Friday, March 2, 2012

Monolithic Sculptures Of Mahabalipuram

View Pondicherry-Mamallapuram-Chennai in a larger map
Mahabalipuram, is located on the beautiful East Coast Road connecting Pondicherry to Chennai. This is the capital of the Pallava Kings and they have left a mark on this area that has stood the test of time.

If you go to Pondi there is no way you can not visit Mahabalipuram. We set out to the Pondi bus stand early in the morning and towards Chennai. As per the suggestion on the internet we got into a local bus which took the scenic ECR road. I hate public transport in the south especially the rural crowd for the lack of sense of hygiene of the people. Here however we were surprised to see this bus route is almost like the Pune-Mum commuters route.  We bought our tickets for Mahabalipuram and were told that we would have to hop off the bus on the ECR road and then take an Autorickshaw to the monuments sites. The ride was enjoyable and people loud, animated and funny.

At the Mahabalipuram milestone we hired a rick that would shows us around and drop us off at the bus stand from where we could proceed to Chennai.  We reached the first site of the pancha rathas and I looked at my watch, it was 11.30 am, we could afford only 2 hrs in Mahabalipuram. This was going to be a touch and go trip I sensed, especially for this wonderful heritage site. We were scheduled to board the train to Blr from Chennai at 5pm on the day. Anyways we decided to make the most of it.
The Pancha rathas are Monolithic chariots carved in pink granite and at first I was fooled by the color and thought  it was sandstone. These Rathas were built in the 7th century in the reign of the Pallava king Narasimhavarman. Though these rathas are not related to the Mahabharat times there is one each named after the five Pandava brothers and their queen Draupadi. The architecture is Dravidian with buddhist influences

This is the largest rock in Mahabalipuram with carvings relating the Mahabharat. It shows Arjun performing penance hence the place gets its name.

Just a little further down is a huge rock which almost looks suspended, it might just roll down with a slight push you think. It is lovingly called Lord Krishna's butter ball, and now there you see me posing to grab it.

From here we went to the hilltop where the lighthouse is located. There are some interesting shrines around this area.

On the shore of Mahabalipuram is one of the seven pagodas that has remained intact and escaped swallowing up by the sea, inspite of the assault of the tsunami waves is the temple dedicated to the Sheshanarayan. This temple shows the wearing of the stone by the harsh sea. The structure is unique with a double walled structure that protects the sanctorium and barely lets 2 people walk around side by side, nevertheless it is a majestic site.

We walked back to the bus stop and hopped on to the volvo to Chennai and then took the Shatabdi at 5pm to Bangalore. The on board service on Shatapdi was excellent and made this trip even more memorable.

Here take look at more pics from this trip...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Auroville: A City For Humans To Unite

Auroville is a remarkable place, its heart marked by the Matri Mandir. It's a shiny globe, reflecting the sun, each of the petal on which it is mounted is an expanse of greens manicured to the hilt. From the sighting spot you rest under a tree and take in its beauty and wonder what would be the experience inside. Well you can book a time in advance here, there are certain days on which concentration is not available but on most other days after a brief cleansing ritual you might get an opportunity to go inside and concentrate.

The geographical center of Auroville is a banyan tree. It was a lone tree on this once barren land that is now a lush green wooded city. This is a continuously evolving city, with a motto


"Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity."

We went to the visitor's center and got our permissions to see the place. Walking thru the woods to see the Matri Mandir, at every few yards there were people to guide visitors.

We briefly rested under the Banyan tree

The entire walk is shaded, sometimes thru pergolas 

After the Matri Mandir we returned to the visitor's center, starved and ate at the cafeteria only after satisfying our appetite for shopping first.

My loot from Auroville, pottery distinct and characteristic

I also bought cotton shirts for the men in the family and a lace top for my SIL. I picked a beautiful pair of pearl earings for myself. Everything here has a melting pot effect. The influences of the 40 different nationalities of people living here is clear in the charachter of Auroville.

The food is continental at the cafeteria and we gorged on the superb platters, one of Rice croquettes with caponata sauce, salads, soup and a payasam and the other of  Mushroom tart, salads and potato wedges. This washed down by lots of lemonade. We polished of the meal with a caramel custard!

We wanted to see more of Auroville but because of the misinformation that vehicles are not allowed in Auroville we did not hire a cab for the entire day and that made it difficult for us to move around. Auroville's main roads does permit vehicles and it is a huge expanse so you do need a vehicle to go around. In the  wooded areas only bicycles are permitted. If you know cycling nothing like it. Else if you are like me who can't then you must have your own\ rented vehicle or walking around to the far corners is out of question. I know there is more to Auroville to be explored at another time...

That evening we came back to Pondi and spent rest of the time at the Promenade and  the by lanes of the French quarter.