Pondy wakes up at sunrise but everybody is quiet like they sleepwalk. People pack the promenade jogging, stretching, doing yoga posture or meditation, or just simply quietly chatting. Kids are starting their play day and roam all over. But after 2-3 hours when the sun is up and hot the promenade is completely deserted like nobody was ever there.
I walked in the morning in the city, on the shaded streets with French writers names all the way to an area where there are Tamil houses preserved like before. It is just one block, with trees completely covering the street and the balconies or open porches of the houses. When I tried to walk on the parallel street, just one block away, the mayhem was in full swing and I gave up.
I stopped at Le Cafe, on the beach, for breakfast with a good coffee and pane au chocolate admiring the Gulf of Bengal, completely flat at that hour.
Returning to the hotel I met again Nicholas. First he sent one of the boys on scooter to check what is going on with the strike. Yesterday it was a strike and the buses did not run and the shops were closed. The Tamil population was protesting against the policy of the Sri Lanka government who used terrorist tactics against them. I heard about the way they got rid of the leader of the Tamil Tigers and some people here suspected an American involvement with advisers and technology. The strike was on hold, or on and off, so the buses were running and we continued the discussion from where we left it yesterday, He told me how he sold his bar and moved with three kids from a place near Lyon to Pondicherry with all the challenges associated. He knew the settled life in France and he wanted to see what is next. You never know if the “NEXT” is good or bad and for sure any NEXT that comes will not be easy but is an experiment on your own soul and this may add new dimensions and understanding to your life. You can sit tight and accumulate many toys but one day you will leave all the toys behind and emerge only with what was deposited in your soul. What is there is your only asset!
But talking about toys I was looking the night before at some bronze statues and after the regular haggling, I ended up purchasing one that will be shipped to NYC around middle of April. Pondy has remarkable bronze artists and you can get very good work but also lots of stuff made cheaply and fast for the numb re of tourists that abound.
I got to the hotel to pick up my stuff. Nicholas went for lunch so I left him word that I will write and hoped in a tuk-tuk and at the bus station jumped in an AC bus that was just leaving on a highway to Mamallapuram (115R). It dropped me after 2 hours at the intersection and another tuk-tuk picked me up and brought me to a guesthouse that is relatively nice but not so clean. However with too much of a casual look I took it and left with the tuk-tuk to visit the temples but, as I quickly found out, you don’t need one for the visit, the temples being very close to each other.
Mamalapuram was a prosperous seaport during its tenure as a second capital of the Palava Kings that ruled Southern India, being also a strong religious and ceremonial place. The temple complex is mind boggling. The temples were built around 7-8 century AD and were carved in the granite of the mountain or in boulders that came from it. There are temples and caves, all embellished with roofs made and carved also from granite. The workmanship is superb.
There are several groups of temples but many of them are in a central area of the town, a sort of town park where you enter free of charge.
The Five Rathas are 5 temples in a complex, in front of them being carved an natural size elephant and a lion. Close by is Arjuna’s Penance, an astounding frieze of colossal dimensions cut in the side of the granite mountain that presents Arjuna’s penitence in order to be remarked by the Shiva. We visited the park’s temples and ended at the Shore Temple, whose base was completely flooded at the tsunami. Also, in 2004 the waves uncovered another temple that nobody knew about, somewhere at 8 km from here.
Mal, as the Mamalapuram is known by travelers, is a backpacker place full of guesthouses, restaurants and an incredible number of stores selling the regular tourist stuff, but also stone carvings for which the town is famous. With so many temples built here is no surprise that this is a trade in fashion. I walked a little bit the streets and ended up at the top of a restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Bengal for a excellent dinner of grilled fish.