Arjuna's Penance

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February 9th 2015
Published: February 13th 2015
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Chennai to Vijayawarda

Additional maps: Mamallapuram to Kondapalli

She looks realShe looks realShe looks real

After a long torturous trip with to many long airport layovers I finally arrived in Mamalapuram just south of Chennai at 9.30pm; 31 hours after leaving Australia. I must have had about two or three hours restless sleep during this time so straight after hotel check in I crashed, rising at 5.45am to bath before heading down to the Shore temple at dawn hoping to get some nice pictures.

When I arrived I expected the place to be accessable but it was all locked up, fearing I would miss the light I decided to follow the fence down to the beach where various people were bathing and making a ruckus. In the predawn light I moved around some rocks out of sight of the bathers and climbed over the fence in to the Shore temple complex. I have seen many Indian temples built by many empires, this Pallava temple built in the 7th century is simple yet majestic and I had it all to myself.

As I studied the building taking photographs of the weathered rock carvings decorating every part of the temples exterior, I was surprised by some squirrels who emerged from the structure as the sky lightened in the east, this was a good thing as I was prepared to hide from the caretakers when they turned up a short time later to open up the temple.

After they departed I took more photographs but the sun was hidden behind cloud so I made my escape while the going was good, as I came level with the entrance the sun decided to make an appearance together with a couple of security guards.

Not far away were the five rathas (ratha meaning chariot in sanskrit) each of which is dedicated to a Hindu god and named for one of the hero brothers of the epic Mahabharata, each temple has the animal mount of the individual god beautifully carved out of the same solid granite. The third temple Bhima Ratha has carvings of faces that suggest the builders were in contact with ancient Rome. The final ratha is dedicated to Indra and has arguably India's finest sculptured elephant standing nearby.

Arjuna's Penance is the highlight of this World heritage listed area, it is a stunning relief carved in to a huge boulder, the elephants are particularly impressive. There are also a number of other interesting temples
The shore templeThe shore templeThe shore temple

and reliefs dotting the area.

Next was a trip to Tiger cave a few kilometres north of town, this rock cut shrine is circa 7th century, and features a crown of carved yali (mythical lion like creature) heads.

Mamallapuram or Mal for short is a long established backpacker ghetto, although most of the foreigners I have seen are older often around my age, I stopped at one of the eateries for an omelet breakfast before getting a sim for my phone.

I later went for a walk around town, it breaks my heart to see the state of the dogs, a puppy came to see me but he was in such a bad state. I ended up in a beach side cafe where I had a bad beer or two before meeting an Australian couple, he was a vet but didnt seem to notice the poor state of the animals all around him. I visited the Bob Marley bar next and had to endure gangster rap, REALLY. It was a chilled place and the sea breeze was pleasant, later as night set in I visited a restaurant serving momo and pizza both of which were sensational.

I had a restless night listening to the screaming cats mating outside my window, the noise they make sets my hair on end, a quick breakfast of eggs and toast on the way out to the car was adequate. Today we travel to Kanchipuram one of India's holy cities to visit four temples, the first two are living temples so they were full of people and would be guides trying to cheat me, they were hot, smelly and not very appealing, the other two Vaikunta Perumal temple and the Kailasantha temple were quiet and stunning in their decoration.

Next we went to Vellore to see the fort and the Jalakanteshwara temple, both were worth a look, I then tried to visit the Golden Temple decorated with 1.5 tonnes of gold but they didnt like what I was wearing so I did not enter, I had planned to stay in Vellore but could not find any accomodation so we continued on to Tirumala.

The temple in Tirumala was packed with tens of thousands of pilgrims and wasnt much to look at so we continued on our way. By the time we reached the highway darkness had fallen the crazy
Five RathasFive RathasFive Rathas

mayhem of the roads in daylight is nothing compared to the night, many vehicles have no lights, people and animals all over the road and worst of all the buses which would frighten the bravest soul. At 9pm we stopped at a no where town called Ongole my room was basic to say the least, and extremely noisy.

The next morning we covered the final 150km to Vijayavarda the capital of Andra Pradesh, if I thought this city would be more attractive than the rest of India I was to be sadly mistaken. India unfortunately is a blight on the face of the earth and every day justs drives that observation home even harder.

After checking in we travelled 20 killometres north west to the hill fort at Kondapalli, fortunately I had the place to myself so after paying my entrance fee and collecting a large stick I set out to explore the ruins, the leader of the local Maoist rebels was born here so for a time it was a strong hold until the army moved them along to the north. I spotted a large lizard a turtle and a troop of monkeys, which kept well away
The five rathasThe five rathasThe five rathas

from my stick. The solitude was pleasant as was the quiet, it was just by chance I spotted a pair of Langur monkeys one of which peaked at me from between two rocks. The disappointing thing was the piles of garbage littering the whole area, just as it seems to litter every inch of the country.

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 26



Stunning friezeStunning frieze
Stunning frieze

Temple of GaneshTemple of Ganesh
Temple of Ganesh

Head taste goodHead taste good
Head taste good

Love elephantsLove elephants
Love elephants


13th February 2015
Thank god it didnt see me

You always have to watch out for these guys or they will get you. Sounds like you are having a great trip.

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