Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chennai & Mahabalipuram

So t'was P3's wedding and we arrived at Chennai by Shatabdi from Bangalore.  Getting off at Chennai central from an air-conditioned compartment is like falling from tundra to equator.  Then the taxi drivers appearing from no where in the melee and trying their luck in Hindi!  Chennai and Hindi! Probably wooing customers is the only reason why people speak in Hindi and then fleece you if you respond to them in Hindi.  Without caring much for them, we went to the prepaid taxi stand and got our tickets to Mylapore and got into two autos, which drove us straight to Andavam Ashramam on Desiga road and the driver was successful in making us pay up more.

Post lunch, we booked a taxi to Mamallapuram, a city 60km away from Chennai and better known as Mahabalipuram.  The drive on East Coast Road (ECR) was very smooth, undoubtedly TN roads are much better than those in Karnataka. We had a short stopover at crocodile park, a center for herpetology, which houses varieties of species of crocodiles, few snakes, tortoises and fishes.  Our next stop was at the parking lot of the famous "Five Rathas" archeological site in Mahabalipuram.  This site contains individual monolithic temples built by Narasimhavarman - I of Pallava dynasty.  It seems a huge rock was carved into different temples besides few animal shaped structures.  Though they're called Panchapandava rathas, they have no connection with Mahabharatha whatsoever.  The temples exhibit unique Pallava architecture with some beautiful reliefs on the walls and for all the history lovers and photographers it's a perfect place.

Next we stopped at Mahishasuramardini cave temple, before entering which we climbed a small hill which offers a panoramic view of the lighthouse & the beach.  It was the breezy and beautiful up there, we then descended towards the lighthouse to which entry is banned and finally the cave temple.  It's got some great relief work on Mahishasuramardini in action on one side and Vishnu resting on his  soft Shesha Naga couch on the other side.  This cave temple reminded me of the great Badami cave temples, I had been a few months before.  We also saw the "Descent of the Ganges", the loveliest and the most intricate open-air relief work on gigantic rocks with a cleft between them,  It depicts the descent of the Ganges from heaven and Arjuna's penance and it's the most remarkable artwork I have ever seen.

The heat was terrible, we were close to beach and the next best thing I could think of was chilling beer.  Imagine a couple of beer cans and wading in the salty waters in scorching heat of TN!  Damn! It was too liberal a thought for TN standards, the driver told us that the cops won't allow us and all my dreams dissolved.  We went to Shore Temple next which was being renovated and hence closed, it's pretty much like the "Five Rathas" but much bigger in scale and it's a solo temple.  It seems the rough sea and the salt are affecting the temple quite badly. We walked in the courtyard pondering weather to head to Pondicherry or to beach or back to P3's pre-marital rituals and chose the last one.

The following day, after the wedding, we walked around Kapaleeshwarar temple area and I just loved it.  Even though it was sultry, I liked the warm evening sunshine illuminating the streets and bringing the colours to life.  Streets were less crowded than Bangalore, I could sense a beautiful culture there - people visiting temple, some haggling with road-side peddlers & some busy sipping their evening tea. It was a great time for some street shots.  We entered the mighty Kapaleeshwarar temple, I'm not too much of a religious guy, but I loved the temple wholeheartedly, maybe because it's a temple of antiquity, unlike the ones in Bangalore wherein every new layout formed will have a temple with a pale concrete structure with no artwork whatsoever.  We rounded the Kalyani in front on the temple and it was a great experience to click the fresh vegetables & fruits sold on the roadside.

All said and done Chennai still is not that inviting for us Bangloreans mainly because of the weather.  A short visit like this is an ideal thing to do, thanks P3 for all the accommodation and booze he arranged and also that unforgettable "yenro neevu tindi tintira vapas hogtira, coffee kuditira vapas hogtira, oota maadtira vapas hogtira...".  I wish him an eternal married life.   About photographs, a keen observer would immediately notice that the aspect ratio of the photographs in this blog post is different from that of others, it's mainly because all photographs were shot using my wife's Canon SD1100IS (Buy it here:  Canon PowerShot SD1100IS 8MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom) which has an aspect ratio of 4:3 and not my 20D (aspect ratio 3:2).


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