We arrived in Chennai (Madras for the old folks)we with very little agenda. The main goal here was to meet my niece Shobhana’s daughters Ruchira 27) and her sister Anupama (23). They came for breakfast on Saturday Dec 23rd and we had really a wonderful visit.
The older girl is the Assistant Editor for a daily newpaper called Deccan Chronicle. She was quite busy because of the Christmas season. (This town has about 10% christian population and was one of ths eary footholds of the East India company as they made their way north.)
The hotel was set to celebrate Christmas in style. We ate dinner on Christmas eve, and the dinner was very well prepared and we had to wait to get dinner as they were taking pictures of the arrangements probaby for their catalog.
The next morning we took off by a cab to Kancheevaram an old city with wonderful temples and is well known in India for silk and bronze work. It is a really small town (~ 50,000 people). The main temple had been closed for the day due to the death of the priest. We were able to go around the temple. This town is a major pilgrim canter and often called Varaani of the south. It has many many temples (nearly 200 of them built over 25 centuries. It is also known for its unsual silk and bronze, The main temple was built in honor of Shiva and Vishnu. There are also reminders of Jainism and Buddhism until 4 AD when Hindusim took over and now dominates the landscape.
Closeby is another old temple now somewhat in ruins built for Lord Vishnu. This tenple was built in 1500’s when the kingdoms here were very strong and scultopture had royal patronage. This temple had some of the classic works we saw earlier in our trip in Karnataka.
After a quicklunch, we went to a seaside place called Mahabalipura. This town was used as a laboratory for artists who later worked on the temples described in the previous paragraphs. This area is pretty unique indeed. It was hit by the tsunami in 2004, but very little damage was done to the area. Kanchi is on par as a hoy city with Benares (where Ganges flows north), Ayodhya (where Lord Rama was born), Mathura (where Krihna was born), Dwarak (where Krishna was taken to the area to spend his childhood years). Ujjain, Haradwar (where Ganges descends from the Himalaya’s and water is very pure ). Kancheevaram has a special type of silk that was orginally used to dress up Devadasis (women who danced in temples), today women all over India long for silk from Kanch providing employment for nearly 25,000 people.
The major feature of Mahabalipuram is tha sculpture on large boulders that tell stories from ancient times. On a giant rock, we saw a huge rouck almost round just standing. The round eock called Krishna’s butter ball is nearly 30 feet in diameter. Over the years people have tried to move it without any success. Even the tusami (ocean is only 1000 feet away would not budge it. The English tried with horse, other as well but no budging of this rock. By the seashore there are carvings that were the laboratory for work at Kanchi. Life size elephants have carved of single stone and looks very real indeed.
We went back Chennai and stayed next day and relaxed and drove to Pondicherry.