Sunday, July 13, 2014

Around Chennai: Triplicane

This weekend we participated in our first Community Liaison Officer (CLO) event since getting to Chennai. It started bright and early in the morning (7:00) in Triplicane (Thiruvallikeni). Located directly north from Mylapore (the neighborhood we visited last weekend), Triplicane is another really old neighborhood. The event (which seem quite popular here) was a "photowalk." Our guide (Rom) was a tour guide volunteering for the day in hope of getting paid gigs with the CLO in the future (which I think will probably work out for him). 

My wife was quick to notice their ISO 9001 certification.
This really confused us...

We grabbed a ride with our neighbor and arrived a bit early at the meeting point: Parthasarathy TempleAs it turned out, he had gone on walks with Rom before so we knew we were in good hands. Shortly after arriving, it became clear that there was a festival going on at the temple. Of course the temple has a festival every month, so that's not a huge surprise, but this one turned out to be their "yearly festival." This was a several day affair, but today we got to see the priests (Brahman) carrying the temple deity around in his (very heavy) chariot. 

Did I mention it was a LOT of priests?

The Chariot with the Temple in the background.

Sadly this picture doesn't quite capture the weight of the 'chariot.' These are a bunch of young, fit guys and they're really struggling with it. We noticed later that they were moving very quickly; our guide told us they tend to get tired near the end so they start running every time they pick it up - instead of walking.

These guys don't look all that excited to be here.
Jasmines are sold all over temples. Many are also left as offerings.

We weren't clear what this signified, but this guy was putting this bell/hat on people that approached him.
Suddenly: COW!

A quick note on cows: they are all over the place. They are nominally fed by the temples so they tend to congregate around them. Later we walked down a street 'known for its cows.'

Vegetable shopping along the parade route.
This poor cow is so taunted.
Temple Tank.

After the parade, we started on our photo walk.

What happens when you take a panoramic while a guy walks by? THIS!

My son was a little antsy, so we had to keep walking. Unfortunately this meant we missed most of the "stop-and-listen" points along the walk. It was still quite interesting though. Very young cows are often tied up, probably to keep them from getting hit by cars. Anyway, we started walking down Singarachari Street to check out the cows.

Oooh, that's the spot!
It's not all cows. They don't discriminate.
Here are some water buffalo.
It's like a clothes line!

One of the interesting things about walking around in these older sections of Chennai is the crazy juxtaposition of very old buildings with recently built modern structures.

Hindu gods above what otherwise appears to be a house.
(I assume it's a temple in disguise.)

The US has no concept of what "small business" means.
This guy sells banana leaves (used as plates in South Indian eating establishments).

We started to circle back toward the temple when we learned a valuable lesson. Namely: my son is our ambassador. We were walking down a road and he just turned down a tiny little alley. Well, it turns out this was the alley that many of the temple priests live on. It's an incredibly old neighborhood and Rom told us that my son was the only reason we weren't shooed away! The ladies sitting outside of the houses were delighted to see him walking around without a care in the world!

Indian cul-de-sac.
Yep, that's a functioning well. Though we think it is ceremonial, because they had well spigots as well.

After our glimpse of the old neighborhood, we walked back to Parthasarathy Temple to check out the inside. We payed a few rupees to leave our shoes at the "shoe check" stall and walked through the temple. We were told we shouldn't take "snaps" in the temple, so I don't have much to show. We walked around clockwise (as you always do in Hindu temples). It was a huge complex with hundreds of gods carved into the walls. 

After the temple tour we wound up the photo walk and made plans for breakfast. We settled on Ratna Cafe where (between the 7 of us) we go a huge variety of Idly, Vada, Poori, and Dosa.

I went with the Poori.

We had a great time on this walk, and it was an excellent way to meet some new people from the Consulate. Besides, it's not every day you get to eat a casual breakfast with the acting Consul General!

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