Monday, May 12, 2014

Pondicherry


Pondicherry is a mix of East and West.  It's s fairly small place, but was the largest French colony in India and there is still a very French influence in the old part of town with roads being called Rues and Boulevards and with French bakeries and old French houses.  French is still spoken by many people - including the children.    


We stayed in a lovely old villa that had been home to the French Governors.  It was just behind the present home to the Indian Governor and opposite a rather nice little park.



The beach and promenade run the length of the French Quarter.  Much of it is being restored, including Le Cafe, right on the front where we whiled away a few hours over food and drink watching the waves crash to the rocks beside us.


Right opposite the hotel was the Manakula Vinayagar Temple, complete with its own elephant Laxmi.



One day we went to the Chunnambar Boat House and took a motor boat across to Paradise Beach.  It was very quiet and very hot - and not much to do.  The waves in the Bay of Bengal were strong, and while we paddled a bit, it was certainly too rough to swim.




All in all, Pondicherry was a great place to spend a lazy, long weekend.

Auroville


After a day in Mamallapuram we set off for Pondicherry, with a stop in Auroville on the way.   Auroville is an interesting place.  It was founded by a French woman known as "The Mother" who was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo.   Auroville is designed to be a universal town, where people of all nationalities, politics and religions can live in peace and harmony.  Auroville has been endorsed by UNESCO and several thousand people from various countries (including India) live there.


In the centre of Auroville is the Matrimandir.  It's a place of meditation and silence and you can only see it from a viewing point if you are a visitor.  The area around the Matrimandir is being planted up as a garden and is knows as a peace area.  Flowers are supposed to have special qualities.  Inside the structure is a crystal ball which glows in the sunlight that reaches it from the top of the structure.  The surface of the Matrimandir is covered with gold disks.

Mamallapuram


Over a 5 day long weekend Lex and I went to Tamil Nadu.  We flew to Chennai, but having heard not very good things about it, we went straight from the airport to Mamallapuram, which was a place recommended to us by Kevin (a colleague at work).  This settlement dates back to the 7th century when structures were carved straight out of granite.  The most important structure is the Shore Temple, which was built around 700 AD.  It's different from most of the other buildings as it is not carved straight out of rock.


Other famous sights that we visited on our first afternoon were the Five Rathas.  These are five "chariots" which are sculptures carved out of stone.  There are also enormous stone animal carvings here too.  


It was an extremely hot day, and we walked around the monuments.  Another one we walked to was called Arjuna's Penance, which is also known as the Descent of the Ganges.  It's carved into an enormous rock on a hillside.  


We walked on over the hill and back to the town, and then down a little road to the beach where it was possible to look back at the Shore Temple.  


 The following morning we went out on a walk before setting off to our next destination, Pondicherry.  We climbed back up the hill behind the hotel and first of all went to Krishna's Butterball, a giant natural rock perched on the hillside.  There's also a lighthouse on the hillside and various pavilions, caves and carvings.