Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Mylapore – revisited from afar

As I sit here in my office at temperatures hovering above freezing in the unseasonably mild (yes, it’s true!) winter weather I cannot believe it was nine months ago that I was traveling to Chennai (Madras) in India. I first wrote about that trip here and in subsequent posts that week, but  it was only today that I finally got around to processing a few more images from that trip, starting with the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore, now a district of the sprawling city.

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As I go through more images I will upload them to my art site and may include a few more here too in other posts.

~Richard

Arjuna’s Penance – Mahabalipuram

Approximately 60km south of the large city of Chennai (Madras) in Tamil Nadu, is the historic town of Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram). This was a bustling seaport since the first century and is best known now for the wonderful carved monuments from the 7th century which have earned the area the classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the most spectacular carvings is the huge relief known as both Arjuna’s Penance and Descent of the Ganges. Carved over two rocks and occupying an area of 30m length by 15m high, this is a wonderful depiction of the journey of Arjuna in order to obtain Shiva’s weapon (Pasupata) and so allow him to challenge the gods. The detail on the 1400 year old figures is exquisite with many animals and figures, both human and godly, large and small. There is even humor in the carving, with a cat depicted as mimicking Arjuna’s one-legged fasting penance to a crowd of watching mice (look just in front of the elephant).

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Between the two rocks is a cleft filled with snake spirits (Nagas) and down which water was poured to represent the Ganges’ descent from the heavens. This is the second tale that is said to be depicted by this carving.

Whichever story you like, the rock is an amazing and enduring architectural testament to an ancient people. I wonder what will remain of our 21st century artifacts for our descendants to regard with similar awe in the 35th century?

~Richard

 

Gods above – Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Mylapore

Hinduism, the major religion for the Indian subcontinent, has thousands of gods that are worshipped. These myriad deities fall within the trinity of major gods, Shakti (Devi), Vishnu, and Shiva.

Shakti, or Devi, is the creator and changer; Vishnu is the preserver, or protector; and Shiva is the god of destruction. Of course, each god has many other minor deities associated with them. Too many to list, in fact as some can be very specific indeed. This makes Hinduism a very personal religion, whilst existing in a larger framework. There are many temples throughout the city of Chennai dedicated to various deities and they are usually very colorful.

One of the oldest is the Kapaleeshwarar (Kapaleeswar) temple in Mylapore, which is dedicated to Shiva and his related deities.

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As colorful as the carvings are the stories surrounding the creation of many of the gods: tales of rage, redemption regret and rebirth proving that even gods have to take the consequence of their decisions!

The carvings on the various temple buildings and smaller shrines are kept bright through regular maintenance and ensure that you really do get the impression of being overlooked from the heavens as you walk though the Temple complex in a clockwise pattern.

Keep on the white path though or your bare feet will burn in the searing Madras heat!

~Richard

Shopping Locally

Chennai is a bustling, modern city in many ways, with many well dressed locals walking with cellphones attached to their ears like any other urban scene. But there are also many locals who cannot hope to afford the western lifestyle and for whom the local stalls and stores are an essential part of life. It is quite odd to see bill boards advertising a new shopping mall that will contain GAP, and other corporate retail outlets alongside the more modest stores, many of them on carts or in the front of people’s houses. These stores have been giving service to the locals for generations and forming an essential part of the community – something that is lost by the corporate giants with their never-ending quest for growth.

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~Richard

Waiting for a bus, paradoxically

As I was being driven back my hotel through the crowded streets of Chennai in the evening rush hour, I couldn’t help but think of the paradoxes that seem to surround India. People wait for crowded, dented buses on tired, broken streets to enter the erratic, noisy traffic whilst many others (locals and foreigners)  can indulge in opulent gestures.

‘Twas ever thus.

This composite image captures some of my thoughts from today’s journey.

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~Richard

On the Pale Ale Route

India Pale Ale, or IPA, is a strongly hopped beer developed in the late 18th century specifically for the East India Company by Allsop brewery from the existing pale ales. The extra hoppiness made it particularly suitable for the long sea voyage to India and it was quickly followed by many other brewers and found f(l)avor with the expats stationed in the subcontinent.  Charrington’s first shipment of their India Ale to Madras (modern day Chennai) in 1827 was so successful that a regular trade was soon established.

The original term pale ale comes from the lighter colored beer that was produced by warm fermentation of pale malts that had been predominantly dried coke. Apparently the world’s first pale ale was produced by Bass, which was the best selling beer in the UK and exported throughout the Empire with its distinctive red triangle branding (and Britain’s first trademark!).

How ironic (or simply coincidental) then that the only British beer available to me in the BA lounge on my trip to Chennai tonight is Bass Pale Ale!

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Of course my journey, though starting 3000+ miles further west, will be completed in under 24 hours, something those 18th century British merchant sailors would have thought as impossible as they crossed the treacherous ocean to deliver their happy hoppy cargo.

~Richard

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