On Monday 30th December we had to wake up at 5:00 am and be ready by 7:00 am to drive six hours to Pondicherry. Six hours might not sound too long if you are on your own but when there is a child and the driving resembles a deadly roller coaster, it feels like a painful eternity. Somewhere along the road, Anna needed to make an emergency visit to the toilet… her stomach was screaming and we had no choice but to stop in a public toilet in a petrol station. Meanwhile the rest of us were patiently waiting, contemplating the breathtaking panorama…
On top of that something natural but unexpected happened to me… guess what??? My period! I asked the driver to stop at the nearest chemist along the way. Luckily we were not in a deserted place, we passed by several small towns with lots of shops. The chemists are not like Walgreens (USA), Boots (UK) or London Drugs (Canada), they are more like small grocery kiosks with only two choices: thick cushioned towels (those ones my mother probably wore when she first got her period in Peru) or tiny tampons (the size of a 5mm metric caliber bullet) without applicator!! Terrible! But there was no other choice! not even at the International Gandhi Airport in New Delhi can you get a decent tampon! I am so sorry to go through these details but here is a tip of the day for girls… bring a good supply of tampons when you are travelling to India!
Returning to the itinerary, our next stop was Thanjavur, capital of Imperial Cholas of the later period (846 – 1279) A.D. This city was once a treasure-house of art for centuries. Today, it is a chaotic, messy, modern Indian town. We visited the famous granite-stone Brihadishwara Temple dedicated to Shiva (see below), now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of India’s most prized architectural sites. The Vimana (temple tower) is 216 ft (66 m) high and is among the tallest of its kind in the world. The Nandi Bull (Shiva’s sacred bull) opposite to the sanctum sanctorum weights 20 tonnes and is carved from a single stone.
People are going in and out of the temple. I think there was a service going on at that time.
While touring the fabulous complex of this temple, we were commandeered by some local charming women who wanted to pose with us for pictures. They wanted their children to take photos with Sabrina too, they were all thrilled about it; then our tour guide said that white people bring them good luck and then I realized that it was Peter who managed to gather the most amount of women around him! so at the end who was the lucky one?? even their Hindu husbands didn’t mind at all.. I conclude that it was Peter the lucky charm for Hindu women.
South India is a place full of traditions, beliefs and strong faith. When we finished our temple tour, I was just about to sit and rest when I saw something that caught my full attention. There were colorful pieces of clothes, rings, little shoes, little wooden cribs hanging onto a painted tree. I asked the guide and he said that it was a symbol of fertility. Women who can’t have babies bring their offerings hoping they will become pregnant one day.
Our next destination was the famous Art Gallery located in the Thanjavur Royal Palace which is placed on the Tourist World Map today. One can see and enjoy the finest pieces of stone sculptures and bronze icons of the Gods of Hindu mythology in different forms which enlighten the greatness of Chola art. One of the most remarkable Gods is Shiva, the destroyer. With 1008 names, Shiva takes many forms such as the master in Yoga, music and dancing. My favorite form is Bhairava-Shiva with eight arms. Endowing multiple hands is a regular feature employed in images to bring home symbolically the powerful aspect of Gods to the worshipers.