Day 2 in Pondicherry started early .We were told by the manager of the hotel the morning we checked in, that complimentary breakfast would be provided the next morning. Free food makes you happy,doesn’t it? 😀 It made us too. And oh! We stayed in Hotel D’Europe. A very decent room for a very competitive price. We woke up,washed up, and started waiting. And we waited and waited and waited. Finally after what seemed like an eternity but had only been an hour and half we were called to the restaurant. Where we had to wait again.In the meanwhile we clicked a few pictures. The restaurant was decorated in good taste. The staff finally served us our much awaited breakfast which had Idlis,Pongal,Sambar,Vada (South Indian delicacies all) but not before a few angry groans from our stomachs which I suspect might have caught the staff’s ears which is why I think they finally relented.
After the feast,we set out to visit two of the most famous and the oldest temples in Pondi.Well a visit to a place in Tamil-Nadu won’t be complete without a visit to its temples, right?
We first visited the Varadaraja Perumal temple.This temple was built in the 11th century A.D by the then ruling kings of South India, first the Chola Dynasty and then the Pandyas expanded it in a later period of time. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu one of the main deities in Hinduism. I have been to numerous temples and the one thing that I learn every time is every temple is unique in its own way. This one is too! The entire temple is just smothered in murals! All the Indian mythological stories you can think of, you know, don’t know, are here. The colours left a lasting a lasting impression on us. Every nook and corner of the huge temple premise, every crack,every pillar, every break in the wall all somehow played their part in the tales woven around them. Had a few pictures clicked and set off towards the next temple – The Manakula Vinayagar temple.The main deity here is Lord Ganesha (The Elephant God).
Now this one was buzzing with life. There were hawkers all around with mounds of pink and white lotuses to offer to the Lord, people and vehicles scurrying around to find a parking space. We weren’t allowed to click any pictures here. When we first entered the main hall, the paintings on the walls again stole the show. But then came the real deal.
We had lived in Jakarta, Indonesia for about 2 years. Wherever we went to visit in Indonesia, the many different islands, the UNESCO world heritage sites(there is a galore of those sites in INDONESIA) there was always a heavy Indian architectural and cultural influence everywhere. Lord Ganesha, just like in India seemed like everyone’s favourite god to worship in the ancient days there (Majority of Indonesia once comprised of Hindus). And hence we found him almost everywhere with just one tiny difference! He was always draped in human skull necklaces, waistbands, headbands. It was a quite a strange sight for us to see this since we never associate the very amiable and cute Lord with a human skull-necklace!
LO and BEHOLD! We found his likes here as well!This temple, about 300 years old, I’m guessing aspired to have every Ganesha type( hindu myth has a lot of varieties of the different Gods and Goddesses) that could have been in existence. Oh and do they do a stellar job at the same! There were three human skull-bound Ganeshas on the wall surrounding the sanctum sanctorum. My jaw dropped the moment I saw them and I almost tore my poor husband’s arm off trying to catch his attention. They had inscriptions below saying that the inspirations for these Ganesh Idols were the idols in Java and Sumatra of Indonesia. We then sought his blessings, had some prasadam(food offered to God and then served to the devotees) and left for our hotel. But not visiting the Promenade beach one last time.
The sun decided to unleash all its wrath today. We strolled for a while in the sand, saw a group of excited kids gather a ton of tiny conchs, grabbed an ice-cold drink and left. After checking out of the hotel, our final destination, the most important of all was Arikamedu- the historical and archaeological site I had already mentioned in my first part.
A little about Arikamedu. Arikamedu was a Roman trading site for about 200 years starting from the 1st century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. But there was some evidence found, which suggests Arikamedu existed even before 1st century B.C. Among the many things that were found here, some belonged to the Roman empire such as ceramic wear, pottery,stone beads etc. Arikamedu was also known as a the hotspot for the making of stone and metal beads ,terracotta objects so much so that traders from different parts of the world arrived here to trade gems, spices, silk for those beautiful beads. This site is being looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Today the only thing that stands here are the ruins of an ancient building which the archaeologists speculate might have been used as a warehouse. But there are many alternate stories surrounding the structure. One such is that a Christian missionary built this at a later period in time to be used as a prayer hall but it was built using the old bricks that belonged to the ancient port-city. It was encouraging to see a few YOUNG chaps who had come to visit, leave Arikamedu when we rode in. The world still has young people who are interested in History.
Even though there is nothing much left of the place it still instils in us a feeling of oneness with the place. The enigma that surrounds it only adds to its allure. As the leaves on the trees rustle with the breeze, they seem to speak of the many extraordinary things that happened here. If only we could decipher that code!