Monday, February 6, 2012


Oh No! Monkey Alert!

Chariot for Festival

Spice Grinding

Monkey God

Holy Cow, he is licking our shoes!

We started out the day by going to a wonderful Temple complex near Badami. These temples, lakes and caves are all from the 4th to 7th Century when Chulukyan Empire ruled this area. Because of the terrain, temples have been carved into man-made caves. You climb ancient stone steps to reach the caves, wondering at how difficult it must have been to create these cave temples. Although most of the caves are Hindu, the top cave is Jain. As little as we understand Hinduism, we understand less about the Ancient Jain religion that is still practiced in India.

From the heights of the caves you can look down on the large man made lake and the Ghat (steps) leading down to the water. Everyday Indian women bring their laundry to wash. They beat the cloth against the ancient stones to remove the dirt and soap and then arrange the damp clothes in the sun on the stairs to dry. It makes an amazing giant quilt as you look down and the various colored saris drying in the hot sun. To add to the general exoticness of the site, families of monkeys roam the area, and occasionally try to steal some of the drying cloth. When this happens the women all shriek and huddle together to protect them selves from the attacking monkeys. The guard then picks up stones and throws them at the monkeys, sending them scampering away. We can’t exactly figure out why the women need to depend on the guards to throw stones, they are quite capable, and with all their beating of clothes I am sure they have very powerful arms to launch the stones, if the wanted. But it is a male dominated society, and I guess it is the males role to protect the women.

From the vista of the caves, high up in the hills you survey a region that is dotted with ancient temples that would require a real devotion and determination to reach.  This is the area in which the architecture of Hindu temples in the South were tested and worked out. One can see the progression of the architecture.

The day was hot and returned to the hotel for lunch and till rest until 3pm. We then went to an active Hindu Temple and complex. The complex was a Shiva Temple (actually lots of temples) where they provide free food. The Shiva devotes of this temple are extremely devout. They all wanted to either take our picture or have us take their picture. There is a natural spring that feeds a large pool (they would call it a tank) and this is where young people come to learn to swim.

We then drove to a market and walked among the stalls looking at the foods. Especially interesting were machines that ground the peppers and spices. They are very noisy and sort of reminiscent of something you would find in a shoe repair shop. They clanged and banged and made an incredible rhythmic sound.
The air however was so dusty and filled with the pepper smell that it was hard to breath.

 An annual festival was being celebrated the town and we decided to go to it. Stall upon stall filled with everything from cooking utensils to clothing to toys for kids. There was lots of street food and vendors cooking all sorts of things that smelled fantastic. The place was filthy, it had more flies then I have ever been around, trash everywhere, dust, fumes from the motorcycles, cars, busses and fires. We were choking and were ready to go. Beggars kept trying to get us to give them money. We have been repeatedly told not to give money to them and we didn’t. As bad as this all sounds, it probably was the closest have come to the real India, not the tourist India. It made us realize how lucky we are and how much farther India needs to go. The thousands of people at the festival appeared to us to be happy and going on about their lives. They probably can no more visualize our life style then we can theirs.

We took a tuk-tuk back to our hotel. They are always fun. We had a fantastic appetizer of peanuts before dinner. They sautéed the peanuts with onions, chili, tomatoes and garnished them with coriander. We are going to try making peanuts in this style at home.

We had dinner and had a long conversation with Lakuma who invited us to come to Chennai and stay at her house. We will take her up on this. So far on this trip to the South of India, we have been deep into Hindu culture. Tomorrow we leave our hotel and head out to look at the Muslim architecture and culture. I doubt we will have Internet and even more importantly I doubt we will have wine!

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