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Vellore, India

25 Mar
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Sri Mahalakshmi Temple, Vellore’s Golden Temple

The bus to Vellore was ready to go and I got a seat in front right under the TV and watched all the way a Bollywood movie, that in US would be considered naive but probably it was a great hit in India. The ride took a little more than 2 hours (37R) and in Vellore I asked a tuk-tuk to bring me to a good hotel. This notion is not so easy to pass to a tuk-tuk driver. The bottom line is that we drove the entire town and during this time I saw rooms that were incredible that they exist. The places were drab and some were completely dirty, the keeper trying to explain that he washed everything afresh. It may have happen sometime but the way they looked it was probably latest done in the 90s. They looked like cells in a jail and when I walked away he insisted in showing me some other rooms, all the same, that did not have mattresses just the base wooden plank of a bed. I asked the driver to look for way better places to stay and he went to an older built hotel, quite expensive, that did not have a shower spout  in the bathroom and I was told that only Deluxe room have showers. The room with shower had an AC unit that I could bet was louder than a 747 and the guy wanted to charge double, “super deluxe room, Sir”, no matter that it looked like being used last time by the Brits before they left India.  In the end, when I almost thought about leaving the town, we ended up in Darling Residency and all the problems were solved. The place is a “Darling” with impeccable rooms, breakfast included and wifi complimentary and you cannot stop loving it after all what you saw in town.
After getting settled with the paperwork I hopped in another tuk-tuk (250R RT) and I went to visit the Golden Temple in Sripuram, a village outside of Vellore. I had serious doubts to come and visit it because the temple is a brand new built, sometimes in 2007 I guess if not earlier. Its construction raised some controversy when the main temple was covered in 1.5 tons of gold…
The temple was built by an enterprising local guru, obviously a very shrewd businessman besides his spiritual qualities, Sri Shakti Amma and is dedicated to Lakshmi Narayan, being named Mahalakshmi Temple.
No matter what you see in India this temple would impress and not necessarily by the amount of gold on his roofs and columns. I was literally blew away by it.
First, the organization is astounding. It has stands for leaving all your luggage, separate for shows and separate for any valuables that are all tagged with unique tickets. You are not allowed with any electronic in the temple, so even the cellphones should be deposited, everything being clearly labeled in English .
Second, the general darshan, the way to access the temple, is controlled in such a way to last longer and was estimated when i came at 45 minutes but a ticker was announcing 3 hours, so the main result was that many pilgrims were buying the fast access one for 250R, a sure way to make the money to cover the costs.
You enter the temple and the alley that brings you from the gate close to the temple, guarded by the covered walks, skillfully winding through lots of gift shops in an American way, is about 3/4 km. In its middle has working fountains and Chinese lamps all the way to the temple .
When you are done with this alley you enter a six pointed star, that has 12 arms that will bring you the darshan. The entire start walk is about 1.5 km, on covered corridors guarded by plaster columns, with water stands and toilets, everything impeccably clean. The walk has on its side quotes from Sri Amma and a whole propagandist material about his charitable work. For sure he knows how to promote himself because wherever you go is all about him and his work: photos, posters, panels, stories, brochures, etc
The temple itself, completely covered in gold from the roof to the base of all its columns, is placed in the middle of the 6 pointed star in a pool of water and lit by iodine lamps in all its splendor. You continue you walk around it on another circular covered corridor admiring its gilded roof till you get to the darshan where you are hushed quickly away by the priests. The exist continues on the rest of the same 6 pointed star, through stalls selling albums and photos mainly with Sri Amma, exclusively sold here. It looks like is a huge operation and they keep a complete control of the enterprise. The exist again forces you through lots of gift shops and in the end a juice bar, before you reach another area where you can get your parsed but, even that, can be easily purchased in advance from various stalls for 15R.
In any case the experience was absolutely astounding. Sri Shankti Amma founded lots of humanitarian projects for the area including one hospital in Vellore, known as one of the best in India, The only photo that could be taken, and even that it said that is prohibited is from the outside of the main entrance.

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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Blog, India

 

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