India page 2

Saturday 29 to Monday 31 December 2007, Amritsar, Punjab

The first thing we did in India was have some lunch. The choice was between potato sandwich covered in batter and fried, potato croquette, potato samoosa or potato burger. Not a great introduction to eating in India and thankfully not at all typical. We had intended to take a rickshaw to Attari, the border town and then a bus. However we managed to get a taxi to Amristar Railway Station for the price of 4 bus tickets. Much more comfortable. From there we caught the free pilgrims bus to the temple and settled into the Sri Guru Ram Das Niwas dormitory. This is free accommodation although donations are appreciated. The beds are hard with thin mattresses, thick duvets and no pillow. There is a bathroom with hot water and a bucket to have a bush bath. It is much better free accommodation than the Indians are provided with. They can collect a mat and duvet which they place in a courtyard or along the sides of the buildings surrounding the lake. At night the courtyard was covered in bodies. The complex is very busy and friendly without the real pushing and shoving that you would normally expect from such a large crowd. It was holiday time and their were many people there. The Golden Temple is surrounded by a lake which is surrounded by a marble tiled promenade, surrounded again by various buildings. Once you enter the surrounding area you have to remove your shoes and socks. The marble is freezing. There are carpet strips and coir matting strips but with the crowds it is not always possible to stay on them. Besides people sit on them to pray and just contemplate the serenity and tranquillity. You also have to walk through water to ensure your feet are clean. The water was warm but the coir matting on each side was wet and cold.

There is a free canteen serving food 24 hours per day. The organisation is amazing. There are two dining rooms, upstairs and downstairs. Everyone is given a metal plate, bowl and spoon and directed to the available room where they sit in rows on matting. Each row is filled sequentially from one end to the other. As a row is filled the food is brought along in buckets and dished up with ladles, Chapattis came in large baskets with each person being served two. Usually it was dhal (lentils) with chapatti. During lunch time a sweet dish is included such as sweet rice or semolina. Seconds were available for those who wanted. The dish is used for drinking water. Once the room had been filled people were directed to the other dining room. By this time the first rows were finished and had left taking their dishes with them. The cleaners then moved into action washing and drying the floor so that by the time the other dining room was full, the first dining room could be used. During busy periods the last rows were being cleaned as people started to move into the first rows. Dishes are handed in at the bottom near a large washing up area. Washing up is done in huge long sinks. The plates are washed twice. First in one sink then they are taken to another sink. Everything is drip dried. Usually the plates you are given are still wet. Sweet, spiced tea is served in a separate area after the evening ceremony of the book. I did not see the actual cooking of the food but the initial chopping etc is done in an open area. Everyone could chip in and help. I ended up shelling peas for over an hour. This was also very organised. The peas had been poured into two lines on the floor. People sat nearby and shelled peas onto plates. The shells were put nearby. As more people came to help unshelled peas were passed back on plates. Men came round with large bags collecting the peas or collecting the shells so the area remained reasonably organised. Men and women all worked together on the shelling and passing peas or shells through to the collectors. The atmosphere was peaceful, friendly and productive.

The ceremony of the book happens twice daily. The book is the original copy of the Sikh holy book called Guru Granth Sahib. It is kept under a pink shroud. In the morning it is taken from the Akal Takhat to the Golden Temple ( Hari Mandir Sahib) by sedan chair. In the evening it is returned to the Akal Takhat. Many men want the privilege of carrying the sedan chair with the book in it. This again is well organised. A path is kept open for the sedan chair. The men are allowed through by a guardian. They queue along the sides of the path and are given their turn of about 10 seconds each! To give everyone a chance there are 4 men to each pole. A guardian on either side directs them to the front or back of the sedan and once they have had a turn taps them and tells them to move to the middle and away. The ones in front walk back to the entrance, the ones at the back stay behind and follow the sedan. The sedan is preceded by a horn blower announcing progress. Once the book has left the Golden Temple the doors are closed and the cleaners move in. You have to be up really early to see the morning ceremony but I saw the evening ceremony twice.

The pool is surrounded by many shrines at which people pray. Men immerse themselves in the water to cleanse their spirit. I am not sure but I think there was an enclosed area for the women. There is much prostration before the temple with people touching the marble and then the foreheads. Something similar to the Coptics in Ethiopia with Muslim prayer movements included. All day there is chanting from the holy book.

I spent most of my time wandering around the temple. However I did visit the Jallianwala Bagh, a park which commemorates the 2000 Indians who were killed or wounded there by the British authorities in 1919.

I had a lovely time at the temple but the limit on staying in the free accommodation is 3 days and it was time to move on.

Golden Temple (Hari Mandir Sahib) surrounded by the Pool of Nectar (Amrit Sarovar)   Causeway to the Golden Temple lined with people waiting to go inside.  One of the priests reading from the holy book. Not the original copy.   The horn blower announcing the imminent arrival of the sedan chair with the holy book.The sedan chair being emptied before being stored away after the ceremony.    Akal Takhat where the holy book is kept overnight.   Crowds on the promenade   A Sikh man and his son immersing themselves

Shelling peas   Communal eating   Jallianwala Bagh, memorial to dead of 1919

Tuesday 1 to Wednesday 2 January 2008, Kurukshetra, Haryana

The trains run on time in India. I had to catch the 3:10pm train and decided that leaving at 2:00pm would give me enough time to use the Temple bus and familiarise myself with the train station procedures. Naturally nothing went as planned. I first had to book out which took extra time as I had never actually booked in. Then the bus was not there. When it did arrive the driver wanted to have tea first. By this time it was getting on to 2:30pm. An Indian family was in the same dilemma and they suggested I go with them. They went off up the street to catch a car taxi. None came, in fact not even rickshaws came. They were getting agitated as time was moving on. Eventually a rickshaw came and we all piled in, 8 people plus luggage! We arrived at the station at 3:00pm and hurried to find our seats. They helped tremendously with my first experience of trains but it is not really so difficult. The ticket has the coach and seat number on it and the coaches are all well numbered. The biggest issue is knowing which platform. They were only a few seats away and made sure I was fine and also told me when Kurukshetra was coming up. The journey took 5 hours. I was in second class non air conditioned and ended up sitting by the window. Even though all the windows were closed there was a frigid blast of air along the side. It also seems as if seats are not reserved at smaller stations. Tickets are sold and people try and find empty seats. Some stood for most of the 5 hours I was on the train. I actually wanted an air conditioned coach but no seats were available - it is holiday time. Kurukshetra came and I got off onto a totally dark platform - no electricity! I could barely make out my feet let alone anything else. Another kind Indian with a cell phone torch lit the way and told me where to go. Outside he asked where I was going. At least I had the name of a hotel (Hotel Harsh) out of the Lonely Planet. No-one knew of the hotel, it was not in the telephone directory and the phone number from the LP was no longer valid. He eventually found out where it was and we took a rickshaw. I was very glad to see the hotel had lights! They have a generator for emergencies. Even so the generator does not supply enough power to run the geyser or TV, just lights. The rooms are clean, there is an en suite bathroom and the traffic does not stop all night. It is also cold.

Kurukshetra lies between  the Sarasvati and Drishadevati holy rivers. This where the Bhagavadgita and most of vedic literature originated. It is the area where the Mahabharata battle was fought. Krishna gave Arjuna a sermon before the battle as recorded in the Bhagavadgita The Gita is the epitome of Indian wisdom. An area of 128 square kilometres around the town is a pilgrimage area with many holy places. The Harrapan culture also spread into this province along the rivers, prior to the birth of Krishna.

Wednesday I visited the Sri Krishna museum. It contains hundreds of statues of Krishna from all over India and from ancient to modern. The first room shows Krishna as a child with his mother Yashoda. Both are plump. Subsequent rooms show him at various stages of his life. He ruled in Dwaraka in Gujarat on the Gulf of Kutch for several decades around 1500 BCE. The city was submerged by the sea after his death but a new city with the same name is nearby today. There are inscriptions showing the transition from Harrapan to early Brahmin script. Most amazing were the handwritten books in Sanskrit from the 18th to 20th centuries. I would have expected printing to be available by then even for Sanskrit.

The Panorama is nearby. It has a science museum on the ground floor and a panorama of the Mahabharata battle on the first floor. Once again all the figures are plump. The women have large breasts, small waists and big hips. The men are slightly more straight up and down. However they still have small breasts and slightly thicker waists and definite hips. At first I thought they were female soldiers.

The train for New Delhi left late in the evening so Thursday morning I visited Shaikh Chehli's tomb. It is built on the roof of a red-brick fortress. The museum was the most interesting aspect. The red fort is built on a mound called Thanesar which has been continuously occupied since the first century CE by various peoples including Buddhists and Mughals. The tomb itself is of a Sufi saint Shaikh Chehli, built in the late 1600's. It seems the Sufi's are the only Islamic sect to have and revere saints.

Part of the panorma   from the science section at the panorama. showing that pliers are based on the beaks of birds.   Gupta mould and decorative head from the museum at the red fort. 4th to 6th century   Tomb of Shaikh Chehli

Thursday 3 January 2008, NewDelhi Station,

I was in plenty of time for the train. This time a seat in an air conditioned carriage. The warmth was wonderful. I arrived at New Delhi Station after 10:00 pm. By the time I found the office where you can book retiring rooms it was closed as the rooms were full. Now what! I had expected to spend the night comfortably secure in one of these rooms. It would have been ridiculous to find a hotel for the night as I had to catch a 6:00 am train. I chose to put my luggage in the luggage storage (along with some very large but holy rats) and stay at the station. I have a picnic blanket with a silver bottom side and a blanket upper side so I took that with me for warmth and lay down in the middle of the hordes of bodies on the floor. Why do I do these things to myself! I did sleep but it was cold even though the blanket covered the floor and most of my upper body. At 3:00am the cleaners came along. I guess they have to clean the floor sometime. As they worked along the station the people had to get up and move out of the way. At least the movement allowed me to find a spot in a corner where I could face the wall and lie on my side! Much more comfortable than on my back. I did not gat that much sleep though as some young men with no protection under them tried to insinuate their feet between mine, thus uncovering mine. Every now and then I would convulse my body to remove them. They also got as close as they could. Since I was totally covered head to foot I doubt they realised what I was. At one stage they made loud comments in Hindi, presumably calling me selfish.

Friday 4 to Tuesday 15 January 2008, Pushkar, Rajasthan

Eventually it was time to get up, pick up my luggage and find the right platform. The train was wonderfully warm again, air conditioned cars are so much more comfortable than non air conditioned. They also cost twice as much - worth every rupee. Tea was served, then later on breakfast. Newspapers were handed out but I slept most of the journey. At Ajmer a group of three other travellers asked if I wanted to share a taxi with them. They had been to Pushkar, 30 kilometres away many times and were headed for the Mayur Hotel. I was more than happy to go with them. The hotel is clean and the showers hot. Naturally the cold that I started in Amrister by walking on cold marble in bare feet was made much worse by sleeping on the train station floor. I spent the first week doing very little except eat, sleep and visit the lake. The food is all vegetarian but many restaurants have European food such as pasta and mousaka. My main problem is ensuring I have enough protein. But between yoghurt, cheese and dhal (lentils) I hope I do. Eventually I felt much better and started yoga classes. Boy! Am I stiff! I am right back to the stage I was at when I started yoga in Johannesburg. That is what 3 years on the road does for you.

I did do some of the tourist things. Like walking up to the Pap Mochani Temple to see the sunset. The temple is to the second wife of Brahmin. The Brahmin Temple is also worth seeing. Large bags are not allowed and no socks is preferable as monkeys visit and leave their mess. For me feet are easier to clean than socks! Most of it can be avoided though if you watch what you are doing. Again people prostrated themselves, rang bells and gave flowers to the priests. There were two underground shrines to the lingam of Shiva. A guide attached himself to me which was actually worthwhile. He was disappointed that I had done puja already though. There was a large painting and he explained was that there are 5 main gods. Brahma with 4 heads, Vishnu with 4 arms, Shiva painted blue, Rama and Krishna. A lesser god is Ganesh an elephant and the son of Shiva. This is not all true. According to the Lonely Planet Brahma is the creator God and is depicted sometimes with 4 heads facing each of the major directions. Vishnu is the preserver and is usually depicted with 4 arms holding a lotus, conch shell, discus and mace. Shiva is the destroyer thus allowing creation. There is no mention of him usually being painted blue. Krishna and Rama are reincarnations of Vishnu. If I really want to learn about the religion I will have to find a book by an expert. I have more faith in the LP though than a casual guide. There is one important aspect of Hinduism that most people do not realise. Brahman is the One: the ultimate reality, formless, eternal and the source of all existence. The pantheon of gods are all manifestations of Brahman. Therefore, in the end Hindus also believe in one God.

I performed puja. This happened quite unexpectedly. The first evening I decided to walk down to the lake. I was given a flower and told to take off my shoes as they are not allowed within 40 feet of the lake. I could keep my socks on though. I sat down by the side of the lake just looking around and absorbing the atmosphere. Before I could really react a man sat beside me and gave me some more flowers and asked me to repeat words after him. They seemed to basically be prayers to many Gods as I recognised a few names. I had to throw the flowers into the water along with rice and coloured powder and I had a dot put on my forehead. I also had coloured wool tied around my wrist. He then said a donation was expected and mentioned 2000 rupees. I had noticed donation boxes and said as innocently as I could that I would put a donation in there. Bit cynical of me because I knew he wanted the donation given to him. In the end I gave him 100 Rupees. Now no-one bothers me for puja because I have my bit of string. I was also caught by gypsies putting decorations in henna on hands. One woman took a really firm grip on my fingers and went ahead. I kept saying I did not want this done but was ignored. When they asked for payment I refused. When they said it was their job I suggested they deal with someone who wants a henna decoration. They were not very happy with me! Now when they say hello and hold out their hand to be shaken I put mine together in the prayer position and Namas-te (hello). They give up quite graciously.

I was still in Pushkar on the 14th. This is the day for a kite flying festival all over India. Apparently it is the official day when the sun moves from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, very important in astrology. In Pushkar the sky was filled with kites. It is said that the winner is the last person flying a kite. There are teams one of whom is given the task of cutting the string on the kites of other teams. They never actually declare a winner though. It is more a matter of pride in cutting down so many kites, or getting your kite up higher than anyone else or merely keeping the same kite up for a long time.  If some one loses their kite they just take up another, There are hundreds of kites on sale and the streets became littered with useable kites. It is fun though.

Cows are fed by everyone and allowed to roam everywhere. Just near the hotel there is a permanent morning feeding session. People sell plants to others who then give them to the cows. The place is also near a rubbish disposal area. The cows have a good feed and actually eat most of the rubbish. Unfortunately they also eat plastic bags which can kill them if they eat too many.

One of the hundreds of temples at sunset   The lake and Pushkar from the Pap Mochani Temple   Sunset from the Pap Mochani Temple   Pushkar from across the lake. The Pap Mpchani Temple can be seen on top of the hillShrine to the lingam (penis) of Shiva   Sacred monkeys. At least they are not aggressive   Cows being fed   Roof of the Old Ranji Temple where I do yogaStatue of Brahma   Worshippers honouring Brahmin   Detail on top of column   Lingam of Shiva with a cobra at the side14 January an the kite flying celebration   One of the guests trying his hand at kite flying   Dried up adult crocodile with baby on its back.

Wednesday 16 January 2008, overnight bus, Rajasthan

I had to book out of the hotel by 12:00 but could leave my luggage in another room. The rest of the day was spent walking around the lake. I found the dried out crocodiles. They are 60 years old and the last survivors of the crocodiles that were put in the lake around 1950. There is a small shrine as well, so maybe they are still worshipped. One last meal and it was time to leave for the overnight sleeper bus to Udaipur. I first went on the Delhi bus to Ajmer, then changed to the Udaipur bus. The sleeping compartments are narrow and shortish. When I laid flat on my back my head and toes touched each end. The day pack could fit in with me but not the other luggage, so that went in the boot. There was no bedding either, just a padded mattress. The picnic blanket and the warm pashmina I purchased in Pushkar came in very handy. I was amazed to watch a man load the top of the bus from a truck. He first loaded the bag of grain onto his head, then climbed up using the sill of an open window until the man on top could take the bag from his head. Ladders were not supplied. The ride itself was very bumpy with some rather quick stops. At least there was a break about 11:00pm with toilet facilities. Unlike the train, the bus has no such facilities. If possible I will travel by train in future.

Thursday 17 to Wednesday 23 January 2008, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Udaipur is supposed to be a fairytale city. Certainly there is a palace, hotel and many buildings using elaborate archway decorations. It is pretty and of course Octopussy was partly filmed there. I watched the movie at one of the many restaurants that show it each evening. Interesting to recognise where parts were filmed and where they were total imagination. There is supposed to be a lush forest below the Monsoon Palace where the chief baddy lives. Firstly the Monsoon Palace would require a lot of renovation to live in and secondly it is semi desert around Udaipur, no lush forest anywhere near. But the film is entertainment not reality.

I booked into the Shiva Guest House because Linda, a woman I met in Pushkar, was staying there. We spent two days together before she went back to Delhi. Lovely to have a companion for a short while. We spent the time seeing the sights she had not yet seen, after she left I saw the others. The ones we saw together were the Jagdish Temple, the Vintage and Classic Car collection and Jagmandir Island on a sunset cruise. The rest of our time together was spent walking around soaking up the atmosphere and having a good chin wag.

Jagdish Temple, 32 meters highThe Jagdish Temple is carved in Indo-Aryan style and was built in 1651. It enshrines a black stone image as Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. The main statue is flanked by Durga, mother of power and a reincarnation of Parithi and Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and consort of Vishnu. No photography was allowed inside the temple but outside there was a replica which could be photographed. The carvings on the outside start with demons at the bottom, then images of good luck, power, the source of life and on top paradise. The main tower is 32 meters high. There are many shrines around the temple. One is of Garuda who is half bird. The eyes are certainly those of a bird. The day we were there was the day for women to fast. They spent the day in the temple singing and chanting before returning home to cook a meal for their family. It was a colourful sight. Outside Sardhu waited to receive donations in exchange for a photograph

.    The main focus of worship in the temple    Brass image of Garuda   Sahdus outside the temple                 Attempt to show the layers of 5 carvings, demons, good luck, power, source of life and paradise.    Small shrine, not sure who of but it is colourful.

The sunset cruise to Jagmandir Island was lovely. The island is now a top class restaurant (a cup of tea was IR110 anywhere else it is IR10!). The sunset was glorious though and a boat trip on a placid lake is always peaceful. There were plenty of ducks and cormorants.

Lake Palace Hotel used in Octopussy   City Palace from Lake Picholo   A Gangaur Boat,ceremonial boat featured in Octopussy   Elephants guarding Jagmandir Island. Shown in OctopussyWhat is left of the old palace. Musicians play underneath the canopy   Origiinal frescoe ceiling in old section   Linda and I with City Palace in the background   Sunset from the island

1930 Ford Convertable, 4 cylinders HP 24.03 holds 10 gallonsLinda admiring the Silver Spirit

The car museum was much more interesting than I expected. The conveyances ranged from carriages to solar powered cars and include the Rolls Royce Phantom ll (1934) used in ......Octopussy, There was a bus used by the school children from in the City Palace, a car with a purdah system and a Rolls Royce converted for hunting. The older cars had no rear view mirrors let alone side mirrors. We were even given a complimentary soft drink. The waiter started to make conversation but when he discovered we were in a budget hotel he pretty soon found something to do.



Peacock, the Maharaja's favourite birdParafine fan from 1890The City Palace is a conglomeration of buildings started in 1559 by the Maharaja Udai Singh ll, the founder of the city and the 53rd ruler of the Mewar dynasty. He moved from Chittor the original capital because it was sacked by the Mughal ruler Akbar. Additional palaces were added by successive rulers. There are two upmarket hotels, 3 museums and the home of the current ruler of Mewar 76th in the Mewar dynasty. The main museum concentrates on the Mewar dynasty, rooms they lived in and artefacts that they have accumulated over the years. The Mewar dynasty is the longest ruling dynasty in the world. started by Guhil in 566 at Chittor. They claim to be descended from Kush the elder son of Lord Rama and therefore use the sun as their emblem. The holy sage Harit Rashi handed the state over to Bappa Rawal in 753 and since then the rulers have considered themselves as transient regents of the state. There is a letter sent to the British to this effect.

View of the City Palace   Mor Chowk with beautifully restored balcony in mosaic and mirror work   View of Udaipur from the top   Lavish glass inlay work by M Swarup Sing Ji 1842

Womwn dancingNot sure what this depicts


The Shree Jagat Shiromaniji Temple is not one of the tourist attractions. It is built in the Indo-Aryan style and has many carvings of women around the outside.



Monsoon PalaceGeneral ViewUdaipur is at the southern end of the Aravalli mountain range which starts near Delhi. The Monsoon Palace is on a very high hill near the main town in a nature reserve. There are magnificent views all around of the green cultivated ground and arid hills. The area is dependant on the monsoon for water and is on the edge of the Thar desert. There are 7 lakes used to supply water to the town. All are interconnected and the overflow from one lake can be diverted to another. Lake Pichola will dry up completely if the monsoons are poor for several years.


   View of Udaipur and two Lakes

Interesting statueBagori-ki-Havelli Museum is an 18th century haveli built by a former prime minister in 1751 to 1758. It is built around several courtyards and houses an art gallery, cultural displays and the worlds largest turban.  The Rudra Veena is a traditional concert instrument said to have been invented and designed by Rudra the 12th aspect of Lord Shiva. It has been in use for a long time!

   Turbans are used to carry many articles   The world's largest turban. I am not sure there is a head big enough to carry it.   The Rudra Veena

Every evening there is a Rajastani dance and one puppet show. The dances come from all over Rajastan. The highlight of the evening is a dance from western Rajastan where water is a concern. The dancer ends with 10 pots balanced on her head!

Dancers   Dancers   Puppet show   Dancing with 10 pots on the head

Mohroam (I have been given many other spellings as well) was being celebrated throughout my stay in Udaipur. It started on Thursday with a procession of colourful banners. All were the same shape with flags and swords. Each night until Sunday young men practiced their drumming until midnight, right under my window! Unfortunately Shiva Guest House is in the middle of the Muslim quarter. Sunday was the big parade of Tabut through the streets. The Tabut are put into the water with enough weights to make them sink. Tuesday was a feast day with some fireworks in the evening. The main parade on Sunday was the highlight. It started about 6:00pm so most of the Tabut were paraded after dark. Apparently there were 45 of them but I left after 2 hours when only about 20 had gone by. Initially movement was very slow with one Tabut every 10 minutes but eventually they speeded up and were actually waiting in queue for the earlier ones to clear the ghat area where they were put in the water. The atmosphere was frenetic. Men and boys shouted Hossein, twirled, beat drums, danced in a circle, and were involved in carrying or pushing the Tabut. Some were on carts, some were carried on shoulders by poles. Naturally everyone crowded onto the street as soon as a Tabut had passed. Then they had to scatter as the next one came along. Because of the constant pauses once the Tabut had to go the carriers went at a great pace to gather momentum. Everyone had to rush out of the way pushing back on all the people standing by the sides. I saw one man fall down in the melee. Luckily there were police who jumped in with whistles blowing to stop the Tabut in time. The man was not hurt fortunately. Another Tabut took the corner so fast that the top crashed into the corner of a house and had to be extricated from the house and the cables that are a feature of the Indian city skyline. Some of the participants carried sticks and I saw one small incident of intolerance. A Hindu was carrying a coconut (sacred to Hindus) and one of the lads tried to smack it out of his hand with his stick. I was also told of a fight between two groups of young men on Tuesday night. I am not sure what the meaning of the festival is as I was given several versions by Muslims and others by Hindus. However it seems that Mohammed had a daughter Fatima who had two sons Hassan and Hossein. The festival is to mourn their deaths in battle. It seems the battle was between Muslims, quite possible as there was a lot of such fighting in the early days of Islam. I do have the Britannica on disc but it does not cover the Muslim festivals.

Poles with flagsand swords   Spectators on a ledge above the crowd   Spectators on steps to a temple   Drummers

A Tabut   It can be difficult keeping them upright   Another Tabut   The tallest Tabut   Two together, one for each brother?

I found another yoga teacher and went to a few classes After one session where there were only 2 of us we went to his restaurant and had a typical Indian breakfast of Poha. This is spicy rice although ours was not as spicy as he would normally have had. It is always interesting to people watch. I spent time watching the ghats where both people and clothes are washed. The washing is beaten with a flat stick. Europeans sometimes buy biscuits for the children and they then get mobbed. Many households depend on the lake for washing and then collect household water from wells throughout the city. Electricity is problematical. There is a huge contrast between their life and the 5 star hotels where water is always available and generators are on standby. At least there is always water on tap at my hotel, although electricity can be a problem. It goes off for a few hours every day and during the festival on Sunday it was diverted to large spot lights on the parade. I returned to a hotel lit by a few candles. That is when a torch comes in handy.

Marriage procession   Could you wash your hair bent like this?   Clothes being washed, traditional style   Tourist mobbed by children

                                       Collecting water from the well just below my window.   Donkeys are used for transport

Thursday 24 to Friday 25 January 2008, overnight sleeper buses via Mumbai

I decided to get a sleeper bus to Mumbai and then another bus straight on to Aurangabad. Mumbai is expensive to stay in. The bus left at 5:00pm, an hour late. First it had to be filled with diesel then a few kilometers down the road a tyre burst! At least I was not at the very back and the driver was better the trip to Udaipur so I did manage some sleep. We arrived 4 hours late in Mumbai at 12:00 noon. So much for a day trip to Aurangabad! Not only was it very late we were dropped off miles from where we expected. Eventually I teamed up with 5 Koreans and we went to the central bus stand in 2 taxis. The overnight sleeper was supposed to leave at 9:30pm.

Part of an advertisement for a festivalIChowpatty beach decided to visit Chowpatty beach. It is easy to get to via the suburban train line from Mumbai Central just near the bus stand. I asked which train and was told 'that one', so on I hopped. I thought it a bit strange that everyone had so much luggage and the train was packed to capacity. Anyhow I found some soft luggage to sit on. The train moved off, started to speed up and did not stop after 10 minutes. By now I knew something was wrong. It was a long distance train heading back north! I wanted to go south. Luckily the first stop also had suburban trains. So I could get off and find the suburban train heading south. At least I knew in which direction I had to go, the opposite to before! It took me two hours to complete what should have been a 10 minute journey. I trashed any thought of seeing the Jain temple and Mani Bhavan (a Gandhi Museum). Instead I sat at a snack bar and had some lekker snacks and watched the people on the beach. Very few were in the water and then only paddling. I assumed it was too cold until I walked along the beach. It is filthy. The tide was going out and the rubbish left behind it absolutely disgusting. The waster is black from pollution, both shipping and all of Mumbai sewerage. Some boys were digging in the sand and even that water was grey. I did have a magnificent cup of coffee at a Cafe Coffee Day nearby. They had a clean rest room and I was able to wash all the dirt and dust off my hands from the pollution. Couldn't get my nails clean though. One good thing, there are no cows roaming the streets.

Naturally the bus was late. The other buses had a double bed one side and a single the other. This bus had a double bed both sides - i.e. they could fit 4 people sleeping across instead of 3. I shared my double with another woman. At least she was also slim so we could fit in a space a little wider than a single bed. Other beds included children with Mum or Dad. Again I was at the very end over the back wheel.

Saturday 26 January to Monday 28 January 2008, Aurangabad. Maharashtra

When I arrived in Aurangabad a rickshaw driver asked what my budget was and took me to the Sheetal Palace Hotel. It's not bad but some one had just vacated the room so it had to be cleaned and the geyser does not work. There is a communal hot shower just down the hall though. After having the room cleaned I went and booked my train ticket for Goa. I am really tired of bumpy bus rides. Amazingly enough I was able to get exactly what I wanted. I will have another day in Mumbai, this time in the main tourist area.

I also booked bus tours with a guide to Ajanta Caves for Sunday and Ellora Caves for Monday. These are the sole reason for coming here. It can be done by public transport but I feel like having a bit of luxury. Both tours leave early so why did I decide to finally put a pin number on my Indian SIM card? I need a PUK number to do this, something I was not aware of. Naturally the PUK number is not on the documentation provided. I have to phone the 24 hour help line to obtain the number. This is not available on public holidays or Sundays! I now have to rely on a wakeup knock on the door. I will not be able to do anything about it until Monday evening.

Saturday 26 was a good day for me to arrive as I had planned to sleep, eat, clean the Mumbai grit off and do very little else. It is Independence Day and only a few shops are open. Unfortunately I also ended up with neighbours from hell, It was a large Indian family with at least 4 adults and more children. They all talked loudly and the children squealed and laughed until 11:00 pm. They were up again at 5:00 am. Luckily only 1 night!

Cave 1 Bodhisvatta padam pani - from postcardSunday I went on a tour to Ajanta Caves. These were developed from around 200 BCE to 650 CE. They were abandoned as Buddhism waned and forgotten about until John Smith a British Army Officer came across them in 1819 while hunting tigers. He immediately scratched his name onto a column in the cave with the largest entrance, the one he saw from afar. The first bit of graffiti? There are 30 caves in a horse shoe shaped gorge of the Waghore River with very steep sides. The stone is basalt. The caves were dug out from top to bottom, front to back, no scaffolding needed but a very good sense of how the finished cave would look! Most of the caves are vihara or monasteries. Some are chaityas or places of worship. The chaityas tended to have ribbed ceilings, perhaps denoting the ribs of an elephant. Initially Buddha was represented as a wheel as he did not want anyone to worship him but to work at attaining Nirvana. Later, about 100 years after his death, sculptures were used as people wanted something more personal. This is the Mahayana form of Buddhism. The most photographed cave is number 26. This chaityas contains the reclining Buddha awaiting death. It also contains the smallest Buddha, a statue on the forehead of another statue. There are many tempera paintings in the vihara, using animal glue and vegetable gum mixed with paint pigment to allow the paint to stick to the walls and ceilings. The vihara also have small cells leading off them where the monks slept and meditated. The beds and pillows were carved out of the rock. Lying on rock must not only be hard but cold as well. The monks burnt Neem Tree leaves to discourage mosquitoes and other bugs. The cells have no doors.

It is not easy to take good photos in some of the light conditions so I resorted to postcards for two of the photos. This is acknowledged in the caption. Even then I did not have the right place to take the photos so there is some reflection.

I mentioned the lack of cows in Mumbai to one of the Indian tourists. He then told me that it had been scientifically proven that cow dung reduces radiation. Since the ozone layer is thinnest over Sydney perhaps they should consider letting cows freely roam the streets dropping their dung everywhere. Don't think the Aussies would go for it though.

We had to catch a connecting bus from the caves to the main bus parking area at our leisure. I hopped on one only to be confronted by a group of Indians complaining about the mess, refusing to use that bus and getting off! Considering the grubbiness of most places I found this quite amusing. The problem was that someone had spilt a drink all over a seat and the nearby floor. Mind you I sat on the one spare seat at the front away from the mess.

Cave 19 - with 3 tiereddagoba with Buddha at the front   Going up in style   Cave 26 - the people on the left are looking at the smallest Buddha   Cave 26 The smallest Buddha on the forehead of a sculptured face Paintings in a vihara

      detailed sculptures   detailed sculptures   Reclining Buddha from postcard


 View of the caves

Mother Goddess in the old mosqueThe moat is still a hazard but from disease not crocodies!The tour to Ellora caves was on Monday. We actually saw many other sites as well starting with Daulatabad Fort. It was started by the Yadovas of Dirogiri in the 11th century.  It took 40 years to carve the fort out of the mountain. Several different rulers captured the fort and ruled there over the following centuries. In the 14th century Sultan Mohammed Tughlaq, having captured the fort decided to move his capital to the hill. He then forced the inhabitants of Delhi (1,100K north) to move to the new capital. Problem was there was insufficient water for 100,000 people. In a few years most of the inhabitants had returned to Delhi. The defences were ingenious. First there were the studded doors to stop elephants from pushing the doors down. Poles embedded in the floor and ceiling were used instead of hinges as an added security measure. Attackers placed camels against the doors and the elephants pushed the camels through. Hard on the camels. There are 3 defence walls. The next obstacle was the moat with crocodiles and poisonous snakes. Then came a dark passage. We were led through by a guide using vegetable oil and sticks, even so it was dark and difficult. The passage twists and turns with steps going up and down at random. There are also false passages leading straight down to the moat and sometimes holes in the ceiling providing some light and an opportunity for the defenders to pour boiling oil on any one looking up at the light. There is a modern staircase which we used to return down. At the bottom of the hill there is an old Jain temple. Part of this was turned into a mosque by one of the Sultans. In 1954 a model of Bharatmatha, the Mother Goddess was placed in the mosque. There are a lot of Muslims in the area, I wonder what they thought about this. The mosque was no longer in use by then though.

                       Door top showing the pole embedded in the rock   6 meter cannon cast from 5 different metals with ram's head   Fruit sellers. there are small brown fruit called Chiku which are absolutely delicious

Buddha in teaching pose


Next was the Ellora Caves. When Ashoka became a Buddhist he started making the caves in the mountains for the monks to live in. There are many sets of caves in the surrounding mountains that are not open to visitors. The slope at Ellora is gentle and many caves have courtyards, We only visited 4 out of the 34 but the others are all very similar or just not as spectacular. The Buddhist caves are similar to Ajanta but carved out later from 600 to 800 CE. They are mainly vihara. We saw cave 10 a chaitya and 12 a 3 story vihara. The top story was built first and as more living space was needed in the 6th century CE the next two floors were built.


We only visited one Hindu temple, but it is spectacular. Kailasa Temple was built by King Krishna l of the Rashtrakuta dynasty in AD 760. It took 150 years to build. The plans were not written down but handed down verbally from father to son as were the craft skills needed. It is the largest rock cut cave in the world involving the removal of 200,000 tonnes of rock. Easily exceeding those at Lalibella in Ethiopia. It is a brilliant technical achievement. It is a representation of Mt Kailasa, Shiva's home in the Himalayas. The temple is covered in carved panels depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There are also carvings on the top which can only be seen by climbing up the rock face and looking down. There is a path and steps available. For me this was the most spectacular part. Initially the temples were covered in plaster and paint but this has all flaked off over the centuries.

NB When entering the temple the first god on the left hand side is Ganesh, elephant headed god of power and very popular everywhere I have been so far. On the right is the goddess of knowledge, Gurda. Then comes Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. Certainly shows the priorities of the Hindus.

General view from below   General view from above   Lakshmi being bathed by 2 elephants   Sculpyure of a godSculpture showing some of the original plaster and paint around the edges   Elephants surround the temple   Indian students learning about their cultural history   Lions on the roof. Can only be seen from above

Female attendant to Mahavira - a comment on Indian sexuality?Highly decorated columns

The Jain Caves are not as extensive or ambitious as the others. They do have some good images and sculptures. Jainism was founded by Mahavira a contemporary of Buddha. He and other teachers before him rejected the Hindu idea of caste. They follow a strict regime where they achieve salvation by suppressing all desire for happiness. They only eat foods that have been touched by the sun and are strict vegetarians. Mahavira is always depicted naked as that is the way god sent him into the world. He is flanked by a male and a female figure. In contrast Buddha is always depicted clothed and flanked by 2 male figures.

                                     Tempura painting in a Jain cave

In Ellora there is a temple to a Jyoti lingam (representation of the penis of Shiva). There are 12 in India. They are said to have miraculously appeared. The temple was built in the 8th century over the lingam. All the men had to remove their upper clothing to visit the temple. The foreigners found this quite amusing, usually it is the women who have to adhere to a specific dress code!   Naturally we visited a Himroo cloth outlet. Himroo cloth is an Aurangabad speciality. It was developed as a cheaper alternative to the Kam Khab woven from silk and gold thread for 14th century royalty. It used to be hand woven but now most is made in factories. It is made from cotton, silk and silver threads. And yes I did buy a small piece. It will fit in the patchwork quilt I started in Holland 18 months ago.

Temple over the Jyoti Lingam   Flower seller. Theflowers are offered to the god.   Weaving Himroo cloth - as a tourist attraction   The retail outlet

Also called Taj of Deccan

Actual tomb


We arrived at the Bibi-ka-maqabara at sunset. It was built by the son of Aurangzeb for his mother and is based on the Taj Mahal. The architect went to see the Taj Mahal and created something similar but not exactly the same. They used white plaster instead of marble to reduce costs. It was constructed between 1651 and 1661.


Wheel of life indicating Buddha in an Aurangabad crossroadYou can set up a tailor shop anywhereBy the time we arrived at the last stop it was after dark. The Panchakki is a water wheel driven by water carried through clay pipes from a river 6 kilometers away. The water power was used to drive a mill to grind wheat for pilgrims. It was an engineering marvel in its day. And for me it had been a very long day resulting a quick meal, hot shower and bed with a long lie in next morning. Two long days of touring is exhausting. At least, besides a good lie in I was able to sort out the problem with the PUK number on the cell phone. What a pleasure to have a functioning cell phone again with the time display and alarm clock.

Tuesday 29 to Wednesday 30 January 2008, Aurangabad to Goa via Mumbai

Informal cricket matches on the Oval MaidenThe overnight train trip was almost as bumpy as a bus! The rail stock is old. Once again there were no retiring rooms available so I left the luggage at the luggage counter had breakfast at the canteen and went on the walking tour described in the LP. The tour went past an eclectic mix of architectural styles from the 16th century Islamic of the Gateway to India, the Romanesque-transitional of the Elphinstone College, the Art Deco if the New India Assurance Company Building and apartment buildings next to the Oval Maiden, the gothic buildings on the opposite side of the Oval Maiden, the Indo-Saracenic of the main museum, the neo-classical Town Hall, the 15th century Italian style of the University to the Gothic train terminus.

St. Thomas' Cathedral was a quiet spot in the clamour of the city. I put the thick kneelers in a line on the floor and had a lovely snooze. At the back of the cathedral are two small Hindu Shrines - fits in with the mix that is Bombay. Even the traffic has all sorts from cars to taxis to trucks to bikes to carts drawn by cattle. The streets are swept as I have seen in all the other Indian cities I have visited. And road workers are the same the world over, one worker many supervisors!

After being twice in Bombay I would suggest skipping it. At least the train stock was new and the overnight ride was beautifully smooth. I slept well.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus) Gothic. Completed 1887   Gateway to India - 16th century Islamic style opened 1924

Both men and women work at construction   Actually 2 people are working one holding the steel pole the other hitting it.   Streets are swept   Delivery of sugar cane to juice stalls.

Thursday 31 January to Saturday 9 February 2008, Benaulim, Goa

I took a motor cycle taxi from the station in Magao to the hotel in Benaulim. My bag was held between the handle bars and the driver, I held the wheels in front of me and carried the day pack on the back. An interesting way to travel. At last it is warmer at night! The reason I chose Benaulim to write up the website is because Juergen, whom we met in Syracuse in December 2006 was here and he said it was a lovely quiet place. He is right. It is also full of British and other European retired couples escaping the European winter. Alcohol is freely available because the tax on alcohol in Goa is low. It was nice to meet up with Juergen and catch up with each other. He has made some friends here who all have interesting tales to tell. Each night I have dinner with Juergen, Sabina, Bob and Judith and a changing variety of other people. As for getting down and writing the website, that is taking longer than expected. The first day was a write off because even though I slept well on the train I still needed to catch up on some sleep. Next day I found Juergen and we spent the day talking. Then I went on a Dolphin trip. Unfortunately we only saw dolphins in the distance. I tried to take some photos but the light prevented me from seeing what I was taking. It turned out to be empty sky!

   Sales Lady on the beach, selling sarongs and small jewelery boxes perched on her head   Sabina, Francis, Judith and Bob   Juergen and I

Then there was the carnival in Margoa. I went with Sabina a German lady from the dinner group. We found seats near the official podium, a godsend as the parade lasted over two hours. The carnival started as a celebration before Lent when the Portuguese ruled the area. The religious aspect has gone and now it is a great parade of many varied floats with many different themes such as: keep Goa clean where they had some people in front sweeping the streets; everyday life such as fishing, farming and pottery making; local traditional culture which seemed to include lots of scantily clad men with bare bums; conservation; crafts; advertising for wedding suits, Budweiser and wine. The most serious was the simple float for Alcoholics Anonymous with posters saying it is a disease and how to tell if you are an alcoholic. Many of the floats had their own generator on a truck with thick cables running to the float. Most of the generator trucks were simply decorated in the appropriate theme. There were many dancers, all very good. The number of men dressed as women was astonishing. The one to receive the most attention was a man dressed as a very pregnant bride. I guess it happens often enough in the province to create laughter in a parade. 99% of the signs, songs and announcements were in English. Even the opening speech by King Momo was in English.

Seating was at a premium   Colourful dancers   Traditional pottery making   Traditional dancers  Traditional dancers   Tribute to Vasco da Gama   Dancers   Colourful masks were used and were on sale

Bull fight floatOn the Tuesday the local festival was held. This was a small affair with only a few floats but lots of young lads on motor cycles spraying coloured water and powder. Most people managed to avoid being sprayed. There had been a bullfight a few days before. I was told that these are illegal. The police generally find out about them and come to ask what is happening. The answer is that a football match is being held. The police (usually two) look at the crowds, decide to accept the explanation and go away! The bull fight is between two bulls. A lot of bets are placed and it generates much money for some. The bulls size each other up and the weakest turns tail and tries to run away. Apparently a lot of time is spent bringing it back to the arena!

I went on a trip to Old Goa to see the churches. But first I walked around Panjim the capital of the state of Goa. It is a very small capital city on the mouth of the Mandovi river. There is lots of ground water. In fact there seems to be lots of ground water all the way up the coast. There is not a lot to see and what there is is on hills. The two main attractions are the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception where Portuguese sailors used to go to fist to give thanks for a safe voyage before going on to the city of Goa and the Maruti Temple dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman.

Temple to Hanuman   Representation of Hanuman   Silver statue of Christ outside the Bishop's residence   Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Main alter of Se CathedralOur Lady of Life showing 3 representations of the Holy GhostAfter lunch I went on to Old Goa with its many cathedrals and churches. By this time I was tired of walking so it was nice that they are clustered together. Still I only went into 3 of them and ignored the museums. The Church of St. Francis Assisi (1661) is under renovation. They are putting white plaster on the inside where the frescoes have totally deteriorated. It must once have been totally covered in frescoes though. The Se Cathedral (1619) is the largest in Old Goa. The main altar is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria and scenes on either side depict scenes of her life and martyrdom. The most interesting part for me was to see representations of the Holy Ghost. These are the 3 models on the alter to Our Lady of Life. There were several others throughout the cathedral. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier (1605). It holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. The body was not preserved in any way but remained intact and incorrupt until parts were removed and taken to various churches all over the Christian world. By the end of the 17th century the body was in an advanced stage of desiccation and the miracle of it's preservation was over. The church contains what is left plus various remains of other saints.

St. Francis Xavier   Tombof St. Francis Xavier   Photos of his desicated body parts   Feet of St Francis Xavier   Our Lady of Hope with relics in glass fronted boxes beneath

I used public transport from Benaulim to Old Goa and return, a two hour journey. I was amused by one bus driver. He had decorated his cabin with a crucifix, models of St. Francis of Assisi and 4 Hindu Gods, photos of 3 gurus, Peacock feathers and garlands of flowers. Pretty much covered all the bases. That's why he could drive so badly.

Friday 10 January to Wednesday 13 February 2008, Hampi, Kanataka

The train left at 8:15 which meant getting up early. I was in plenty of time but naturally when the train arrived there was a huge rush to get on. Most of the passengers got on at Magao although the train started at Vasco da Gama. Half the people were on when the train started to move. Panic everywhere! I was right at the back of the mob and decided that if the train left without me I would demand a taxi paid for by the Transport department. Wouldn't have worked of course. Anyway the train stopped a few meters down the track but the panic had caused even more chaos than normal. I decided to get on at the other end of the carriage as at least there were fewer people there. Even so I had to push on. Then get right to the other end of the carriage!. This took a long time as everyone seemed to have brought all their household goods with them. There were people actually lying on the top bunks as well. During the day these are used for luggage. I told one guy to get down so the luggage could go up and I could get passed. Once again I could not get an air conditioned car. These are booked up weeks ahead. So I was traveling sleeper class where people were sold tickets even if there were no seats available! Eventually order was gained and I settled in my seat. The first part of the journey goes through the hills and is lovely. Once through these the countryside becomes flat again, a good time to snooze. Not only did I get up early but the night before I had just gone to bed when fireworks started outside the hotel. Several people were leaving on Monday and they had clubbed together for a party. After that quiet reigned until 3:00am when two very drunk men started talking. It sounded like they were just outside my door. In fact they were across the garden. Bt 4:00am I was fed up, got dressed and confronted them. They were quite nice about it and promised to go to bed. By 4:30am I opened my window and reminded them that they promised to go to bed half an hour ago. At least this time they went! I would have liked to wake them up before I left - to smell the beautiful morning - but I am sure I would have woken everyone else and the devil first.

Although there is a bus from the train station from Hospet to Hampi I shared a rickshaw with two other people. The hotel prices are quite high but eventually a house owner Laxmi offered me a room for IR200 with attached bathroom. She has 3 rooms which she rents out. They include mosquito nets, an absolute necessity here. In the end I did not get bitten in Hampi and the bites I had been scratching from Aurangabad and Benaulim (despite mosquito coils) finally went away. I went down to a restaurant by the river had an early dinner and went straight to bed.

Next morning I woke really refreshed and started on a tour of the Dravidian style temples.

Two brothers Hakka & Bukka founded the Vijayanagar Empire (City of Victory) at Anegundi near Hampi. In 1336CE the capital was moved to Hampi. According to a guide I over heard Hampi was chosen because the monolithic Shiva Lingam was already there, the geology of the rocks provided building material and the river provided plenty of water. Hanuman, the monkey god was also born just across the river. The Empire eventually encompassed the whole of the southern peninsular from the Arabian sea to the Bay of Bengal. There are two main areas, The Royal Centre with palaces and the Sacred Centre with temples. There are however many temples dotted about the place. The empire lasted 2 centuries before the Moguls conquered them. Hampi is now one of seven Hindu holy places in India.

First stop was the Virupaksha Temple within 50 meters of my room. Finding it is something else as the town is a maze of streets that all look the same and look like they are dead ends but actually have concealed turns or streets. After asking several people I eventually arrived at the temple. Virupaksha is a form of Shiva. The temple has been functioning since 7th century CE  which makes this one of the oldest functioning temples in India.

Walking around the demarcated areaI did not see that much of the temple as I became caught up in the rituals of the people. One group of Hindus, covered in yellow powder had just come from a side temple and were being led towards a demarcated area near a water source. They walked around the area 3 times then sat inside while water was poured over them. They had shampoo to wash their hair and eventually they all came out very wet but without the powder. I am not sure if they changed clothes afterwards but there were a lot of clothes spread on the ground drying. The reason I did not follow to see what was happening is because there were a couple sitting down being covered in yellow powder. This was the start of a wedding ceremony. Once the couple were thoroughly covered, they also were drenched in water and the powder removed. The man went off somewhere and changed the bride was surrounded by a sari held by her attendants, presumably friends and family and also changed into a new sari. Once both bride and groom were dry and dressed they moved into the next courtyard accompanied by a band. I paid the IR2 to enter and followed them.

   Being washed with holy water   Being covered in yellow powder   Bride and Groom in their new clothes   Part of the band

But first I was blessed by Lakshmi, the temple elephant. I gave her a IR1 coin which she took in her trunk, passed to her keeper and then gently brushed her trunk over my head. A funny experience.

Then back the the bride and groom. Nothing seemed to be happening so I wandered around the temple. It was interesting to see people breaking open coconuts at a statue of Ganesh, drinking some of the juice and putting some on their head. One devotee left bananas. Five minutes later they had disappeared.

By this time there were 4 wedding going on in the temple. Each couple had different headdresses and the ceremony was slightly different. The priest had to guide the couple on what to do when. I mainly watched the first couple though. A mandala was drawn using rice. The bride and her mother were given headdresses made of flowers. Then the bride and groom were given rice by the priest which they put beside the coconut on a tray, poured over the coconut and eventually over each other's head. They then had milk poured over their hands over a bowl with 2 rings in it. First the groom fished for a ring which he gave to the priest, then the bride followed suit. Then they washed each others hands with milk. The groom gave the bride a necklace with two gold medallions. Then each was covered with a shawl which were knotted together. The priest said something and the bride and groom were showered with rice by everyone. This ended the ceremony as they stood up and proceeded out of the temple, presumably to a wedding feast. By this time it was noon and time for the inner courtyard to be closed until evening.

Bride and Groom with the bride's mother   The priest praying over the coconut and other offerings. The plate is sitting on the mandala   About to have their hands washed in milk   Another bride and groom

Virupaksha Temple


After some lunch I decided to try and get a photo of the Virupaksha Temple Complex from the hill behind. The hill is littered with very old temples. No doubt a temple fundi or archaeologist would have a field day here.


Since it was still early I continued walking up to Kadalekalu Ganapathi. This is a monolithic statue (2.4 metres high) of Ganesh. He bears a tusk, goad, noose and bowl of sweets in his 4 hands. Ganapathi (Ganesha/Vinayaka) is notorious for his food habit. One day he ate so much that his tummy almost burst. He just caught a snake and tied around his tummy as a belt to save his tummy. You can see the snake carved around his tummy. Sculptured in 1506. Next came the Krishna Temple, built by Sri Krishnadevaraya to commemorate his victory over Gajapathi Raya of Kalinga (Orissa) in 1513 CE. A little further up are two more monoliths. A Shiva Linga called Badavi Linga because it is believed to have been commissioned by a poor woman. It is 3 metres high and sits in a pond of water. Hindu mythology has it that Lord Shiva kept his secret consort (river Ganga) in his hair as Parvathi was his ‘actual’ wife! Hence in all the Shiva temples you can see water dripping onto the Shiva linga, to keep him drenched!  Right next to it is the Narasimha Swamy carved in 1528. It is 6.7 metres high. Narasimha is the half man half lion 4th reincarnation of Vishnu. The statue is sitting on the coils of a 7 headed snake. The heads form a canopy over his head. Lakshmi used to sit on his left thigh but has long gone. It was hot and I was tired so I decided to turn back at this stage.

Ganesh  Vishnu Temple decorated wih sculptures right to the top  Detail of dancers on a column  Shiva Linga  Narasimha

But it was still early so I decided to go to the Vittala Temple. Vittala is the another name for Krishna a reincarnation of Vishnu. This is the must see temple in Hampi. It did not look far on the map! Later I learnt it is about 4 kilometres! I arrived to discover that the price of admission included admission into the Zanana Complex in the Royal Centre miles away. Of course I had read about this in the LP but had forgotten. I was tired with really sore feet. To go in or not? A rickshaw driver convinced me to go in. He would then take me to the Zenana Complex and back to the bazaar. So I agreed. Once inside it is obvious why it is the must see item. It is considered the height of Vijayanagar temple architecture. It started in the early part of the 14th century and parts added until 1514. The area is really a campus with several temples within. There are impressive pillared halls, sculptures and a stone chariot. It is thought the chariot could move at one time and carried Garuda, the eagle god. One hall has pillars which when tapped produce the basic notes of Indian music. Unfortunately, because of past abuse, no-one is allowed to tap the pillars.

Vittala Temple - Chariot   Vittala Temple   Vittala Temple - Elephant and rider ready for war   Vittala Temple - Lion and rider ready for war

Vittala Temple - decoration on columns   Vittala Temple. Buffalo Elephant combination, to find buffalo ignore body of elephant from the neck down   Vittala Temple detail   Vittala Temple detail

Lotus MahalLast stop of the day was the Zenana Complex. This was once a fort. Inside is the Lotus Mahal, named so because it looks like a half opened lotus. At least that's what the guide book said. Can't see it myself. Archaeologists think it was used as a socializing place for the palace women. It is a mixture of Hindu and Islamic styles. The arches and windows are Islamic while the peaks are Hindu. It is made out of brick and lime mortar. The elephant stables are also part of the complex. These are huge enclosures open on one side. The ceilings were decorated at one time, a different decoration in each. By this time I had really had enough and was very glad to return to my room and lie down. Along the way I met the German Lady I had sat next to on the train and we had arranged to meet for dinner. This gave me an hour to have a necessary shower - cold was a real pleasure - and lie down with my feet up.

Lotus Mahal - detail on the arches   Elephant stables   Decorated elephant stable

Tomorrow was definitely going to be spent doing little! I made sure of it, rising late, organizing a massage and finally taking a short walk where I met Jerin an Indian medical student. The weather helped as it poured with rain in the morning. Jerin  agreed to meet me the next morning and explore the temples on the way to the Vittala Temple. It certainly helped having a Hindi speaker with me. I would not have found the Yantroddharaka Temple with its statue of Hanuman sculptured in 1510. It is the only statue where he sits in the yogasana position i.e. legs crossed with one hand on his knee and the other held up. This is near the Kodandarama Temple which has 4 idols sculptured from one large very black rock. The photo shows (L to R) Laxmana, Rama and Sita. There is also a small sculpture of Hanuman on the left out of the photo. These 4 are the heroes of the Ramayana. Nor the idol of Devi Hattu Kaiamma, goddess of 10 hands behind the Achyuta Temple. At this point we parted company. Jerin headed on to Vittala Temple while I returned home to rest and work on the website.

Jerin   Laxmana, Rama and Sita   Devi Hattu Kaiamma - goddess of 10 hands   Crossing the river in a coracle

The small town of Hampi lies between the old bazaar leading to the Virupaksha Temple and the Thungabadra River. The locals have used the old bazaar buildings, still standing from the 1500s, for both housing and shops. There is even a school in one section. The room next to mine at Laxmi's house was shared by two German students who spent 2.5 months in Hampi as part of their practical work for their Social Work degree. They worked with a small school set up for the children of parents who could not afford to send their children to school and run by the Hampi Children's Trust. One afternoon they displayed the results of their work to try and get the children to use their imagination. It was quite impressive.

Almost every home has a kolum in front, renewed daily after the dirt has been wet to settle the dust. This is apparently common in south India but was the first time I had seen it.

Living in the old bazaar   Part of the display put on by the two students   The school house   A typical kolum

Thursday 14 February 2008, overnight train to Mysore, Kanataka

I was told that Tania, staying in a Guest House opposite mine was leaving for Mysore on the same train. I met her and shared the auto rickshaw to the station with her.

Friday 15 to February 2008, Mysore, Kanataka

Tania with her limited thaliThe train journey was as usual, except there was no warning we had arrived in Bangalore so I was still blissfully lying on my bunk when we arrived. At least it was the last stop so time was not of the essence. The train to Mysore arrived about an hour later. Again Tanya and I shared a rickshaw and booked into the same hotel and we did our sightseeing together.

The hotel restaurant has an extensive menu consisting of 12 or so snacks and a choice of limited thali or special thali. After much consideration we both chose the limited thali. It is the largest one I have yet eaten!



The Palace is the most impressive sight in Mysore. The original wooden palace was destroyed by fire in 1897 and the new palace completed in 1912, so it is really quite modern. However the decorations are in typically Indo-Saracenic style even though the architect, Henry Irwin, was British and some of the elements came from Britain such as the stained glass roof from Walter McFarlane of Glasgow in the hall called the Ambavilasa and the bronze tigers by the British Sculptor Robert William Colton. Naturally the ruler was supported by the British!

The photos of the inside are from a book. You have to deposit your camera in locked storage before entering the palace. Shoes must also be removed.

The North Gate at night   The Palace   There are 8 sculptures of the same tiger   There are police everywhere to ensure no photos are taken inside and other rules are obeyed.

Students waiting to see the Palace   Silver and ivory doors   Durbar Hall, the main audience chamber


Typical temple architecture


The second major attraction is Chammundi Hill. The goddess Chamundi was the family deity of the Maharajas and the top of the hill (1062m high) is dominated by her temple. We visited late in the afternoon in time to hear the evening prayer being chanted in Sanskrit. There is something very calming and peaceful about that language.


Detail on the large silver doors   Pilgrims waiting for their menfolk   Priests preparing the string which they then wind around the wrists of pilgrims - for a price   Rolls of film for sale. Not everyone has digital cameras yet

When we returned to Mysore it was after dark on Sunday, the one day the palace is lit up by 97,000 lights - a little bit of Disney Land! There was even a band playing Kannada music.

The palace in all its glory   The east gate with the palace behind.

Outside wall and balcony. Every inch is painted.The last place we visitied was Srirangapatnam with the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (typical temple architecture) and the Daulat Bagh. This was Tipu Sultan's summer palace built in 1784. He usurped the throne from the Wodeyars for a short time at the end of the 18th century. It is fascinating as all the walls and ceilings are painted. The outside is dedicated to murals of war (Tipu's defeat of the British), military processions and portraits of important rulers. The inside has more flowery designs. When Tipu Sultan died in 1799 the Duke of Wellington took up residence in the palace. Once again no photography. But being a tourist I managed a quick one while no-one was looking.

Clock face in Kannada script

Loading a bus



There is also the market with typical sights and sounds. Coloured powders are used throughout India for the third eye spot and other decorations. Flowers are sold everywhere! They are used to garland deities or people and to adorn women's hair.



Powder seller   Flowers for sale      Horse and carriages are still in use to transport people   Flowers as hair decoration

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