Monday, February 20, 2006

Trichy to its friends

If you'd been given the name Tiruchirappalli, you too might prefer to be known by a shorter name. Trichy, as most people call it, is first in a sequence of Tamil temple towns along the Cauvery River, leading downstream to Thanjavur, Kumbakonam and Chidambaram - and for me, coming south, the start of another country.

The south IS different. The people look different, darker perhaps but rounder-featured - and gentler, by which I guess I mean less pushy and demanding. It is a distinct pleasure to be simply ignored! Or, if approached, to be treated like another human being, as the old woman did who wanted advice on resetting her mobile, or another who wanted to check that we were on the right platform.

It's good, too, to be in a real town, after the precious atmosphere and tourist economy of Mamallapuram. The last item I ate there was toast-butter-jam for an extortionate 35 rupees: the first thing I had here was a full thali washed down with a lime soda: a total meal for the same price! Yes, I'm back in the Land of the Thali and for lunch today I had the genuine total performance. A banana leaf spread on the table and watered (customer, who's washed his hands already, brushes it down) and then loaded with a pile of rice and set about with a variety of sauces and side dishes, including a dessert and a curd/yogurt. The form is that you dive in, right hand only (I sit on my left to keep it out of mischief), grabbing the rice, sopping up the sauces, swiping in the side-dishes and thumbing it home. And it keeps on coming - because the deal is definitely "all you can eat" and the waiters don't hang back, acting quite disappointed when you only manage a couple of second helpings. Somehow when I eat with my hands, sorry - hand, I find myself getting more voracious. Something cave-man about it, maybe, but the food tastes particularly good this way, I think.

Tamil Nadu is also the Land of the Gopuram, a particular kind of temple tower found largely here and not elsewhere. Think of a cross between a steep pyramid and a wedge set on end, cover it with a jungle of decorations, particularly deities (standing, greeting, dancing, grimacing, menacing), and overlay it all with a kaleidoscopic stampede of primal colours - and there you have it. Some soar to 30 metres or more and stand out from the tree cover from miles away.

Today I saw my share in a temple-tour of Trichy (remember Trichy?), starting at the Rock Fort Temple, set upon and accessed by steps up and through a great outcrop to the north of the city. From the top I could see my second and third destinations, both temples with a varied collection of gopurams set in the mid-point of a number of encircling walls (so, 4 per wall) and in the centre a holy-of-holies: non-Hindus not allowed! The final temple, at Srirangam, is the largest temple "campus" in India. But in a sense this is a cheat because, although it has nine encircling walls, the outer ones enclose what elsewhere would simply be called a town, with houses, shops and all - although I believe they are all in some way subject to - and serving - the mother temple.

By 1 p.m. I was all templed out and, although again bewitched by the short-phase repetitive chanting, which felt that it came direct down through the millennia of Hinduism, my scorched soles (yes, barefoot through a large part of this huge temple) told me enough was enough and it was time to head back to my personal shrine in the cool of my hotel room.


Blogger rancho said...

Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

Hotels in Trichy Thanjavur Kumbakonam

Tue Feb 21, 09:25:00 am GMT  

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