Friday, 6 April 2012

Kanyakumari & Madurai

After one amazing chapter of my journey spent in 
Varkala, Kerala I took the train down to Kanniyakumari.
This southernmost tip of India is where three main bodies of water meet & offers
the unique ability to perceive the sun rise & set across the Arabian Sea, The Bay 
of Bengal & The Indian Ocean! I traveled here to spend one night
as it does not boast the most diverse range of appeal compared to
many other places in the Indian subcontinent!

Being a center for religion, art & commerce it has hosted many routes of trade for 
thousands of years. One of the most pronounced is the pearl trade. On almost every 
street corner, there were all sizes & colors of pearls being sold. Set in necklaces, rings, 
broaches or simply on there own. If one knows what they are looking for, this would be 
an amazing place to make some amazing deals!

Seen above is the Mahatma Gandhi memorial where his ashes were kept after his
cremation. They were on public display before being spread in numerous locations
across the world, though a portion were offered back to the ocean here - where these
three great bodies of water meet.
 Seen above is a very brief timeline of the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Most eminently known for his leadership is the Indian Nationalism movement
during the reign of the British ruled India. Through his main doctrine of non-violent
civil disobedience he catalyzed the liberation of India's independence in 1948.
Then sadly, 5 months later he was assasinnated by an extremist.
Across this beautiful country, He is known as the "Grandfather of India".

This photo is of a hole in the ceiling directly above the pedestal where
his ashes were kept. On Gandhis' birthday (october 2nd) the sun passes
directly overhead and aligns for a short period of time emitting a ray of
sunlight which beams downwards onto the altar seen below.

The curator seen here, offered a briefly expanded history
of the memorial. Through broken english he was obviously passionate about
relaying details about Gandhis life. In 2009 there was a 10m Tidal wave which overtook
this southernmost town & significantly damaged this memorial. 
Gandhi is seen here in his early twenties. The photo was likely
taken when he spent 20 years of his life in South Africa,
developing his political, ethical & leadership skills.
Here is a quite small variety of mangos clearly very unripe!
I have been searching for a mango season just about to go off~
Tropical Fruit seasons are really fascinating to me & I dont really understand
them as there seems so many different seasons in each place that I visit.
Confusing, though one day it will make more sense!
In india there are numerous tiers to the enormous railway system which is
responsible for the majority of the daily commuting in India. The range begins with
general class, where you pay a very cheap price to simply be on the train. It was
a frequent occurrence to find a family of sitting in your seat & unable to clearly ask them to move you
would simply have to sit elsewhere! At the very least, it got you to where you needed to go!
Then there was sleeper class (SL non AC), third class SL AC, second class SL AC & first class SL AC.
With each tier it got exponentially more expensive/cleaner/colder! This caption is of a SL non AC cabin.
Traveling upon the trains here, are certainly a crucial aspect of an authentic experience of true India!!!
After a very brief visit to the southern tip of India, 
I ventured forth northwards to Madurai. At this point I had set my intentions to
make my trip to the north of India quite expedient, so as to meet up with Aya again & 
other fellow Canadians from the west coast.
One of the major attractions in Madurai is the Meenakshi Amman Temple. This site is
dedicated to Meenakshi, which is one of Parvatis' manifestations & also to Lord Shiva.
I had a brief couple of hours to explore this extensive complex which was build close to 400
years ago. There are many sections which are inaccesible to non-hindus as it is a fully operation
temple with rituals being performed daily by more than 50 priests!!At the same time, it has within it
a museum with one of the most extensive collections of ornately carved statues I have seen so far in
india. Hundreds of carvings, with incredibly elaborate detail were found here -
a treasure trove depicting the Gods of the Hindu Religion!
These mandalas were found painted upon the roof inside the Meenakshi Temple.
Many of the paintings here, even though the originals are hundreds of years old - they
are under layers and layers of updated & touched up versions.
A large quartz carving of the deity Ganesha!
This member of the Hindu Pantheon has a sanskrit mantra associated
with him which can be used to alleviate "obstacles from ones path'.
Traditionally one would meditate upon him & chant his mantra to
help remove excessive struggles & to simplify the processing of
karma in ones life.
Portrayed above are elaborate statues of Bodhisatvas.
 In Buddhism these are enlightened beings whom have been motivated by great
compassion to seek Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings!
This statue on the left is a representation of Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraj 
embodying the cosmic dancer known as Koothan. This 'Lord of The Dance' 
symbolizes the death of the weary universe & the destructive aspect before it 
undergoes creation, again! The Mythos of the Hindu Pantheon is so far beyond 
extensive that I oftentimes ask Hindus along my travels how many Gods there 
are in India. Behooved, many of them laughed, some became unnerved while 
others would reply in the thousands to millions. The best answer that I ever 
received was from an older well composed gentlemen whom replied, 
"In India, there are as many Gods as there are rivers, stones & mountains."
Once I received this answer, my desire to further this inquiry had been stilled.
Aum Namah Shivayah.. Aummmm..
I am uncertain as to what this carving depicts exactly, though it seems fairly obvious it 
is associated with Sun worshipping & the wheel of samsara (the wheel of incarnation).
The cycle of death & rebirth in the sea of 'maya' or the world of illusion.

In this video, the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam or "Hall of a thousand Pillars is portayed.
This miraculous work of art & engineering was constructed 
in 1569 & it actually contains only 985 pillars!

This photo is taken from the entrance to the hall &
at the end of it is the effigy of Lord of The Dance,
Shiva embodied as Lord Nataraj!
Keep dancing, the time for a new world is upon us!!!
After an albeit brief though densely packed journey through the hectic town of Madurai, 
I left the temple to catch my train northwards to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. 
The next destination on my journey north along the east coast of Southern India. 
A beauteous land of endless temples of devotion, phenomenally 
colored marketplaces & incredibly loud traffic jams! 
I was never more than an arms length away from a pair of 
earplugs - crucial for travels in 
this part of the world!

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