Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Footsore in Mysore: Part Two

The second part of the weekend was fantastic, apart from a tiny brief bout of the mandatory Delhi Belhi.

We woke really early on Sunday and were driven to see the palace in the beautiful clear morning light, before all the pollution rose up to obscure things. Then we went to Chawamundi Hill, on top of which is the temple to the goddess celebrated on the last day of Dasara. There were millions of people queuing to get in, they went around the temple inside and out in a line 5-6 people. We reckoned it probably was not worth queuing too as there were loads of other things to see. Next stop was a large statue of a bull (whose balls had been enthusiastically puja'ed by the men!).

The highlight of the day was the stunning Keshava Vishnu temple of Somnathpur, which is one of the finest example of Hoysala Architecture built in the 13th century and is, unusually amongst other Dravidian styles, star shaped.

Interestingly, the temple was used for teachings as well as worship and one of the classes available to pilgrims in the 13th century was the Karma Sutra. I expect it was quite a popular module and early registration was recommended. I can’t quite imagine the Rector of East & West Clandon offering a similar subject. Anyway, the temple, as you can see from the pictures, is covered in exquisitely well preserved and crisp carvings, apart from the ones depicting lectures from the Karma Sutra which have, unsurprisingly, quite a worn look. All are the work of a single artist, Malitamba. The carvings are in strips and depict scenes from various Hindu texts, including the Ramayana, Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata. They are read walking clockwise around the temple.

Inside, the ceiling is in multiple bell shapes with more carvings deep into the roof space of the towers which surmount each of the three shrines inside. The whole effect is beautiful, peaceful and delicate.

Unfortunately for me, that was the end of my site-seeing for the day, as I spent the rest of the time in the car concentrating very hard on not throwing up (I succeeded) before spending an intimate evening with my lovely, lovely, lovely, non-squat loo at the hotel. If the rest of Mysore had been a disaster, the sheer joy of not having to squat over a hole in the ground where other people’s early morning poos emerge if I “flush” too vigorously (ie pour water down the hole from a bucket), whilst having frequent, pointless bowel movements, would have made it worth the trip anyway. As it happened, I had magic curds for supper with a roti and was right as rain the next day. In fact, as everyone else was extremely exhausted by the previous day’s vigorous site-seeing, and I had had an early night, I was bouncing around like Tigger at Eeyore’s party. Which was perfect for the Jumbo Savari - the elephant parade.

The wonderful Arun had managed to get us last minute tickets for the parade and they were great tickets too. They were right in front of the palace amongst some minor bigwigs. In order to get a better look at the elephants as they passed, I wove my way right to the front, noting as I did so how many uniformed policemen, including a few women in Khaki saris, lined either side of the parade. After a while, it became clear that the enthusiasm was for the uniform rather than the duty and there was lots of the usual Indian exuberance to give weight to the theory. Myself and Krithika, throwing caution to the winds, joined in and ducked under the fence into the parade ground, crossed across the two lines of policeman and stood facing our other friends in the stand, while mingling amongst the TV cameras, politicians, elephants and, as previously mentioned, khakied policemen. Heady with success, I wolf-whistled to the others to attract their attention. They were about 100y away. The many, many policemen standing less then 5 yards away, in a manoeuvre truly worthy of their uniforms, turned, as one, towards me. I looked down sheepishly, briefly, and when I looked up, I caught the eye of one. He looked fiercely at me and said.

“One more time, please, Madame”.

I obliged and a wave of happy grins illuminated the Khaki sea.

The parade was wonderful. There were uniforms with hats of all shapes and sizes - made the British Army headgear look almost reasonable. There were dancers, acrobats, children painted as tigers, fire eaters, brass bands playing the Indian version of Colonal Bogie and drummers playing fast and furious primal rhythms. There were some truly inventive floats, including one with a temple, complete with genuine “tourists” taking pretend photos. They were the only white people in the parade!

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The elephants were beautiful. I don’t know why they make me want to cry whenever I see them, but they are so lovely. We got up really close and stroked the leader carrying the Goddess Chawamundi. We were even allowed to take each other's photos in front of them. The official photographers, kindly paused to let us do that.

This is a photo of the prize winning costume as far as I am concerned. We thought maybe they were a group of house-proud house-husbands.

After the parade finished, we had to get back to Bangalore in order to catch a bus and so missed the torchlight parade in the evening, sadly, but we set off, 6 of us, in a car the size of a Ford Fiesta. It was quite a hair-raising trip, especially as Arun was concerned we wouldn't make the bus. We didn’t, in fact, because it was so overbooked that people were actually throwing their children into it as it was driving into the bus station, to ensure their family’s places. The husbands hurled the smallest child through the open windows, whilst the wives screeched “Don’t forget the luggage!”. Disappointed, but secretly relieved not to be spending 5 hours on a bus were people were prepared to risk injury to their most vulnerable family members in order to get on, we went back to the car park. There we found that we had been boxed in. Someone had parked in the opening of the bay, blocking our exit. Having walked through crowds of thousands, we felt it unlikely we would track down whoever owned the keys to the offending vehicle. Luckily for us, but foolishly for him, the driver had parked using the hand brake but leaving it in neutral. It took a concerted effort, but we managed to bump the car back into the bay where our car was, enabling us to drive out. As we did, we noticed another car driving into the “space” we had kindly created for it and parking. I still occasionally wonder what the driver of the first car thought when he found his car cunningly contained in a fence of other cars: where he had most emphatically not left it himself.

As if that wasn’t enough entertainment for the day, we then were, very briefly introduced to a famous Kannadan film actor. As each state has it’s own language, it has it’s own film industry and Bangalore and Mysore are in Karnataka, the language of which is Kannada. He was very shy of being amongst so many gorgeous English speaking Flowers, and stayed only for a couple of minutes, but he too was impressed by my whistle and requested a repeat performance.

Arun, pretended to be looking for a hotel for us to spend the night but was secretly phoning his mum who instantly said that we must stay with her, as he knew she would. So we spent the night with the Diwakar family and black cocker spaniel puppy called Streaky. So named owing to his habit of streaking around the apartment like, well, like a streak. Sound familiar? He was noticeably less grubby than the other cocker spaniel some of you may know, which may be due to the fact that they never let him off the lead outside, he doesn’t have a water trough for a drinking bowl and they tie his ears back with a scrunchie when he has his dinner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Karma Sutra classes? Is that theory or practical...?