Thursday, January 26, 2012

From to Chennai to Puducherry

Our trip to Tamil Nadu was quickly arranged and we left many details to the travel agency. In other words, after we left Chennai we had little idea of what was ahead for us. The first days were filled with monuments and temples we never knew existed. Most were UNESCO World Heritage Sites - there are many world hertigate sites. Our first stop was  Mahabalipuram.. It was supposed to be about an hour drive from Chennai, but the Prime Minister was visiting Chennai and roads were closed, so an hour become more like two hours. We visited 5 areas spread over 8 square kilometers that included temples and stone sculptures, many carved from a single rock, date back to the 7th century.
A guide (Basru) brings meaning to the visual treats

                                                  A tee-shirt can add to the memories

Due to a strike all the craft shops  were closed.  They were protesting local zoning rules against locating stalls in the park.  A similar one day work stoppage in other parts of Tamil Nahu was to protest Kerala's opposition to the enlargement of a dam, which delivers significant water supplies to Tamil Nadu. Over the next few days we read stories of "black flag" protests and strikes - shopkeepers close their shops and deny the government a day's worth of tax revenues.
Unrelated to the strikes were the banners and graffiti with the hammer and sickle, which we saw from Puduicherry (our next stop) and onward. We asked our driver about the popularity of the Communist Party. He said that the communists were active in Kerala. He didn't have anything more to say on the subject of communists, but he had a lot to say about corruption. He believed that the large number (142 more or less) of Indian political parties was at the heart of corruption. In contested districts the parties have been known to give potential voters can get color television, money, or other inducements. The driver believed that Indian needs a two-party system and cited Singapore as a political model. Actually Singapore has more than two political parties, but everyone we have met in our travels admires its lack of corruption and aggressive anti-corruption strategies (a public official caught taking a bribe can lose his job and pension). BTW in Malaysians advocates  two political parties see it as a way to create multi-ethnic parties instead of its current racial based parties.
Puducherry was a former French colony until 1957. We stayed at the Anandha Inn. It is located in a central area, so we could wander the streets and enjoy the city's "French feel."

The room included this line up of adult beverages
The next morning we headed to Auroville - an "ideal township" that reminded us of Eugene, Oregon and similar areas that seemed to be caught in a communalism time warp. It struck us as a pleasant place to spend a few days, but we found the operationalization of "realiz[ing] human unity" unnerving.

Street in Puducherry - quieter & cleaner than Chennai

Puducherry - window grate
                                         Elephant outside the Ganesh temple -temple elephants may get a
                                         rejuvenating holiday
Faded sign reads "green point" - no question what is more important

Tree in Auroville

Auroville Path to the Matrimandir

Auroville near Visitors Centre toward cafe and gift shop 


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