, as follows (and take these with some skepticism):
  • No villages have sewer services
  • 40% are without water or roads
  • Electricity is supplied but is very intermittent
  • Public schools are not very good and teachers often do not show up

We visit a temple honoring Vishnu, who along with Shiva (aka Dancing Shiva) are the two most famous and honored gods of the holy triad (Brahma appears to have got shortchanged by a big chunk of change here, he‘s just a ghost). Outside the temple is one of the giant chariots with the cloth covering still on, very beautiful and size is very impressive.

Then on to another Shiva temple where the major attraction (aside from this is the first temple we’ve visiting where a mantra is being chanted over and over and over and over and over and over again for all eternity on a PA system - or as long as the power stays on, ommm nautra shivvvvvvvvvvaaaaaaa), there are some stone carvings from the 900 AD period that are fascinating in their lifelike appearance. Great art, and they are not representations of gods or goddesses, more just protectors carved out of the stones on the outside of the temple. More blessings and more donations inside.

Back on the road, it must be fish day because we see many for sale along the road, including one where the guys are standing in the tank which is on the back of a small truck. Several hold up the fish and pose for us as we snap away from the van.

And, as reported in the midst of the long post just published, it is raining lightly this morning, making it in truth the best weather day we’ve had. Of course, since we are taking off our shoes to enter the temples, it also makes it most likely the day when we’ve walked in the most liquid cowenploppen. There appear to be no faucets available for foot cleaning at the exit.

Now for the short version of a story Martin relates as we drive from town to town: As late as the early 1800s, a king could let a pure white stallion wander around for one year and then claim all the territory the horse visited (king’s aides gave the horse some general guidance?) with the idea that the king thought he could conquer the neighbors. After a year, the horse was ritually prepared and slaughtered (by smothering) and then the queen had sexual intercourse (can this be a true story!?) with the dead horse. There appears to be some question as to whether the queen was ritually slaughtered. There’s even a story of 10 horses (and TEN queens?). And you thought we were sleeping between towns…hardly!!

We visit a bronze statue manufacturing facility, they do it the (very) old way with lost wax casting and all work done by hand and the figures all done as one (sometimes very large) piece. Then a tour of the shop which fortunately has boyfriend couches for those of less inclined to look at the merchandiser. One of the tour does buy a small piece (and hopes the boyfriend does the toting back?).

On to lunch, it’s a resort in what we think is the middle of nowhere, full of tourists from France/Belgium and Australia and maybe a few other places. It must be the only reasonable spot for Westerners anywhere around.

After lunch, we drive to our next destination, Thanjore, where we are now in the hotel. We get 4 hours to rest up before dinner (and, as you know) do some catching up. Dinner is a la carte!!!! I order half a tandoori chicken complete with bones, MHB has tikka paneer (cheese the consistency of tofu) and we share a beer and salad of cucumber, carrots, and tomatoes, and crème caramel. Very good!

One of the tour is now suffering cough part of a cold, hopefully he'll get better and none of us worse.

Ralph and MHB


  1. i'd do well in india...remember in china when i was called "india boy" because i like to eat with my hands? i'd have no problem only eating with my right hand, because i think that's what i do anyway already.