Monday, May 5, 2008

Adventure 16: Road to Pondicherry

Let’s start where I left off. I woke up on the 30th morning and got ready and everything, but we decided to leave at 6:00 AM instead of 5:00 AM. The drive was quite beautiful, because the whole thing is along the coastline. The ocean is really beautiful when you stop analyzing it and just watch. And listen. And appreciate. We stopped at a city in the middle called Mahabalipuram and I was told that this was where there used to be an ancient civilization (not that there’s any scarcity of those in India). But this one was different.


We checked out the ruins of an ancient temple, which used to be along the coastline (the shore has been manually moved a little bit further back). This temple was ridiculously amazing to explore. It was just me and my dad’s two main co-workers (literally, it was just us three at the whole temple site). I walked around it, inside it, through it (it is ruins, so naturally, the whole temple is – although intact – ruined). There were so many pieces of architecture and, probably at the time functional, stone tanks for water storage and other such tools and devices. I was amazed at the fact that although this was at least 1500 years old, it was so detailed in its architecture, so precise in its measurements, so thorough in its understanding of the laws of mathematics and physics. How did ancient civilizations do this without computers and calculators, and even without any machinery to do the sculpting?! I am always fascinated and amazed at the ability and potency of ancient artists and sculptors, who worked entirely with their hands and entirely out of inspiration. Even in today’s India, the sculptors still prefer their hands to machinery, on the side of the streets you can see them sculpting away their little idols and figurines out of stone.


In today’s society, we have become so dependent on machines to do everything for us – wash our clothes and dishes, do our calculations, even to write! We depend on computers for everything. Our brain’s functionality has either gone down or we have stunted it ourselves with the use of machines as supports where we don’t need them. It is like being born with fine legs, and then being given crutches at the age of 3, before your legs become fully grown and developed. Then by the time you are 13, you cannot walk because your legs’ growth was stunted due to the crutches you use, even though you never needed them in the first place!! This is what we are in fact doing to our brains and bodies today…


Anyways after exploring this temple and taking some cool pictures, we left the site and went to another ancient site called Panch Rath. This site is something of an architectural anomaly. There are five HUGE stones, like, the size of small huts, carved into the shape of raths (chariots). They don’t look like chariots to me, but who knows, they could have looked like that in ancient days. They’re huge structures that to my eyes look like little homes or temples. The part that sets this site apart from all other such sites is that each rath is made of ONE stone only. Only one! How did the sculptors do this? And why? But one can never get into the mind of the artist, we are left to our own opinions and judgments. But one thing is for sure – these things are works of genius. First of all, they’re REALLY old, and, obviously, still standing. Second, they’re all made of one stone each. Third, there’s no mistakes anywhere. There is one random stone elephant (which is the SIZE of an elephant!) made of one stone as well. Now, compare this with what we call Stonehenge… I don’t need to say any more. India could have had its own Stonehenge, but instead some artist came and converted it into 5 or 6 beautiful sculptural masterpieces!


Next we ate some amazing south Indian food for breakfast (it was around 9 AM by this time) and continued on our journey to Pondicherry, which was our next stop. When we got to Pondicherry, I felt like I had entered another world. The streets are all well-kempt, with no litter anywhere to be seen (ok, not ANYwhere… but where don’t you find litter?) and everything is so… western. We arrived at around 11:00 AM and made our way to the International Guest House of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where I was to be staying. So we finalized my booking and I found myself in my room in no time. My coursework was officially done, and I finally disembarked at Pondicherry.


The next morning itself I went to go see sunrise at the beach, which is literally 2 minutes of a walk away from where I stay. I relaxed at the beach, toured around the area, checked out Aurobindo Ashram… Pondicherry is like the California of India. It is a coastal location, warm weather, cool people (everyone wears shorts, even at meetings!), new ideas, innovations, etc… I really like this place. I probably won’t be writing much more until I leave Pondicherry.


I’m on vacation.