Mahabalapurum

Hannah, do you still want to be a lighthouse keeper? Here's the lighthouse in Mahabalapurum:
And the lighthouse keeper's quarters. Not bad, huh? And right next to a beach town.
But not much rain except in the monsoon season and this week. (We are with the rain gods this week. Sunday we finished sightseeing, got into the car and the skies opened up and the roads were soon a few inches deep in water. Tonight, we went into the bookstore. Came out to find a torrential rain, which started just after we got inside, and on the way home, rickshaws were stalled with wet sparkplugs and women on motorbikes were drenched and some men had put plastic bags on their heads like a fifties' rain cap, as though that would make much of a difference when the rest of them was drenched. Ah, the human spirit of hope. And as soon as I typed this, a huge rainstorm descended.) (If you are a sceptic and don't believe in some sort of pattern at work, consider that last night, when my husband - the civil liberties person - went to the Chennai meeting of Rotary International, the speaker discussed India's new freedom of information act. What are the chances?)
But back to the tour. Below, a detail of gods from a frieze carved out of rock and into a small temple next to a much larger frieze called Arjuna's Penance.
Below, a scary ascetic Buddha at the workshop of a stone carver-friend of our driver. The stone mason is carving a six-foot-tall version of this sculpture to send to Ireland. Most of the large pieces from the workshops in Mahabalapurum go to temples or hotels or wealthy people's homes all over the world. From this tiny, very unfancy village, they ship these huge pieces by boat to Europe and the States and elsewhere. (This is how helpful it is to have someone drive you around: no delaing with rickshaws, good inside scoop on the area, and lots of really good stuff, like warning you not to walk off the path at the cemetary - not, as my husband thought, because he was breaking the rules - but because there are cobras in the grass. Just small ones, they noted, but still, who wants to step on even a baby cobra?)
My favorite carving: ther very sweet cows in the frieze next to Arjuna's Penance.
More asceticism: this, a cat, surrounded by mice. The cat is meditating and the mice are playing unimpeded around him - indicating how deeply he is meditating. Would a dog be able to achieve this concentration? I think not. (Our dog chewed through the seat belt of our dog sitter's car this week. Not a good thing,)
Details from the Shore Temple, built in 700 AD or so. Very influential on temple architecture all over the world. In Mahabalpurum, you see sculptures that look Chinese or Vietnamese or Greek, and most likely, they all were derived from Indian art.

What you don't see in any of these pictures are the women at each site who sweep all of the leaves and sticks and dust away from the sidewalks, monuments, and other flat surfaces throughout the day. You see this continually in the city as well: people sweeping off driveways or steps or courtyards. Their brooms are made of long pieces of stiff straw, bound together with twine, and are about 2 feet long. The straw is twisted so that the end of the broom is at an angle, and all day long, you see women on the street by their homes, or working as cleaners at hotels, or as caretakers of buildings, or at ancient temples or monuments that are used every day, who are sweeping. They just keep whisking the debris along, and they don't use a dustpan, but it seems to go somewhere, so that the sidewalk or courtyard is clean. And it's their yoga: the brooms are so short that they bend halfway over to sweep, but keep their backs very straight and flat, so that they (theoretically, at least) are able to do this work without getting a permanent backache. I'm not sure why the brooms are designed this way, except that there isn't a lot of hardwood evident in India, and perhaps this became the best way to make a broom, and people adapted around the design.
And it is still raining. The street has a small stream running down it. Tomorrow, we'll see who shows up for class at the yoga therapy center.










Comments

Carol Kania said…
Hello Hannah's parents! Hopefully while she is keeping her lighthouse, she can continue writing. Her story in The Living Dead anthology was better than Stephen King's! (Now if only we could find out about his lighthouse keeping skills?)

I am enjoying the photos and stories from your adventure. I look forward to continuing to travel along with you.
hwbowen said…
Of course I do!

(And, uh, thank you, Carol!)