Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday, October 31 - Day 18 in India

Happy Halloween to everyone at home. There is no evidence of Halloween here even though about 15% of South Indians are Christian. Diwali is pretty much over and I don't know what the next major festival will be. Right now we are experiencing the first bit of "{down time" that we have had since we joined the Road Scholar Tour. This is a good thing because we are all pretty pooped out and tomorrow will be spent mainly on the bus.

This morning we went up the local hill called the Chamundi Hills. It is about the height of Mount Benson but an important Hindu religious place. At the top are several temples including a tall yellow temple to Vishnu (the lord of preservation) and a smaller grey temple to Shiva (the lord of destruction). There is no temple to the other major god - Brahma - because he was given a curse by some other god and can only have one temple - which is not here. Vishnu is the most popular god and he has 10 incarnations including Krishna and Buddha. It was pretty clever of the Hindus to claim Buddha as a reincarnation of Buddha because it reabsorbed Buddhism into Hinduism and there are virtually no Buddhists in India. We had intended to go into Vishnu's temple but there was a very long line-up so we ended up at Shiva's temple instead. This turned out to be a lucky thing since there was a religious ceremony going on which involved bringing a statue of Shiva out of the temple and processing with him around the streets. He was accompanied by a number of priests of all ages. Apparently n priestly families only one son is expected to take up a priestly role - but it is a fulltime job. The area around the temples was full of vendors selling offerings to be given to the gods. These were cocnuts with marigolds, a red rose and a large white lotus flower. Devotees could buy the offerings and take them into the temple. There were also a few very persistent hawkers. They are always polite, often starting their pitch with "Excuse me. Where are you from?" but if you even acknowledge them by saying "No" they think you are interested and keep offering you whatever they are selling for lower and lower prices. We did buy 3 pictures with holograms of gods which we think are pretty cool and will make nice presents. Some of the people on the trip like to haggle but we don't. So usually we just walk by without paying any attention at all. This seems very rude and mean but it always works and saves them from wasting their time pursuing someone who isn't going to buy anything.

The bus had broken down again - something wrong with the starter -so our guide took us to some pilgrimage steps which led to the bottom of the mountain while a new part was being delivered and installed. We only walked part of the way and ended up at another shrine where there was a huge black grabute bull which priests were washing and covering with flowers.
Thank goodness I am over the worst of my cold - though my asthma is more annoying than usual. Hopefully upping my symbicort will put an end to that.

Our next stop on the bus was at the magnificent Mysore Palace. It is the place we went to last night on the tuk tuks to see the illumination and it is a dazzling piece of India Victorian architecture. Everything is decorated and the gardens outside are lovely. We used audio tour equipment and it was a great visit.

After lunch we were taken to a silk factory - which also had a Victorian feel to it - lots of spinning and weaving the silk thread with golden threads to make wedding saris. It was terribly noisy and we really did not understand very much - but the image of all those spinners and looms was the racket they were making was impressive. Then we went to an emporium where silk goods and other cratfts were on sale. I think it was one emporium too many - Mike and I left pretty quickly but our guide gave us some interesting information about the tuk tuks - which were originally made by Vespa from Italy. Mike even had a change to look at the engine. The tuk tuks are fuelled by liquid natural gas - so apparently don't cuase much pollution - unlike our current bus which puffs out huge clouds of black smoke.

Tonight we are on our own for dinner and will likely walk over to the neighbouring hotel with some of the others. Tomorrow we drive to a small village of Wayanad. Luggage outside the door by 6:30 and on the bus at 7:30!

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