Cows were everywhere
Today was Erin's first day to go explore so we had to find something fun to do. We rented a hotel taxi for the day which cost about 3200 rupees ($70), pretty good deal. We decided to go to Mahablipurum which is about an hour south of Chennai. Mahablipurum is known for having awesome temples that date back to the 7th century!
The drive out was an eye opener, we had to drive through many slums that really was gut check. The areas were very poor and everytime we would stop at a light, mothers and children would tap on the windows begging for food and money. It was a sad thing to see but a good reminder of how lucky we all are and how much we all really have. Once out of the slums the mood picked up a lot, with traffic coming to a stop for cows and goats every so many miles, it was hard not to laugh.
Cows eating out of the garbage in the slum area
We passed a cricket match going on and stopped and snapped a few photos, this was fun to watch, really confusing but fun.
We arrived at Mahablipurum and right away were bombarded by street tour guides. Not knowing what there really was to do in mahablipurum we decided to hire a guide, not really having a choice because they were EXTREMELY pushy and were in the car before we could even make up our minds. Our guide was an older gentlemen who's English was fair, but good enough to understand 75%. After driving through the village for few minutes and getting to the first temple we were glad we hired a guide because we had no idea what anything was. We shortly changed our mines once out of the car. The first place we went to was Krishna's Butter Ball, and huge round rock on the side of a hill that looks like it is about to roll down.
This was really interesting except for the fact that our guide didnt want us to go too close or be in the sun too long. On a side note, let me explain the tour guides, they do not work for a company, they are just locals that no the history and have better English than everyone else. Back to the butter ball, we could tell that this wasnt going to be fun in the first five minutes with our guides because he was very pushy. He would say "stand here and take a picture, okay now come here, now come here." For Erin and I, this was very annoying, we wanted to keep going at our own pace and definitely not get told where to take pictures. Again, back to the butter ball, this rock supposedly is stuck where it is because it's center of gravity, a long time ago a king tied 7 elephants to it and they couldnt move it! The butter ball and all the other things we saw today are all granite.
Krishna's Butter Ball
The next thing we walked to was a temple for I think Krishna's three wives, I was starting to get so frustrated with being where to stand and where to take pictures I wasnt listening. It has three tombs that has the women carved inside with great detail. Then on the outside there were guardians carved around the rock. Right next to this was a boulder that was just getting started but never finish. All the carvings we saw were made from one big rock, this boulder that wasnt finished showed you how they started their work. First they would chissel a small whole down the line of a rock, then put stick and wood in the hole, then pour boiling water in the holes making the wood expanding and lastly pouring cold water in the hole making that rock crack.
Krishna's Butter Ball
It was a really good technique and would have been really interesting to see, I couldnt imagine moving all the broken pieces away without a crane or something. We then moved to the Varaha cave temple, this was a large shrine where people could pray. It had big lions carved into the pillars who were supposed to represent guardians of the shrine.
By this time tempers were running short, Erin and I were trying to figure out how we were going to lose the guide but then if we did that we would have no idea where our driver was at and we'd be lost in this big village. Arjuna's Penance was our next stop. This was really cool because it was a rock about 50 feet tall that had all kinds of things carved in it. We werent really sure what it meant but it had to do something with the god Shiva.
The cool thing about it was that you could look at it and it had so much going on that you could create your own story, or two. Look at the pictures and see if you can see the two different images carved into one pillar. After leaving this place we had to meet back up with our driver because the next place was too far to walk. Yes! Here's our chance to rid our guide, once we got in the car we told our driver we didnt want him anymore so he kindly told the man his services were no longer needed. Thank God!
Now that we had our freedom back we had a whole new attitude toward the day. Our next place up was called the Five Rathas or Five Charriots. These looked like small houses that had been carved out of individual boulders. Each one had its own story and its own kind of guardian.
The five rathas belonged to gods named Duga, Shiva, Vishnu, Brama and Ingra. Duga's ratha had a big lion that she would ride and then a huge buffalo behind. Each one had it's own stile but Vishnu's was by far the biggest and Brama's was the only one that wasnt finished.
The last place we stopped and walked around was called the Shore Temple, and you guessed it, it was a temple on the shore. This was probably the most beautiful place we went to today. It was nice an cool with the breeze coming off the ocean and there werent too many people. This temple was a shrine for Shiva and Vishnu. Sadly we couldnt see inside because they had big doors blocking off the entrances. You could peer through the doors and one you could see one of the gods laying down and the other one was sitting indian style, no pun intended.
How they would break boulder apart.
We grabbed some lunch at a local restraunt and thanks to the Sinha's, I have perfected eating with my hands. You would think I was a local if my complection wasnt so pasty. Erin wasnt to sure about eating with her fingers but she broke down and did it...I was so proud.
On the way home we stopped at a marble carving factory. It was just a few huts put together but was really cool to watch. The men would start with a huge chunch of marble and slowly chissel away with nothing but a hammer and a few different sized chissels. It was really amazing to sit and watch them for a few minutes. You could buy them there for a really reasonable price but they were too heavy to bring back, a little sculpture about a foot tall probably weighed 50 pounds.
not sure what temple this is
They had sculptures that were 10 feet long 10 feet tall, probably selling outside of Mahablipurum for thousands and thousands of dollars. Also on the way home we stopped at the St. Thomas Cathedral where St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles tomb layed. It was a relaly beautiful church and there just so happened to be a wedding going on. When we first got there a young man handed us each a candle and waved us to follow him. We assumed he worked at the cathedral because he was guiding us through the chapel while the wedding was going on and then led us outside to a statue of Mary where you can light a candle and place it by the sculpture. After we did this he stood there with his hand out expecting us to pay him for that 2 minute tour.
Varaha's cave temple
I tell you, everyone is trying to take our money here. We just stick out like sore thumbs.
Once we got to our hotel we had to lay down and rest for awhile because it was a long and hot day. We decided we better get some dinner before the 3rd place world cup match was on at midnight. A friend of ours told us about a tapas restraunt here that was supposed to be real nice so thats where we decided to go. Leaving our hotel, we figured we would get a taxi, not a hotel taxi because you have to rent them for at least two hours, just a normal taxi. For some reason we couldnt get one so we ended up having to ride a rick shaw. I was really excited about this but let me tell you...Erin was not. A rick shaw is a little motorcycle that has a cart connected to it.
inside wall of Varaha's temple
They are supposed to be really dangerous and by what Ive seen the past couple of days, I'd agree, but it was our only option. All the excitement I had built up to ride one was shot down trying to comfort Erin during the ride. We got there safely and had an awesome dinner. They had really good non-Indian food whch Erin enjoyed and really good music. One floor was a restraunt and the other floor was kind of a bar/club. After staying for a couple hours we headed back to the hotel and watched the match in one of hotel bars. It was a long day and a long night!