Sunday, January 1, 2017
(This email I wrote a few days ago, but never completed. Even though we have moved on into the next Indian state of Kerala, I add this for a sense of completeness.)
Having come South through the SE Indian state of Tamil Nadu, today we arrived in Kanyakumari, the southern-most tip of India. When I stepped into the water here, I was standing at the very nexus of three major bodies of water: the Bay of Bengal along the east coast of India, the Arabian Sea running along the west coast of India and the great Indian Ocean. Here pilgrims and revelers gathered over this holiday end-of-year vacation enjoying themselves, playing in the water, waiting patiently in a very long line to board a ferry that would take them short distance to an outcropping not far off shore, and/or shop for trinkets and souvenirs. It was a sweaty 91 degrees.
Our congenial group of ten, students as well as non-students such as ourselves gathered by Ted Engelbrecht, professor at Concordia University have been traveling now for over a week. We began on Mahabalapuram, a beach town just south of the Chennai, state capital of Tamil Nadu state. This 2000 year old port city ruled for centuries by the Pallavas was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 11 temples have been excavated, in addition to 2 open air bas reliefs, and 5 rathas, monolith Indian rock cut architectures dating to the 7th century.
From there we visited Ginge, a historic capital on our way to a resort in Ponducherry, a port conquered successively by the Portuguese, Dutch, Danes, English and retaining a touch of French architecture and flavor. Walking through the old large market Carol and I saw Santa hats for 30 cents a piece. With Christmas eve approaching and it coinciding with the first night of Hanukah, we invested the $3 for Santa hats for everyone.
Heading inland our next stop was the amazing Hindu Temple at Chidambaram. For context the Temple complex is spread over 50 acres in the heart of the city. Two early competing Hindu traditions of Shiva and Vishnu worship are combined here demonstrating the effort to make peace by inclusion.
By contrast the religious structure/ rock fort at Trichy stands atop the only outcropping in an otherwise flat plain. To get there on climbs the 83 meters up approximately 400 steps barefoot, since the top is considered a holy spot for Hindus.
We made several other stops along the way south, visiting primarily historic temples, but also forts and palaces. It's sometimes hard to keep them all distinct, because of the many conquests over the centuries of various peoples.