Title-3

Above is a priest in the Sri Veeranarayana temple was built in 1206 CE. This is the mood often found in south eastern India.

 

1 Trip map

We flew from Dubai to Chennai (Madras) and started touring.

The diagram at left shows our flight path from Dubai to Chennai and our simplified tour route in southeastern India. We flew home from Bangalore via Hong Kong and Los Angeles making it our 3rd around the world trip.

From India, we sent seven “trip report” emails with five pictures each. Due to time constraints this website consists of just these (slightly modified) trip reports.

 

The GPS track of our land tour in SE India is shown in green on the right. All city names in yellow are over-night stays. We moved almost every day and drove 2864 miles (4582 km).

We were very lucky to have had an extremely religious, knowledgeable Brahmin (the Hindu caste which includes priests) guide named Ragu; and a very personable English-speaking driver named Ram. They were exactly what we requested from the tour company.

We try to have as much local experience as possible. This is our fourth trip to India. We chose an area known as the pilgrimage site for all of India due to the rich variety and importance of its temples. There are more than a billion people in India and to understand it we feel we need to have a better understanding of Hinduism. This trip was to give it our best shot.

 

All-tracks

 

2 eating local

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Two of our previous three trips to India are described in this travel website. We felt we needed one more trip to South Eastern India. We’re glad we did as it was a wonderful experience. We concentrated on temples and Hinduism.

 

We concluded that the “enlightenment” so arduously pursued by staunch believers is an unachievable goal. Seekers are so wrapped up in the strict rules of religious and cultural traditions and superstitions, dos and don’ts, and obsessive, compulsive observance of rituals that achieving freedom from all these is impossible. Enlightenment is the realization that there is no permanent self, no deities and that you are responsible for your own life.

We visited the SE Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. We spent most of the time in Tamil Nadu as it is one of the living classical civilizations, existing uninterrupted for 2000 years. The Tamil language is one of the world’s oldest and is still the language of Tamil Nadu (few people speak Hindi in the south of India). The culture continues today in the Tamils’ language, dance, poetry and the Hindu religion.

The temperatures for our trip during January and February were usually in the 80s; occasionally even in the 90s – and this is the coldest month! We can take heat, but we are glad we went when we did.

We got used to many languages other than Hindu being spoken on our previous trips. But this was the first time that we realized that when locals go from state-to-state they not even have to deal with a “foreign” language they don’t know – but each state as a different SCRIPT! When we were driving in Bangalore we couldn’t see any street signs. Ram told us they could be anywhere – but that it didn’t matter because he couldn’t read them! Imagine going from California to Arizona to Nevada encountering languages you not only don’t know, but can’t even read the script! Wow!

The first day they dropped us off at a hotel for lunch – the others there for lunch were two large French tours - and afterwards we rebelled.

The picture below left shows J eating with our driver the next day in the place they had chosen for themselves. What a difference! In the tourist places it takes FOREVER to be served. The others in the restaurant are foreigners, mostly French groups in this part of India. Food is served almost immediately in local restaurants and it is hot. They use fresh banana leaves for plates as dishes might be dirty. They are used only once and then fed to the cows.  Banana trees are everywhere in this part of India. Female trees grow the bananas; the leaves of male trees are used for “plates”. Indians believe they “taste” food better when they mix the condiments with the rice with their hand. It’s a fun experience.

 For the standard meal, which is called “Thali” in Tamil Nadu, they give about 10 little stainless steel dishes containing different things (sauces, yoghurt, etc). You only eat with your right hand. The rice is pushed around by hand on the leaf mixing the condiments with the rice. Sometimes the serving was even more efficiently done. Waiters with stainless steel “cans” with 2 or 3 connected, walk around the restaurant offering what they’re carrying. It’s a little like being in a dim sum restaurant.

The picture below right shows Juergen eating a Ragi (finger millet) dumpling typical in Karnataka. Neither Ragu (in the right picture above with Juergen) nor Ram (left picture) would eat finger millet in this form. In their native Tamil Nadu finger millet is prepared as a porridge.

 

 

 

Yvonne decided to get “blessed” by a temple elephant. On this trip we were in many temples every day and only two of them had a temple elephant, so it’s not very common. The elephant takes the money (equivalent to 15 cents) and then softly touches your head with its trunk. Juergen just missed the action (the trunk on my head) with this shot; the elephant didn’t.

 

3 elephant blessing

 

4 Wannabee Hindus

We had the incredible experience of viewing our Brahmin guide participating in Hindu religious practices. Occasionally we “participated” too. Before this trip, we’d been in only a few temple “inner sanctums” where the main image is kept. In the inner sanctum of a Hindu temple priests perform rites that culminate in the “darshana” the seeing and connection with the image of the respective deity (and there are lots of them).

 

 

After that you get blessed by the priest with dots of red or white chalk on your forehead which involves “donating” money. The picture on the left shows the blessed Yvonne and Juergen. There are “side chapels” in temples where lesser idols are worshipped. Our guide usually hits them all. As no inner sanctum can be photographed we tried to photograph this side chapel one. The priests refused to allow us to do so. So Ragu asked if we could take a photo of the “guardian” at the entrance and they reluctantly agreed. Then Ragu took this photo of us including the reluctant priest, so it’s a bit unfair that the priest looks like he does. (The priest knew full well what Ragu was up to!)

 

 

This photo is the best we’ve got to give an impression of Balaji Temple; the richest temple in India. The three towers at the lower left of the photo are part of it.

The gold covered temple in the foreground contains the destination object of pilgrims from all over India. This is religion meets big business. VERY big business.

 

5 India's richest temple

 

The pilgrimage area covers the top of a mountain.

There is one two-lane road up the mountain and a second two-lane road down the mountain. We have forgotten the length exactly but the distance of each is about 13 miles. The driver gets a card time-bar-coded that is checked electronically at the top. If he makes it in less than 28 minutes or more than 45 minutes (whatever it is) he is fined heavily. They don’t tolerate either speeding or going too slowly.

We went to the very top of the mountain and climbed to a “footprint” of Shiva (an indention in a rock) where we could look down into the compound and see part of the golden temple compound. Trees obscured the rest of the area. The area in the photo is surrounded by a wall only Hindus can enter – and even then they have to stay in line from 3 – 8 hours before they are rushed past the idol!

It’s amazing. After a long time outside between stainless steel railings they enter huge buildings full of big rooms. The group is in each room for an hour or so. There are showers and bathrooms. There are big televisions with religious programs to entertain the pilgrims. There is food.

 

Now for the Richter experience.

We got to the check station at the bottom (something like customs at the US/Mexican border) with about 5 lanes. There are big signs that the place is totally vegetarian, and absolutely no alcohol or tobacco is allowed. We didn’t notice, but when it came to be our turn to have our van checked, we and Ragu got out of the car and started walking up the road, leaving Ram to take the backpacks and luggage out of the car to be x-rayed. We were merrily enjoying our walk up the nice road when Ragu was called by Ram and told we had to walk back. Turns out the x-ray showed bottles in our luggage and the luggage was locked and they couldn’t check out what was. Well. We had bought some firewater in duty free in Dubai!  After a little embarrassment, the luggage was loaded back into our car and we left the area to go to our hotel and check in. After that we went back and sailed through the check, walking a little less far the second time.

J and Y are not very good at pilgrimages!

But we found Hinduism more fascinating and interesting as time went on. It’s very complicated, and intertwined with lots wild stories, imaginations, contradictions and yet profound philosophical insight.

 

Unfortunately, many of the very memorable, different, crazy experiences we had on this trip cannot be captured with photos. No photography is allowed in the inner sanctums of the temples – even the outer areas are often off-limits (we managed a few times). We’ve gotten white and red dots and stripes on our foreheads (that means we’ve been blessed after “seeing” the deity) many times in very interesting sanctums – it’s a bummer we have no photo-memories of those experiences. We couldn’t even photograph how the organization of the temples into fast-tracks (cost extra money) and free tracks to the inner sanctum is accomplished.

Most of the temples we visited are pilgrimage ones, and during festivals, hundreds of thousands can go through the temple in a single day! There are a number of ways to get blessings in the temple and they depend on how many rupees are paid. The different pay levels are herded into lines separated by (usually) stainless steel rails that are about 4’ high. These lanes wind throughout the large temple interiors making for long and short waits.

Ragu added a temple to our itinerary in Madurai, not because it is a WHS, but because it is an auspicious (important word in Hinduism) place to get married and we were there on a very auspicious day. For blocks around this temple, shops are filled with religious and secular objects for sale. Like a holy country Fair. The streets were packed with people. The police had blocked all entries to the area by car. Fortunately, we got to park within a half-mile of the temple because the police saw there were foreigners in the car and gave us special treatment! On this trip we often visited places few tourists visit, and when we did we were treated very specially by the locals.

The marriage entourages (usually the couple and about a dozen others) were bedecked with solid gold jewelry: noses, necks, arms, fingers and hair covered with gold. Inside the temple Ragu was able somehow to get us into the “fast” track to the inner sanctum (where there are FIVE deities! Rare.)

For about 30 minutes in the line we went back and forth through the temple, then up and down wide/narrow stairways crammed with people. We oozed along or just stood. In her Indian “pants suit, or Salwar kameez, Y was the only woman not in a sari. When we got to the idols, we fortunately/unfortunately arrived exactly at the time the priests did their rites using “Aladdin lamps” with fire – a great experience except that they rang a brass bell very near our heads for about a hundred bangs. Y held her ears. 

Usually from the time we got out of the car until we get back into the car we’re required to be shoeless. Fortunately, during most of the visits, Ragu says socks are ok. If the floors are clean, barefooted is ok with us, but often the floors have tiny gravel on them that hurt our feet so socks are welcome…if not a bit embarrassing due to our being the only people not barefoot. Oh well.

 

 

1 Airavatesvara Temple

The next three pictures were all taken in the UNESCO World Heritage Site 12thC Airavatesvara Temple which is dedicated to Shiva.

 

 

These elephant stairs on the left are indicative of the wonderful carving throughout the temple.

 

 

3 Airavatesvara Temple

One of the temple entrance towers (gopura).

 

 

 

The gopura above has images of what kinds of worldly thoughts should be left outside the temple – according to our guide…

 

2 Airavatesvara Temple

 

 

The World Heritage-listed Brihadishwara Temple was built by the Chola people between 1003 and 1010 CE. This is one of the gopuram (entry gates).

 

 

4 Brihadishwara Temple

 

5 Brihadishwara Temple

 

We surreptitiously took one picture of a chapel with a silver Ganesha image and the two Hindu priests who just finished the ritual (rotating oil lamps around the image of the deity, sometimes accompanied with the sound of bells) which lets the worshippers experience “darshana” (which is the Sanskrit word for seeing of and connecting to the deity).

After the ritual and “donating” money, the worshippers put their hands over the burning oil lamps and get marked by the priests with white powder or red dots on their foreheads.

The white powder consists of the ashes of dried cow dung mixed with medicinal herbs. Some of the devotees swallow the powder directly or mix it with water and drink it…

We didn’t.

 

 

Another view of the spectacular Brihadishwara Temple, built by the Chola people between 1003 and 1010 CE.

 

1 Brihadishwara Temple

 

2 Brihadishwara Temple

Shiva is represented and worshipped in many ways - this linga/yoni representation is common in Tamil Nadu. This symbolism for god began in the Indus Valley civilization, which existed from 3000-1500 BCE.

 

 In the series of many lingam along the outer walls of this temple, various paintings are behind each individual linga. The picture shows fine painting of Ganesha (Shiva’s first son).

 

Another very common Shiva representation worshipped is a bull or nandi (shown in the background pattern of this website). In most places in India Nandi is known as Shiva’s “transport.” In Karnataka, where we went next, we found that Shiva is worshipped in the form of Nandi.

 

 

 

This photo shows a group of men who have decided to do a few days of religious fasting. At the start of their fasting they meet in the temple and pray at each of the shrines.

 

3 Brihadishwara Temple

 

We drove to the very southern tip of India where the Sea of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea meet. The monsoon “failed” in the south of India for the last two years (it should have brought plenty of rain in November and December). It looks dismal: every reservoir and “tank” (the British called huge pools tanks) was empty. Almost every temple in Southern India has a “tank” associated with it, and these are now totally dry. Formerly these tanks were used for washing up before visiting the temple, as well as being used a couple of times a year when festivals require the floating of the bamboo rafts/boats which are used to carry the idols.

 

All during our drive we saw private colleges which consisted of large two story buildings. These colleges often have names involving their idol’s names, but we also saw “Christ Child Engineering School.” Private colleges are everywhere here.

 

At the very southern tip of India there are miles and miles and miles of windmills generating electricity.

 

4 Ranganathaswamy temple

Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangapatnam has 49 separate shrines, all dedicated to Vishnu. Construction started in 894CE.

 

This scene taken from a roof viewpoint some distance away shows the golden roof over the inner sanctum which non-Hindus cannot visit.

 

 

About 900 CE, Hinduism had almost lost out to Buddhism and Jainism. The Brahman priests were out of work.

 

The priests decided to alter Hinduism to get their followers back. They gave up the sacrifices that had been the priests’ main job (they followed the Vedas to do them properly) and made the religion more family-friendly.

 

5 Ranganathaswamy temple

 

They did this by adding festivals and “1000 pillar halls” to the temples. Because Hinduism is totally controlled by numerology, the actual number is 999 or 1001. These large (and beautifully carved) halls are used once a year for the enactment of the marriage ceremony between the god and his consort. One of them is in the photo above.

 

Their timing was good, because this was the time that the Buddhist monks had become too controlling and demanding of the people and Buddhism was becoming less popular.

 

 

1 Sri Jambukeshwara Temple

A tower of the Sri Jambukeshwara Temple in Trichy.

 

 

Like Christianity and Buddhism, oil lamps are burned by worshipers in the temples.

This was a rare opportunity when we could photograph in the temple. It is not near the inner sanctum.

 

2 candles in temple

 

3 monkeys

We admired this cute 7th c  (imagine!) sculpture of monkeys grooming just about an hour before we came to a temple with the “real” thing!  Fun.

 

 

 

4 monkeys

 

5 Relaxing at pool

We stayed one night in a fancy resort hotel on the beach near an UNESCO site. There was a very large pool that snaked through the bungalows, and a vanishing-edge pool that overlooked the Bay of Bengal.

Europeans and Indians come for the week and run around in flowered shorts and striped t-shirts. One night was plenty there.

 

 

Our hotels were extremely varied. We stayed in nice international-style hotels, but we also stayed in several more one-of-a-kinds that we liked a lot better.

In Thiruvannamalai (imagine! our entire trip involves names like this!) there are many ashrams due to the many enlightenment gurus that lived or taught there. We visited 3 ashrams; each different. They all have large halls that meditators can use for free. There, our hotel was far out of town in the countryside and consisted of simple duplexes. It was a smoke-free, alcohol-free hotel. People were encouraged to be quiet. Thankfully, they had no x-ray machine and we escaped getting busted again! The other guests were Europeans who were dressed like they thought we were still in the 1970s…and still trying to find themselves.

It was an interesting experience, like living in an ashram.

Maybe we will find ourselves.

Most likely, it’s too late…

Another interesting hotel was far out of town and consisted of 15 duplex bungalows separated in a near-jungle environment. The bathroom was attached to the room but was roofless. The jungle sounds woke us up in the morning and it was lovely.

In Pondicherry, an old French area, we stayed on the top floor of a nice refurbished 100+ year old French mansion.

 

Driving is crazy because NO ONE stays in a lane (what’s a lane?) and there are few stop lights, so intersections are a jumble of autos.  We were so glad we had an incredibly capable and smooth driver and a very nice large and comfortable Toyota van. Most of the Indian tour companies we communicated with (prior to picking the one we have) recommended flying once or twice and/or going by train a couple of times. We’re happy we insisted on no flights or trains. We can handle all-day drives instead of sitting in airports. Besides, we really enjoyed seeing the different landscapes of Southern India.

Ragu (guide) is a strict vegetarian; Ram (driver) is not. So a couple of times Ragu has gone to a “veg- only” restaurant and we’ve gone with Ram to his favorite restaurants. Some of these places were very primitive. They are family run and the food is home made on the spot, Ram only selects the cleanest places for himself, so we were in good hands. They were an incredible experience for us. The important thing for our health is that their stainless steel pots and serving dishes are like new they’re so clean. The food is extremely fresh. And best of all, the food is far, far tastier than we’d ever get at the tourist level.  Ram was VERY concerned the first time he took us to one of his favorite restaurants that we’d be uncomfortable in that environment or that we might get sick; in Mysore he took us into an alley to our most memorable place. The second anyone got up from a chair another sat down. It was quite the scene! All the local merchants ate there.

In Tamil Nadu, they use either a banana leaf or tree leaves stitched together as plates. They are discarded afterwards. Everything is eaten with your right hand only, without utensils, which adds an interesting tactile experience. For one thing, you never put food in your mouth that’s too temperature hot because you’d burn your fingers first. J found it gave him another new experience: as he makes his food very spicy – he adds his own chili if the food isn’t spicy enough – that sometimes his fingers burn for a while afterwards!

Alas, the south Indian food hailed for being really hot was too mild for Juergen…

So it goes.

Ragu and Ram and Indian Panorama were the secret to our incredible experience here in Southern India.

 

1 Ranganathaswamy Vishnu Temple

This beautiful figure was on the outside of the Sri Ranganathaswamy Vishnu Temple. This temple was amazingly big – perhaps the largest in India. There are 21 towers; the highest is 219’ high.

 

 

In the 5th c. BCE, Hinduism lost many followers to the Buddhists and the Jains. People were largely fed up with the Hindu priests (Brahmin cast).

Buddhism and Jainism were both started by individuals, with meditation being an important feature of both of them.

The Jains were extremely non-violent (they often wore cloth over their mouths so they wouldn’t inhale insects). The most devout Jains wore no clothing at all. There are still a few Jains in India.

 

2 Jain vibration room

 

About the 7th c. CE, they lived in caves in many areas of Southern India. We went into one small cube-shaped cave that was about 8’ on a side. The above photo was taken inside the cave. The caretaker stood in the middle and without seeming to make any sound or breath he caused the room to very slowly be engulfed with an ommmmm sound. It wasn’t like an echo. The sound actually got loud enough that we could feel our bodies vibrating. It was totally amazing. We could make a sound by saying ommm at a low frequency, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as when he did it.

 

3 Fort

We HAD to climb up on the wall of this old fort to see down the other side!  (J )

 

 

In Chettinad, we stayed in an amazing many-tens-of-thousand square foot restored house of a merchant. This area was particularly fascinating.

These Chettinads were money-lenders and merchants who became trusted by the British, and then “followed” the British to expand their own trade through Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and more. In India, they settled in Chettinad, land no one wanted in the (even today) middle of nowhere and built thousands of mansions.

4 Chettinad

 

After WWII, the countries in the area all got independence and the Chettinads lost their networks. These houses now sit deserted, going to ruins.

Only recently has the government offered good loans to the owners if they’d fix them up for hotels. Only a couple have been fixed up and we stayed in one of them.

The above photo was taken of our house from one of its towers (on left side of photo; we found a circular staircase and climbed to the tower) and also shows the large house across the street that awaits being restored. We drove around one afternoon, going from “ghost town” to “ghost town” looking at these amazing old places.

Many of the Chettinads are now, again, very successful business men in Singapore and other SE Asia countries. Their cuisine is famous in India and is delicious. The flavors are far “finer” than the rest of India as a result of it merging with the countries in which they lived.

 

5 placentas

We’ve only seen this three times, but we were told that it’s common place all over this part of Southern India.

After a cow gives birth, the owner takes the placenta, wraps it in cloth and hangs it from the tree. This insures the calf will be healthy!

A friend who is a vet suggested that they were trying to keep the cow vegetarian (by taking away the placenta before it could be eaten). We told that to Ragu and Ram and after discussing it, they thought it sounded reasonable.

Cows are holy in India.

 

At Sravanabelagola, we climbed the ancient 6-900 steps, the count varies, up to the Gomateshvara Jain statue.

The steps were amazing because they were carved into a very large and steep smooth rock. Thankfully, there were banisters for coming back down.

After sitting in the car day after day, the climb was welcome – and a bit tough.

 

The start of the climb up the rock stairs was easy.

 

1 climb to Jain temple

 

2 climb to Jain temple

. This is near the top of the first part of the climb. The temple “tank” is visible below

 

 

This is one of the 3 main Jain deities in the inner sanctum of the temple.

 

3 Jain sculpture

 

4 giant Jain statue

This is the giant statue of  the Jain saint on top of the hill.

This 55’ high statue was carved in 981 CE out of a single block of granite. Elephants were used to position the statue at the top of the granite “hill.”

Millions come here every 12 years to attend a special ceremony. Fortunately this was not one of those years. Very devout Jains do not wear clothes.

 

 

The ever-present (this time Jain) priest dispensing blessings at the bottom of the statue.

 

5 Jain priest

 

Hampi, a World Heritage Site, was chosen to be the new capital in 1336 and it grew into one of the largest Indian empires in Hindu history.

By the 16thC it was a thriving metropolis of a half-million people; its busy bazaars were doing international commerce in precious stones, gold and silver; merchants were from everywhere. This ended in one month in 1565 when the five Muslim Indian states north of it combined to conquer and then trash it. Hampi never recovered.

Hampi is an area of large boulders and the entire city was built of stone. During the month it was conquered, every palace and major building was pulled down. Only some temples remained – due to the many Hindus that had been conquered previously that were in the Muslim armies.

 

1 ferry boarding area

We stayed in a hotel in a quiet place on the other side of the river that was not easy to get to/from.

Crossing the river involves using the boat shown at left at the “ferry area.” We had to walk across rocks and those wobbly tires in the water when we were loaded down with backpacks. Ragu and Ram carried our luggage. About 20 others rushed onto the little boat also. It was the scariest, negative, hectic, out-of-control half hour of our entire month-long trip. We had to carry everything up the other side as well.

 

Fortunately, Ragu and Ram helped us. This was supposedly the last “ferry” across and the guys were afraid they’d be caught on our side – and their hotel was a half-hour’s drive away.

Anyway, chivalry and duty prevailed and they carried our luggage onto the “ferry.” The boat was overfilled and our luggage was on the front. Thankfully, we boated across about 2 mph. We asked them if they could swim and neither could.

When we got to the other side we had to “jump” onto soggy, muddy grass – the ferry was just run into the bank! We had our heavy backpacks – the guys each carried a big duffel. They carried our bags up the other hill and helped us locate the car from our hotel.

We got to our Hampi Boulders Hotel after dark, so we only had ground lighting to our room in a duplex. In the morning imagine our surprise when we saw the view from our deck:

 

The staff told us that the water was moving so there weren’t any mosquitoes. What a treat this was! It was absolutely silent there. There were little rapids that made a nice sound; nothing else. For 180 degrees there was no building, no tuk-tuk, no person, no cow, goat or sheep. It is all peaceful river and boulders. It was worth the evening before! Each night we sat there until dark. There were NO MOSQUITOES at all! We didn’t have any mosquitoes anywhere during our month.

2 Hampi hotel

 

3 Lakshmi blessing

One of the Hampi temples has a temple elephant named Lakshmi the Lonely Planet guide book calls “adorable.” She is. (Lakshmi is the name of Vishnu’s wife and the goddess of wealth).

 

The photo on the left shows Y getting blessed by Lakshmi.

We were lucky in our two days in Hampi to be able to watch her get her morning bath (tourists can pay a few rupees to scrub her as she lies on her side) and her evening bath when she seemed to play in the water.

 

 

As we waited for our ferry one evening we saw her trainer walking her down the many, many stairs to the water. She went in about a foot and drank a lot of water before she slowly went in deeper (much like we do). After she got into the water fully it was fun to watch her “joyfully” lying on one side or the other. She submerged her entire head leaving her trunk moving around like a cobra. She was a delight to watch. She’s 27 years old and acted like a child!

 

4 Lakshmi bathing

 

5 Temple wall

This is a temple wall in the Hampi ruins with typical carvings.

 

 

Hampi is a very, very large site where nothing has been rebuilt. There are very old temples here; many of the buildings were built in the 1500s. There are very large temples, largely intact. Archeologists have restored the columns indicating where the “malls” were. Each temple has a long modern-block-long approach road that was bordered with shops (much like ancient Greece and Rome had). There is a King’s bath building and a beautiful Queen’s bath building that has been restored. There is a very large area surrounded by a wall that includes a very high reviewing stand where the King could survey performances. There is a hill covered with temple ruins of all ages that had an amazing view. There were remains of wonderful buildings reflecting the wealth of a city of this size. And all of this is located in an area with a river and hills covered with very large boulders. It is a wonderful place. We walked for 3-4 hours before and after lunch each day for two days and there was always more to see.

 

There is an area with tourist shops on each side of the river, of course. On our hotel’s side of the river – no ruins there, was an area of new “hippies.” In one place there were about 10 shops/laundries/little restaurants where all the writing was in Hebrew (no Indian or English script!) We were told they had moved here from Goa.

We had a 30-minute drive each way from our hotel to the ferry which was provided by the hotel. The entire drive was through small Indian villages (non-tourist) and wonderful incredibly green rice fields.

 

The still-being-built Shiv Mandir temple in Bangalore is unusual for Hindu temples because it is sort of proselytizing and big money business. It has a bit of Disneyland atmosphere.

 

Everyone is encouraged to perform the rituals in front of a number of deities. Juergen performs the ritual for Ganesha by rotating an oil lamp three times in front of the image.

Juergen worshipping Ganesha

 

Yvonne worshipping Shiva

Yvonne performs the rituals in front of nandi (Shiva image, also shown on the background).

 

In the below photo, Ragu had paid for a special blessing – note the beautiful flower lei.

 

Of course, we still don’t know much about Hinduism, but we certainly know and understand more than we did, and we really enjoyed the journey!

 

In Goddess temples, the spots are red.

 

just been blessed

 

Shiva as cosmic dancer or Nataraja is a traditional Tamil concept of the god.

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