Incredible India: The Diversity of Mamallapuram (continued)

I started up the second day early as couldn’t really sleep the last night – mosquitos absolutely tortured me down despite the anti0mosquito spray.

So the first thing after my mornings exercises was heading down to a supermarket along the main road where I got the local anti-mosquito spray, water, and an electric adaptor. After having a cup of masala chai with a fruit pancake at the guesthouse I went to explore the Stone Park.

At the entrance a local student came up and offered to give a tour “for free”. I knew where this was going, but agreed anyway. The guy was very knowledgeable and told many interesting facts about the Stone Park.

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Not far from the entrance there is one of the many temples carved out from a single rock. This is the Ganesh Temple dedicated to the elephant god of Ganesh, one of the many gods in Hinduism. I was lucky to witness puja – the ritual of worshipping Ganesh.

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Dogs relaxing in the shade of a superstone at Mamallapuram’s stone park. For a long time the stone was believed to present a danger due to its seemingly unbalanced position. Attempts were made at different times to bring it down. During their rule the British tried moving it with the power of 7 elephants. Yet the rock remained hard as a rock.

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From this side it’s clear why it looks terrifying.

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From this side the side the stone looks more balanced.

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A cave with representing some main gods in Hinduism. Also carved out from a single rock, this cave was created around in the 7th century, i.e. 1400 years ago.

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On some stones a line of small holes can be visible. This is the traditional technology for splitting the rock. In these small holes pieces of wood are inserted. The wood is then soaked into hot water several times. As a result it expands and splits the rock.

At the exit of the park a man approached my guide and had a conversation with me. I could only make out the word “police”. As it turned out, recently someone outside the town stole a camera from a tourist here. The police couldn’t find the offender, but the local community headed by guide did. As I was told it was important for them to restore the reputation of the town even though the criminal was from elsewhere. This is a good demonstration of the power of communities in India, and another great example how self-organized networks of people can perform state’s functions in a much more effective way.

Afterwards my guide invited me to his workshop, where of course he tried selling hand-made souvenirs. The souvenirs were fantastic, but I didn’t want to stretch my budget now as it was only the beginning of the trip. As a compromise I bought just a small good luck amulet (in the form of God Ganesh) for myself. Part of me understands that these guys are great psychologists from childhood and how to approach you. But the other part of me really liked the amulet, and it was cheap anyway.

After lunch and shower the next on my list was the famous Shore Temple on the coast. Most of all I enjoyed not the temple itself, but two other facts. First, I could hire a guide for 50 rupees versus 200 he asked for initially. So I started to feel more confident about bargaining. As it appears there’s no “bottom line”; it’s all about what you agree on. I will have a lot if practice in the coming days :).

And second, I came across a bunch of school children from another state who were visiting the temple on an excursion. They were really enthusiastic about my presence even though they could hardly speak English. They laughed a lot when I was saying “Hi” and “Bye”, and a lot of them asked to touch me, which I allowed. It was funny :).

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One of today’s best moments: with school kids from the state of Kanataka at the Shore Temple, Mamallapuram. If you wanna feel like a popular movie star, go to India

On the way back I met two of my new friends from yesterday – first Ravi and then Denis with whom we had a local dinner. This time I tried masala dosa, a pancake stuffed with mashed potato and lentils. It was huge, tasty, and cheap.

I came to see Denis’ place in a calm remote area, and ran into the same kids from the Shore Temple on the way back 🙂 Tomorrow both Denis and I are going to Puducherry, part of the former “French India”. Denis will come back, while I’ll stay there and then continue my exploration trip across southern India.

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