Sunday, 23-Oct-2005
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Sunday, 23-Oct-2005
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Saturday, 29-Oct-05
Sunday, 30-Oct-05
If you would like to see the Webshots album containing high-resolution versions of these photos plus all the other pictures I took on this day, click here.

Deva, the very kind driver who was with me on Saturday,  made sure he got to be the driver who picked me up on Sunday. We were happy to see each other. I was glad to see him because he's someone with whom I'm familiar, I suppose he was glad to see me because of the 500 Rupee tip I'd given him the day before. Nah... he just likes Americans, right?

Actually, Deva is a very good man. We chatted quite a lot and I learned a lot about Indian culture from him. He's a college graduate with a degree in economics. He's trying to get a government job but of course there's a long waiting list. It's like that in the States...

We talked for a bit about the caste system and the differences between India and America. He's torn between love of his own hometown of Chennai and a desire for the freedom and opportunity he's heard about in the US. He'd probably try to come to the US if his wife was more interested but he says she's dead set against it at the moment. It's quite understandable. How can a family pick up and move to another country? That's quite a life-changing experience. A lot of them do it but I don't know how they manage. I find it hard enough to change towns.

Today we went to The City of Gold, Kanchipuram. "Puram" means city or place and "Kanchi" means gold. Kanchipuram has 64 temples. Since it is not that big a city population-wise (as far as India goes) it must be sort of obsessive-compulsive religiously, eh?

We visited three of the 64 temples. The one on the right dates from the early 1800's and is made from formed concrete. It has weathered very badly. You can see the white tops are obvious replacements of towers that have probably simply fallen so badly into disrepair that they had to be torn down.

The national symbol of India is the lion and there are lots and lots of lions throughout this temple.

We had to go barefoot to tour the temple. Rules are rules! The stone floor was nice and warm in the India sun. The temperature on this day was about 90.

The photo on the left is from the courtyard inside the temple above. All these statures are made of cement and are badly weathered. At the far end of the photo you can see dark openings between the lions. They each have frescoes painted inside. All the frescoes are so badly weathered as to be nearly unrecognizable. It is a pity.

Here is a photo of me standing by the entryway. This lighter colored cement indicates to me that it is much newer than the other parts of this temple.

The photos don't show it but there was construction going on all around this particular temple.

Here we are at the second of the three temples we visited. This shot is from the "Hall of 100 Pillars", the marriage hall, looking out onto the pool. If you look closely on the far side of the pool you can see a woman washing her clothes on the steps of the temple pool. I asked our guide if that was a ceremonial washing and he said "No, she is just doing her laundry. The temple is open to all and some people do not have water available so them come here to do their wash." Interesting...

Just before I took this shot there were three men doing a ceremonial bath in the pillared area within the center of the pool. I usually don't take photos of that because I feel like it is disrespectful.

This is very interesting. At each corner of the temple there is a chain carved from a solid stone. Can you imagine the patience it took to carve it? Just amazing!
On the return trip from Kanchipuram, we stopped at the Sri Venkateswara Silks handcrafted silks shop. Quite a place to visit and lose a lot of your gold if you're not careful. Indians are skilled in the "hard sell".

All the silk items are made on site on looms like this one. This particular loom was set up to make a wedding sari with red silk and gold thread woven in a beautiful intricate pattern. I was told it would take 13 days to make this sari and Deva said saris can sell upwards of 20,000 - 50,000 Rupees. ($465 - $1162 USD)

I purchased 11 silk scarves here for 300 Rupees each (no bargaining). That equals about $7.25 each. Not bad. I gave Deva one of the scarves to give to his wife. It would represent a week's pay for him...

We ended the day at the St. Thomas Chapel. This is the newly renovated chapel which was visited by Pope John Paul in 1986.

Catholic tradition states that Thomas (that's the doubting Thomas of the Gospels) came to Chennai on a missionary journey in 52 A.D. He was martyred on a hill a few miles south of this chapel, which we also visited. His body is supposed to be buried at this chapel.

Personally, I find this a bit hard to believe but it is very interesting and I wanted to see it. I don't find any particular reason not to believe it but it was a total surprise to me to hear about this a few weeks before my trip. Chennai is a very, very long walk from Jerusalem. It is a very long boat trip. What was Thomas doing here? What other corroborating evidence is there of this journey? There's nothing about it in the Bible's Acts of the Apostles, I would have thought such a trip would get a mention there.

So I guess Thomas isn't the only doubter, eh?! But I am respectful of traditions and history and the beliefs of others. This was a place of prayer and worship. The chapel had many people in prayer at the time of our visit as did the chapel at St. Thomas Mount which we visit shortly after this. It was a very nice place and I'm glad to have been there.

If you would like to see the Webshots album containing high-resolution versions of these photos plus all the other pictures I took on this day, click here.

 

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