Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Stopover in Chennai

We have spent more time in Chennai than in any other Indian city, so we look forward to the opportunity to relax, visit favorite places, and discover new things.

We stayed at the New Woodlands Hotel (everyone we meet who has been to Chennai has stayed there or at least heard of it). We love its South Indian breakfast and thalis. The menu was so enticing that we ate all our meals there. (At lunch and dinner the wait staff is in constant motion - not so much at breakfast. To get breakfast coffee required more than simple hand signals.)
New Woodlands Courtyard 

Thali - still to come rice and a sweet
Doug wanted to visit the Navagraha Temples outside Chennai. Unfortunately we didn't have specific information and the tour desk was mystified. With some Googling (not as successful as today) we put together an itinerary of five temples in Kundrathur. We asked to hire a licensed guide; we were told it wasn't necessary. It was! Our taxi driver spoke limited English. No matter, he wasn't familiar with the temples. (We hypothesized that tour agencies have the market on the best guides.) Here are some favorite pictures.
Hanuman sporting IU (Indiana Uni) logo?
Doug's been to a Shiva Temple

A library (we dropped in on a meditation/discussion)
An opportunity to advertise
In addition to beggars in the temples, children offered to have us take their pictures. I usually said no by pointing out that I did not have a camera (true). One woman chided her children, because she noticed that Doug did.

We had a more satisfying visit to Kapalehwar Temple, a Shiva Temple, in Mylapore, an area of Chennai. A hotel staff member recommended it say that he went there to view the architecture and enjoy the peace. He was absolutely right about the peaceful part. We were sitting and a young man came and introduced himself. He said that he comes to the temple to mediate on the good things that have happened to him and his wishes for himself and others. His few comments will make us feel less hesitant to just sit. At the entrance signs describe the temple and its rituals. It noted that the lingam was not anthroporphic, but rather a "symbol of the form and formless aspects of the deity." Not the story told by our guides in Vietnam and Sri Lanka who equated the lingam with Shiva's penis.

Devotees walking, sitting and queueing

Exotic? Think of the outside of Notre Dame Cathedral
The temple at dusk
We took a morning walk to the beach. The stall selling snacks were closed and the ancient amusements were not yet running.

A walk to the beach passes Citi Centre Mall - it has Atomic Donuts (for a small, sinful snack) and Landmark, a well stocked and inexpensive book store. Fab India is across the street, but it has a modest collection. I much prefer Kalpastree on Cathedral Road (close to the New Woodlands past the Music Academy). (In a shop near Kalpastree we chatted with a clerk about India's problems of corruption and the desire for easy solutions. We could have had the same conversation in KL.)

And finally a message that could go on many walls.

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