Edit Blog Post
Published: December 2nd 2009
I have heard it said the Mother India assaults your senses. The sights, the smells, the filth, the poverty, all greet you when you arrive in this amazing country. Yet there is so much more. The warmth of the people, the colors, the energy and the vastness of the country itself. And so it was for us as we arrived after a busy week in Germany.
We arrived at 1:45 am on November 26th to a beautiful bright new airport in Bangalore. No problem getting through the H1N1 screening. We walked through a heat sensor as we entered customs and immigration. I guess we are not as hot as we think we are, because no one noticed the fever of excitement we were experiencing as we returned to India. Customs and immigration was well organized and a breeze to get through…. We were very impressed and thought that this bode well for the rest of our journey. However this is where the fun began.
There was no driver there for us as anticipated. The first sign that “The Lonely Planet” might have slightly over-sold the hotel. We then get into at cab…..”Pay first Sir! We take rupee’s Euros whatever
you have!” Believe me the thought crossed our minds that we might get dropped off on some corner in Bangalore with our bags and our tired bodies. But our driver was a nice young man. Despite getting lost a few times and driving 140km, the wrong way down a one way, we made it safe and sound.
Then to the hotel. Well as previously alluded to… it was over sold. But the good news is that after a change of sheets,,,, we at least had relatively clean bedding. Even the hot water doesn’t work after midnight however it miraculously showed up again in the morning for a lukewarm shower.
We reconsidered our original plan to stay in Bangalore for a couple of days and made hasty arrangements to head for the familiarity of Tiruvannamalai. I guess the call to return to Arunachula was strong. It turned out to be a wonderful plan and a comfortable place to recuperate from jet lag and the challenges of our first morning in India.
After a short stay at the deluxe (even by North American standards) Sparsa Hotel, we moved to what will be our new home for the next few
weeks, our lovely little garden cottage. As we nestle in here and adjust to the ants, and other creepy crawlies, the sometimes hot…. But with very little water pressure…. Showers and the hard Indian beds (It is still several steps up from our usual fishing accommodations in Nootka Sound) we are caught up in the preparation for the most important festival of the year in Tiruvannamalai, Deepam.
Deepam remembers Shiva’s appearance to Vishnu and Brahman as a pillar or lingam of fire. Shiva is the “Great Destroyer” according to Hindu tradition. There are five elemental cities of Shiva and Tiruvannamalai is where Lord Shiva appeared in his fiery incantation. So every year at Deepam, hundreds of thousands (they estimate 1.5 million people and 35,000 Indian Police) of pilgrims, come to Tiru to honor Lord Shiva and to circumnavigate the holy Mt Arunachula.
During Deepam it is impossible to move in Tiru as the community more than triples in size. In preparation we hit the roadside fruit and vegetable stands, the Ramana Supermarket that caters to the westerners in town and the Pumpernickel Bakery, where we discovered delicious breads (we thought we would not see another loaf after leaving
Germany) and western sweets… even chocolate chip cookies and cheese cake. Our little fridge was stocked with enough to get us through the next couple of days.
On Deepam day we had a delicious lunch at the Nanaguru Ashram. (One of many ashrams that dot the landscape of Tiru) and took our turn feeding the hungry and the pilgrims on behalf of the Ashram. At 8 am the pilgrims started walking around Arunachula. Our cottage is located along this road and so to get anywhere we were required to join the milieu. At 6pm, we joined our landlords on their rooftop to watch the lighting of the lingam and experience first hand the sight of the Arunachula webcam. http://www.arunachala-live.com/ Imagine the collective “ahhhh”, the sound of wonderment, coming from a million plus lips and you will know the sound of Deepam. What a gift to be here on this day.
Until next time and more about our settling in to life in India…
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