If you wish to see the Webshots album containing high-resolution
versions of all these photos plus all the other pictures I took on this
After working on Friday I was able to play tourist for the weekend.
Normally this would be at my own expense but the operations manager at Brooks
graciously decided to pay for a
car and driver for me. The cost was about $50/day. Can you imagine what
"limousine service" like this would have cost in the U.S.? I had an
English-speaking driver at my disposal from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Now... where to go?!
The hotel (Days Inn Deccan Plaza) has a "Travel Guide"
desk so I asked for some advice. I said I wanted to see some
temples and other architecturally interesting places. I
mentioned the Mahabalipuram Park that a co-worker had
visited on a prior trip so he suggested some other sites to
see on the way. It turns out, according to my driver/guide Deva that most of these sites were places of interest for
children! Ah well. "Communication is the problem to the
|Deva showed me this statue of Vishnu made of one
solid piece of stone. They really get into that 'round here.
That is, making things out of one piece of stone. You'll see
more of that later.
This particular statue is about 60
feet high and carved out of a marble-like stone. I'm
standing as close as Deva said I was allowed to get.
Throughout my tours of the various holy places, I
remained very respectful. When I visited the temples in
Kanchipuram (translation: City of Gold) the next day, I was
required to remove my shoes and socks to walk around the
grounds. No problem...
||I did stop at the Alligator Park on the way to
Mahabalipuram. It was a bit of a bore
and poorly maintained. If you've seen one sleeping gator and you've seen'm all. It only cost 40 Rupees to get in ($1 USD) so
what the heck!
I walked around for maybe 10 minutes while
Deva waited out in the car.
I should mention here that Deva is a skillful driver.
That is we weaved through the maze of cars, motor scooters,
ox carts, holy cows (yes, holy cows!) trucks, pedestrians,
sleeping dogs and potholes at breakneck speed without a
scratch! I decided early on that I was just going to sit
calmly and not worry 'bout a thing! So I just sat back and
enjoyed the show. It was, ah... interesting.
We rode in a new model "Ambassador" sedan which is the
only model car still made in India. It reminded me of the
old Morris Minor we had when I was a kid. It has a stylish
British look to it.
|After an hour and a half of fairly light traffic (for
India) we arrived at Mahabalipuram Park. This park is by the
sea and was flooded by the tsunami last December. We passed
by several clusters of thatched huts where people were still
living at subsistence level nearly a year later. I read in
the paper that the generosity of the government has been
misplaced and heard the same thing from a co-worker at
Brooks. The government has provided upwards of 200 fishing
boats where before there were only 125... there's no one to
run them! And donations of clothing by citizens has been
outstanding but... they don't need clothes, they need
material to build themselves new homes! Strange. (Where's
The photo to the right show's me standing in front
of Krishna's Butterball. The rock looks round from this side
but is actually football shaped. The backside projects way
out so it is well balanced, it won't roll down the slope!
||To the left of Krishna's Butterball is this 40 foot
high, 100 foot long base relief sculpture. Amazing. For the
walk through the park, Deva hired a guide for me. It cost
400 Rupees or nearly $10.- This is quite expensive. Deva
told me later that he makes 50 Rupees per day as a cab
driver. (I paid him a 500 Rupee tip each day. I also learned
that the two tips I gave him will pay his rent for the
The carvings tell a lot of stories but I can't
remember them. You can look them up on the internet if
you're interested in reading more about it. The guide was
very knowledgeable and made the walk through the park quite
"Mahabali" was the name of a king
who made his home
in this city and since "Puram" means "place" the city's name literally
mean's "Mahabali's Place".
|As I mentioned, the Indians are "really into carving
things from one rock". At Mahabalipuram Park all the
carvings, including these 5 temples, are carved from a
single stone. In fact, the two temples in the center of this
shot (behind the elephant) are both carved from a single
rock. Amazing. It took 200 years to create these temples.
They date from 600 to 800 A.D.
The temples look very
impressive in the photos but when you get closer they are
quite weathered and not very finely detailed. Granite is a coarse
stone and does not lend itself to fine detail. However when
you stand there and "soak it in" for a while, you become
amazed at the amount of effort it took to create these
monument/temples. It took generations of work with hand
tools with probably hundreds of people. It is very
||Just to give you a little feel for the street life of
Chennai, here is a shot from inside the car on the ride back
to the hotel after the visit to Mahabalipuram Park.
Actually, traffic is light today because it's Saturday.
Take special note of the little vehicle to the far right,
it's called an "Auto-Rickshaw". It has a motorcycle style
front wheel and steering with two back wheels. You can
squeeze two or three (or more) people on the seat in back.
They serve as taxis and there are hundreds of them
scrambling around the city. I'm told it costs around 30
Rupees to get from my hotel to work and back. That's good to
know because I'm also told that this will be my way of
getting back and forth to work.
Wish me luck! I'm going to try it for the first time
|If you wish to see the Webshots album containing
high-resolution versions of all these photos plus all the
other pictures I took on this day, click