Incredible India: The Diversity of Mamallapuram

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Lakshmi Cottage – a simple and clean guesthouse in Mamallapuram where I spent two days. Lakshmi is a goddess of wealth in Indian mythology. Hence the name has a business idea behind it.

The town of Mamallapuram, although quite small, is quite diverse. You experience the hustle-bustle  of everyday Indian life – intense traffic, many people dodging on scooters, cows and goats roaring the area, street sellers inviting to visit their shops – as well as visit such landmark stonework sites as the Shore Temple, Arjuna’s Penace, or just simply wander along the beach (quite dirty, I must admit) or the town’s (actually more like a bog village) streets.

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Mamallapuram, a town 60 km south of Chennai, is famous for its stone carvings, ranging from small souvenirs made by local artisans up to whole temples and caves made from a single rock (!). An example of such a religious carving is Brahman’s representations at the local “stone park”. From left to right: Brama (Creator), Shiva with the symbol of fertility (Destroyer), and Vishnu (Preserver).

I first went to the Shore Temple which, as it turned out, was about to close in one hour. The admission fee was 250 rupees for foreigners, so I decided to come back earlier the following day.

On the way street sellers were approaching me as usual. One of them drew my attention. The person’s name was Ravi; he turned out to be a very interesting person and a stone sculptor. There are many sculptors in the town; you can even learn the trade in 4 years in a local vocational college. Ravi and I had a solid conversation about life sipping tea with milk.

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Some typical stone-carved exhibits on the streets of Mamallapuram.

While we were talking, Ravi’s friend approached us – Denis from Russia, another interesting character with an interesting destiny. Towards the evening all of us had a vegetarian dinner at the oldest restaurant in town.

Afterwards Ravi left, while Denis and I went for a walk in the night town. We passed by Anjuna’s Penace – a marvelous Stone Park which I would explore in detail the next day – and ended up in a Shiva temple, where the local religious guru treated us with a lemon drink and explained what the temple represented.

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The moon takes a horizontal shape in India. Here it is referred to as “Shiva’s smile”.

Then we strolled the town, along the beach, and back in town. I was amazed that in the evening the traffic seemed even more intense. I had to be always aware of the scooters flying by. It looked like the most popular means of transport in town. In the evening the town had a special atmosphere – busy yet somehow at the same time relaxed. I was so impressed that decided to spend one more day here. Another impact came from Denis who convinced me to visit the Stone Park and the Shore Temple.

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They say after visiting India you’ll either love it or hate it. After the first day my relationship is unclear. What is for sure is no other country has given me so many emotions and impressions in so little time. For now my belief is that India’s main asset is not her size, nature, or diversity, but her people.

 

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