Monday, 18 May 2009

India 2009 - travels part 2

After Pondicherry we travelled inland for a few days. We got the bus to Tiruvannamalai which is about 180 km south west of Chennai.

Arunachaleswarar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva dominates the town and was built between the 16th and the 17th centuries by the kings of the Vijayanagara empire. The temple is famous for its massive gopurams. The temple is a site of great religious importance and many people come here for pilgrimages and for the many festivals that take place in the town. We got up early one morning to walk up Arunachala hill to see the sunrise, unfortunately we saw more cloud and mist than sun but we had a nice walk!

We spent a day exploring the nearby ruins at Gingee. The fort was built on three hills and the walls are up to 60 feet thick in places. The buildings were carved out of the rocks and included shrines, temples, accommodation and huge stores for grain and oil for when the site was beseiged, which it often was. The oldest part dates back to the 9th century while most was built in the 13th century. The scale of the fortifications is quite incredible and in spite of this the fort was the site of frequent battles and changed hands many times over the years. It was declared a national monument in 1921 and is well looked after by the Archeological Department. It really is a fantastic and impressive site but seems to get very few visitors.

After a very long, hot, walk up and down the hills to see the fort we were pretty exhausted and hungry. So we wandered along the main road towards Gingee town and stopped for a welcome chai and some food. The parota are always very tasty all over southern India and making them is a very specialised job. The parota maker was very happy for us to take some photos of him at work.
It makes me feel hungry just thinking about all that tasty food!

India 2009 - travels part 1

After Kolkata we spent a couple of weeks travelling round Tamil Nadu. We flew into Chennai and headed straight for Mamallapuram on the coast. On our visits to India we have generally avoided touristy areas so this was a bit different for us, we initially found it hard to find Indian food as most of the cafes seemed to be catering for the bland tastes of european visitors. All around the town are fantastically ornate temples which have been carved out of the rocks. Most of the carvings were done between the 7th and 9th centuries. The five rathas are particularly impressive and are carved out of one huge lump of granite. Two of the rathas are in the picture below.After this we spent a few days in Pondicherry. A bizarre but fantastic bit of France in southern India. A town where you can get proper coffee and croissants and hear locals chattering away in french in cafes. The street signs and tree lined avenues near the seafront really do make you feel like you are in France, but the market area, especially on a Sunday, is very much like any other part of India. The beach is a real focal point for the locals and tourists alike. It seems everyone comes out to promenade along the seaside at sunset and quite a few come along at sunrise too.

Those of you who know my fiance Lyndon will know he likes goats. I've promised him that one day we will get some of our own! He took this picture in Mamallapuram early one morning.