Friday, August 3, 2012


We hired a car and driver to take us to our next destination, Kanchipuram, one of Tamil  Nadu's most important temple towns, also famous for the manufacture of silk. On the first day, we visited a silk factory and bought four pashmina shawls.  It was a small place where one weaver sat at a large loom making a very large, beautiful carpet. It was a complicated design, and I don't recall him having a copy of the pattern to refer to. I wondered what would happen if he made a mistake, but I decided that he likely never did.

Later, we took an auto rickshaw to a few of Kanchipuram's temples. The most impressive of these was the Kailasanatha temple, built out of sandstone at the beginning of the 8th Century AD and the oldest temple in the town. It is a very large temple devoted to Shiva. There are many sculptures and some wall paintings that are in good shape considering their age. 

When we had completed our visit, our rickshaw driver took us to another temple, the Devarajaswami. I especially wanted to see its huge tank (1) but, as it was getting late, we were barely able to see it in the darkness. In the many tiny lights that illuminated the entrance, it was just possible to see the crowd of people milling about in the courtyard inside the gate. Shadowy and ghostlike, they made me feel uneasy. It was going to take more than two days for me to fully adjust to being in India again. One of the most unusual features of the country for westerners like us is the huge numbers of people everywhere. In the towns and cities, there are virtually no empty spaces.

We returned to our hotel, the Baboo Soorya. It was described on Trip Adviser as the best in Kanchi - a dreary, dusty town with not much to recommend it except its temples. The hotel is quite new and has a beautiful lobby area with adequate but nondescript rooms. Staff were seen washing the floor in the lobby at least twice a day, but apparently had forgotten to clean the restaurant. It isn't actually that bad, but, still, we had to clench our teeth and decide to eat there for lack of a better alternative.

I was amused when I decided to check on the hotel's Trip Adviser reviews: "One of the best hotel i have ever seen.. what a service, what a tremendous spacious parking facilities, amazing restaurant, dreamy rooms.. by, Prasath"  Fortunately, this was the only restaurant on this entire 7-week vacation where we felt the standard of cleanliness was less than adequate.

Next day, December 31st, we hired a driver to take us to Vellore where we wanted to see the fort and the Golden Temple, a new structure with a dome made from solid gold. We were very disappointed with the fort and felt that the photos on Google had been edited and were misleading  As well, the temple entrance where you were required to remove your shoes was such a long distance from the temple itself that we decided not to bother. In spite of these setbacks, we enjoyed Vellore, a modern city with many tree-lined boulevards and a lovely rooftop restaurant recommended by the staff at Nokia which is nearby.

 Entrance to Golden Temple, Vellore

At this point in the vacation, we continued to feel very tired, jet-lagged and discouraged due the 20-hour delay we had to endure in getting to India with Jet Airways. We think Jet Airways is a wonderful airline with excellent service and great food. However, spending almost two days without being able to lie down to sleep can colour your attitude to the most wonderful sights. I'm glad to say that in a few days we began to relax, forget about how this vacation had begun, and enjoy ourselves.

 (1) A tank is a rectangular concrete structure containing water.  Every Hindu temple we saw had a tank; sometimes people were in the tank, presumably having entered in order to wash and pray.

 (2) To see the photos in full screen, right click on the photo and then click on "Open Link in New Window". Close the page in order to return to the blog.
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