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Published: August 7th 2007
The ratha's of Mahabalipuram
that resemble processional chariots
There couldn’t have been a better day to visit Chennai! The ubiquitous, humid signature weather of the city was overshadowed by a cloudy sky and a gentle breeze on a mild day in late December. Unlike my previous trips which were solely family visits, this was purely of the holiday kind! Although Chennai was home, I’d seen greener pastures(!) and often wished and hoped it would go back to being the ‘Madras, nalla ooru Madras’ ( great city of Madras) that it was; again from my memory of a very old Tamil film song that I’d seen on the television as a child! And as the early morning flight landed, I noticed some green cover - some luscious coconut palms swaying like as if in a trance, that seemed to be in sync with the holiday mood of the writer! The going seemed good, it was best to keep it going!
Fifty kilometers to the south of Chennai off the East Coast Road, lies the ancient town of Mammallapuram. Mahabalipuram as it is now called is home to the awe inspiring ‘rathas’. Sculpted from a giant monolith piece of rock they stand testimonial to the advanced civilization of the bygone
The ratha's of Mahabalipuram
Ode to the artisans of the 7th century!
era. The original lighthouse (although now damaged and partly struck down by lightning) is proof of their advanced maritime know-how. A short distance away is the ‘shore temple’. As the name indicates, this hugely ornate pagoda shaped structure stands tall - witness to the millennia old rhythm and sound of the crashing waves of the Bay of Bengal against its rocky shores - a mute spectator (and survivor) to the ravages of time. Countless beings have circumnavigated its precincts, touched and experienced the artisan work on its thirteen hundred year old walls - often marveling at the craftsmanship of the people of that era. A world heritage tag was indeed necessary to preserve this eon old symbol of our ancient civilization. Its surrounding grounds, are now landscaped and more appealing than they were a few decades ago and as we made our way to the parking lot, we realized that there was yet another futuristic artifact to be seen and handled with - an assembly line product on four wheels! An overzealous fellow tourist had, without much ado, parked his vehicle perpendicular to ours, stranding us and a few others too. It took us a lot of ‘man’ power to
down by the bay(of bengal)!
move the obstacle off the course!
A little while later we were back on the road - the ‘Fisherman’s Cove’ beach resort was our destination and a sea facing cottage our anchor for the next couple of days - one couldn’t have asked for a better shelter by the beach! The sound of the distant waves, as they charged towards the shore only to ebb away in humongous troughs of quickly receding foam; was punctuated only by the chatter and calls of the birds as they nestled in the trees. An idyllic morning well spent doing nothing but gazing out at the sea; trying to quench one’s insatiable appetite for more. Armed with a good book in the midst of nature is another flavor of a holiday to be relished and savored! For the few days that we were there the lifeguards had a red flag posted by the beach as the waves were strong and the sea choppy. It didn’t however stop us from venturing out into the water just a bit! And as we stood near the edge, mounds of surf raced towards us at breakneck speed - it was easy to feel the pull of the
parking lot, Shore Temple grounds
Eureka, another innovative method of car parking called perpendicular parking!
vast unknown frontier…
It was a soul searching experience and a very humbling one too. Here we were at the shores of this vast expanse of sea, having derived so much from its resources only to give back next to nothing in return except industrial effluents, human waste and non recyclable products. Perhaps only in India would you see the combination of natures greatest gift and mans worst means of reciprocation. Even the beach at Fisherman’s Cove had its quota of plastic bags littered around, although it was relatively much cleaner than its sister, ‘the Marina beach’ in the city. If we do not wake up early, to the hazards of human interference in our natural resources, we are undoubtedly denying our future generations what would rightly be their untainted inheritance.
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