Everyone needs to escape the city, especially Chennai. So a couple of weeks ago we travelled to Mamallapuram for a weekend of sun, sea and archaeology. Mallalapuram or Mahabalapuram (called Mahabs by tourists) is a two hour bus ride from Chennai. The bus ride costs 18Rs which is 50 cents NZ. Cheap definitely but public transport in India is an experience in itself (more on that later) what you don’t pay in money you pay in sweat, personal space and sometimes dignity.
We made it to Mahabs relatively unscathed and after some aimless wandering and coconut juice we made it to the beach.
I had my first swim in the Indian ocean. BLISS! The beach is not really paradise; there are piles of rubbish in varying states of decomposition with varying smells associated. Men also “subtly” roam the beach hoping to catch a glimpse of some exposed western flesh but it’s all worth it when you’re in the ocean
Mahabs is renowned for its fresh seafood, sadly we didn’t get to experience it, but we hear it’s good. Emma and I had a serious case of food envy when we got dry fish that had clearly been suffocated in garlic and nothing else.
The second ancient capital of the Pallava Kings has a lot more to offer than sun and sea. There are some ancient archaeological wonders that gave me an introductory taste of India’s rich history.
The Shore Temple
A World Heritage site, the shore temple is a beautiful temple sitting overlooking the sea. It was built in the 7th century and is a shrine to Shiva (the destroyer). When I first saw the carving I was a little underwhelmed until I remembered how old it actually was, then you appreciate how well preserved it is. The temple is also positioned in a perfect place because it gets a delicious sea breeze that offers some relief from the heat.
Some photos in and around the shore temple featuring Ammie, Shu and Emma.
When we were roaming…
A lotus pond with a water guardian in the middle. It also doubles as a laundry
Some of the locals..
Arjuna’s Penance- This is a beautiful relief carving etched into the cliff face. It’s alive with Hindu mythology but very hard to take it in at one time.
Penance in Hinduism doesn’t mean suffering to erase your sins; in fact it’s the opposite it’s suffering to gain a wish from the gods. You can see Arjuna (skinny guy in the tree pose) performing self-mortification to gain Shiva’s (I think he is the regal looking guy with his palm extended and the trident like thing) most powerful weapon, the god slaying pasupata.
A herd of elephants marching under an army of angels
Nagas (snakes beings) that are descending in a crevice which water once flowed down. There is also the cobra which represents the holy mother.
I’m not sure if this is comic relief but it’s a cat performing penance to some appreciative mice.
While picking our way through the ruins we found a fortune teller. It was impressive how my four years of scientific training in rational thought could be overcome by a physic parrot.
For 50Rs the small green parrot is released from his cage and he sorts through a pile of cards until he finds your fortune. Every one of us got a “verrrry verrry goods fortunes missus”.
Negatives of Mahabs- I got absolutely molested by mosquitoes; my exotic blood really gets them going. My skin also reacts in an interesting way to the bites. The bites form large red welts that get exponentially itchier as time goes on. After a day the bites turn purple and it looks like I have a weird skin disease (because I’m not unattractive enough with my sweat drenched, pink skin). I am not exaggerating when I say that my foot swell to twice its size The insane heat also means that sightseeing is difficult because there is only so much you can physically stand before you have to retreat to the beach.
Mahabs is a perfect escape from Chennai and a must see place if you are in Tamil Nadu. So much happens in a week in India it is exciting but hard to keep pace with blogging wise. Fortunately I got fired (over text) last Thursday so I have a bit of free time that I might use to get up to date. Thanks to everyone for the lovely comments, as you can see I still haven’t mastered the photo/text positioning and my writing is leaving a lot to be desired but I’m getting better. Once again leave me comments about anything you want to see (Ali, I’m working on an animals in India post). Until next time. xx