Thurs, Jan 17-
Our tour continues to impress me. We woke up early this morning to take a walk around the village and see the morning rituals of an Indian family. As we walked around we saw only women working – sweeping their front porches, gathering water, bringing trash to the village trash and recycling center, and making the Colums (only in white rather than color since the festival is over).
We walked through the village until we reached a local park with a massive granite carving, also from the 8th century. There were so many goats!
While in the park we came across a group of men, dressed all in black who are completing their annual pilgrimage to the temple. They walk 8 miles to and from the temple, and partake in a fast of one regular meal a day and one meal of just fruits for 45 days when they are home. We have also come across other groups of people partaking in a pilgrimage, but they wear different colors which indicates their group and destination temple.
We had breakfast afterwards and said goodbye to what we have been forewarned is the nicest hotel of our trip. As much as I appreciate the amenities, it is difficult for me to enjoy when my conscience is aware of the thousands of people starving in just a 10 mi radius of the hotel. Lakuma has told us to take the extra complimentary hygenical products so we can give them to people along our way.
Grandma and I enjoying sunset on the balcony and then the view of our massive pool – one of the longest in SE Asia!
After checking out we visited a couple other temples, the first, a monolith temple which means it was carved from one boulder:
On our way to another temple, we passed by a ritual being performed. The priest conducts this ritual for any one who dies – 16 days later. The family tells the priest who the ancestors are and he calls on their spirits to welcome their descendants soul that will be joining them. They give offerings and the ritual always takes place near water. This one was near a massive lily pond.
And look what else we saw!
We made it to the other temple – the shore temple – which sits just a stones throw from the shore. Also we saw a shop on the street where stones are carved. Many of the completed sculptures are sent to temples or as souvenirs for the whities who come to visit.
The temples are consistently beautiful and intricate – no doubt impressive and a joy to see. The irony of it is that the temples and ‘sites’ are the only strict things outlines on our itinerary, however I find everything in between to be the most interesting. To be honest the temples kind of start to all look the same to me. But The festival, rituals, people on the streets are all unique and unplanned and that is what is amazing to see! I am trying to show pictures of everything I see, but it is difficult to express the feeling and energy of the people we come across.
Later in the day we made it to Pondicherry, which was a French colony until 1954ish. We did a walking tour where we saw a local bar, a funeral, an ashram and the French quarter.
The local bar is a terrible scene – Lakuma said alcoholism is a problem here and she hates those men because they spend all of their time and any little money they have on alcohol instead of their families. Though it wasn’t a pretty sight to see it was a very authentic experience and seemed to show the rawness and another side of India:
The funeral we could not take pictures of out of respect, but it was a beautiful ceremony that also showed an aspect of life in India. There was a procession with a float in front of the boy’s house. The women of the family came out, and helped the mother circle round, and she was crying and sobbing. It was really difficult for me to watch. Meanwhile traffic carried on and it seemed very hectic. The boy was only 23 and he died from a motorbike accident. He was unmarried and that’s why they create a float for him, similar to the decor at a wedding – as a way for him to experience what he was not able to in life.
As we continued on, we walked along the shore, which was very serene, and then through the French quarter.
It was quite a day and I am exhausted!! But I’ll leave you with this final pic!!