Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Chennai to Pondicherry – Day 15

Every tour has travel days and the trip to Pondi, aka Pondicherry or Puducherry, was a special journey as it included a visit to Kalakahetra School of Dance and Mahabalipuram.

A quick tip: If your tour passes through a city and then circles back to the same hotel before departure, consider leaving any unneeded luggage with the hotel staff. It is a great way to lighten your load especially if you plan on travelling by train!

Because we were to return to Chennai some of us left our main luggage at the Park Hotel in the luggage room. I was one of the people to do this. Our return trip from Pondicherry included travelling by train. It was so much easier to pack my carry-on bag for this trip.

In Dalrymple's Nine Lives we read about temple dancers and in Chennai the great schools of dance still teach this ancient style of performance.

Our first stop of the day was to visit this school. Mrs. Githa told us that at the time of our visit 180 students were studying here. It is an honour to be chosen to be a student at this school.  We walked quietly through the gardens, peaking into windows, stopping to listen to each magical voice and instrumental music. It was the quiet and the calm feeling that you experience here that impressed me most.

On arrival in Mahabalipuram we walked through a busy market heading toward the sea. Children called out greetings, asked to shake our hands, and wondered aloud where we were from and would we take their picture. Always fun! At Mahabalipuram our first destination was the Shore Temple.

The day of our visit was very warm and like all the other visitors out in the hot mid-morning sun, we walked in every bit of shade this ancient century Hindu temple and each of its weather worn carvings would offer. Imagine, this temple was built over 2600 years ago and still visitors come, sun or no sun.

Back in the market we watched master carvers bring out the shapes of the gods. They work in the sun, along the main market street and the sound of their chisel on stone is unlike any other sound. The work is a very slow labour intensive practice (one chip at a time) and while we wished to watch the the gods take shape, it would have been days or weeks of waiting. Yet, in this very small area you could see and experience the past, the present and the future as it comes together in the sun and the dust.

As a Canadian travelling it is always fun to meet another Canadian and see what brings them to this place. For lunch we stopped at the seaside restaurant,  L’attitude 49 a newly opened cafe owned by Chindi Varadarajulu, a Vancouver transplant. Chindi had a restaurant in Vancouver before coming to India to start this very new adventure. We enjoyed our lunch, spent some time with Chindi, and of course we talked about Canada.

On arrival in Pondicherry, a former French colony that still retains signs of this colonial heritage, we checked into our hotel and as I set to some unexpected negotiations with the hotel staff, the other group members went out to explore. It was the night that the citizens of Pondicherry celebrated a festival in honour of the goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva. The streets were full of people and excitement and it was a wonderful way to see this historic town.


  1. Well..this day was really interesting. Felt like I was there again. What did you eat at the cafe ? Wasn't it fun to find a transplanted Canadian so far away.
    am enjoying your posts and loving the paintings which I transfer to my photo page !!

  2. I wish I could tell you what I had to eat at the restaurant but I cant remember. I know I would go again, so it must have been good.