Chennai & Dakshina Chitra, India
Chennai Travel Blog› entry 3 of 5 › view all entries
Back on the East Coast Road to Chennai I visited Dakshina Chitra, another recommendation by Ashok and Atül. The place was a wonderfully interesting open air museum where some 25 typical buildings from the Indian states Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala had been rebuild. There was also a 15 minute movie about the way people from these different Indian states lived and the rituals around the house. All highly informative and entertaining as well, as were the two school classes of small kids that were having an excursion at the park. I must have looked remarkably much like Steve Irwin risen from the dead with the hat I'd bought in Tibet last year and my brown/green shirt and pants. I however doubt if that was the reason why they sometimes seemed to find me more interesting that the exhibitions. I lost count of the number of times I said 'hello' and 'hi'.
The staff of Dakshina Chitra has organised quite a nice and active program for the kids. Part of this program was Thomas, a magician who started talking to me while I was taking a rest in the shade. After explaining where The Netherlands was located he informed me that he was a magician, here to entertain the kids. I asked him if he was about to perform and he invited me to come into the activity hall so he could show me a couple of trick. Now, don't expect any David Copperfield, but he did have me baffled by some of the tricks that were at least beyond my kiddy-magic-box level of knowledge. Unfortunately the kids were coming in, so he wasn't able to show me more. And because I didn't want to draw away the attention from his performance, I'd thought I'd better leave. ;-)
Dakshina Chitra gave a nice impression of the diversity of India with houses ranging from the simple coastal huts of Andhra Pradesh to the luxurious merchant houses of Tamil Nadu. One of the most remarkable things I learned was how Hindu houses come with a small inner courtyard in the middle that seems to be related to the Hindu belief that the universe is square in form.
(Click on the pictures above to view the full photo album)
By now the temperature had risen dramatically, as had my water consumption. It must have been between 12 and 1 o' clock when we made our way back to Chennai, where George had a couple of additional surprises for me in store. Along Marina beach, with it's 13 km one of the world's longest beaches, we headed for Fort St. George. Chennai was once one of the first outposts of the British East India Company and Fort St. George was the local stronghold. Although not overtly remarkable the place is a little town in itself and still houses the administrative seat of the state Tamil Nadu. We saw the exhibitions in the museum, including coins, paintings of British officials, mortars, suits and tableware. Nice but unless you have thoroughly read about British-Indian history (I haven't) it's hard to put it all into context. We also saw the small St. Mary church, which was most remarkable for the many memorial marble slabs and the tombstones of the officers that had died while serving at Fort St. George.
Next, George showed me Santhome Cathedral Basilica. Thomas had been one of Jesus' apostles and had died in the Chennai region. Again, I'm not all that interested in Christian icons but this was still rather interesting, and taking into account that George was a Christian himself and his brother was studying in Rome to become a priest I was glad to know that it meant something special to him. The lovely white church had a nice wooden ceiling that I've never before seen in a church. Below the church lay the chapel with the tomb of St. Thomas, which we also visited.
Seeing that I was getting tired George decided to call it a day, but not before we had visited a shop with lovely statues. They were rather expensive but I was planning to buy my regular small country related statue anyway. I found a lovely Ganesh statue, haggled a bit but not too much (lack of energy and I didn't mind if George was getting some commission as well) and off we went, back to the hotel. Tomorrow we'd visit Kanchipuram and we agreed to leave at 8 o' clock. Leaving sooner, like we did today, was no option since the temples would not be opened yet.
I ended up staying in my room for the rest of the day. I was so tired I slept two hours and after showering I didn't really feel like going out to a restaurant. I ordered room service instead. Picking something from the long list of room service menu's proved to be a challenge. I'd like an Indian dish but the names and descriptions of the meals left me in doubt if I would like it. So I opted for a chicken burger with fries instead. And a wonderful one it was, McDonalds would be jealous. Then again, which burger isn't better than a McDonald's burger (the news today included an item on one of the Indian McDonald's in Calcutta exploding because of a malfunctioning air conditioning). While a thunderstorm was sweeping the streets of Chennai clean outside, I updated the journal, chatted an hour with Judith (via Skype) and watched a DVD I had taken along. I then went to bed, planning to start the next day with a refreshing dip in the roof terrace pool.