In many of the temples in Tamil Nadu you will find a resident elephant. The elephant will bless the pilgrims by touching them on the head with their trunk, for a small donation. This certainly isn't a tourist attraction, (there are virtually no tourist in this region) they are there for the Indian temple goers and pilgrims. Even so I had double feelings about this. An elephant revered in Hindu myths, (Ganesha the elephant headed god) but maybe not treated so kindly in reality. Despite not being sure of my feelings, the elephant looked well treated and the mahout seemed a kind man.
The Tamil language is one of the oldest recorded languages in southern India. Tamil script evolved from an ancient southern form of the Brahmi script, it is currently used in Tamil Nadu as well as in Sri Lanka. Seen in a bus station somewhere enroute.
The festival had began a week or so earlier, idols of Lord Vishnu and his consort Laksmi are brought by their temple Brahmins from all over Tamil Nadu to reside for a period in the main temple with the main idol. Tonight is the end of this period and the idols with much pageant and splendour are carried reverently out of the main temple, by Brahmins and make their way through the temples grounds and further onto the streets of Kanchipuram accompanied by chants and incense back to their own temples. This groups of pilgrims and us wait patiently for the procession to start.
Marina beach on a Sunday afternoon and the last day of the Pongal festival. Pongal is one of the most popular festivals of South India, mainly Tamil Nadu. The festival is celebrated for four days. On, the first day, Bhogi, the old clothes and materials are thrown away and fired, marking the beginning of a new life. The second day, the Pongal day, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel - a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal. People also prepare savories and sweets, visit each other's homes, and exchange greetings. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. On the last day, which is a free working day Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic and celebrate dressed in the best Pongal clothes. Many in Chenai head to the beach and bath in their full dress. It gets very busy and often the police are bought in to control the crowds, and often there are accidents as people become over excited throng into the sea. If you open this picture you see more details including a washed in puppy on the beach that didn't make it through the crowds.
This young Vishnu devotee had made the journey from his village to Kanchipuram with his father and uncle. As far as I could understand, my Tamil is very limited, the journey and pilgrimage was forming part of his rite of passage. He would soon be accepted as a young man in the village.
These farmers are all Vishnu devotees, you can see that by their black clothes they wear. After the terrible, non-existent rains last year their pilgrimage to the most important Vishnu temple in Tamil Nadu was in hope of a better harvest.
Mr. P.N. Krishnamurth
Mr. P.N. Krishnamurthy's book stall outside one of the temples in Trichy selling various religious books and comics depicting the most famous Hindu myths. I bought a couple for Zoe and Fay, (our two eldest granddaughters). Although they are in Tamil the stories of Ganesh and Garuda can be followed by the pictures.
Mount Popa II
From dawn until dusk the views are magnificent at Mount Popa and well worth staying the night at the mountain resort. The advantage is not only the views but if you want to climb to the top of Mount Popa, you can do this early in the morning before the day tours arrive from Baga, Thus again you have the temple to yourselves, and the monkeys of course.
Mount Popa is very close to Bagan and many people make a day trip to the mount, climbing the 700 and so stairs, feeding and avoiding the pesky, cheeky monkeys that roam the stairs and the temple looking for treats. The old temple dedicated to the nat spirits sits on the summit. Having visited the temple many years ago, we decided this time to stay in the mountain resort opposite, away from the chaos and monkeys but with the views. By day we could make nice forest walks or relax by the swimming pool and at dawn and sunsets we 'fought' over the tripod, (we only took one) for the amazing views.
Three for tea
I just thought I might share another photo from one of the Bangladeshi tea estates. A few days ago there was a report in The Guardian (UK newspaper) that the International Labour Organization reports dramatic global drop in number of working poor. The agency highlighted a general improvement in the educational level of the world’s labour force.
All for a cup of tea
Bangladeshi tea workers are mostly indigenous people from India, Dalit Hindus who migrated during British rule. They are among the most deprived and marginalized communities in the country, living in small, thatched-roofed mud houses where they are allowed to stay as long as a family member is working.
Traditional paper parasols, an art that is being lost as cheap nylon umbrellas imported from China are gaining favour. The traditional parasol is made from Tin-wah bamboo and oiled Mulberry paper. The raw materials are locally produced. The bamboo is soaked for some time in foul water, to prevent it from the danger of insects later. The paper is coated with oil to help repel both sunshine and rain. The head and sliding hub of the parasol are made of teak, manufactured by using a simple turning lathe. The other important parts the framework are, the cover or leave, the rib, the trigger, the handle and the shaft. The measurements of each part have to be so accurate. Putting the covering (leaves) on the frame is the most difficult, to be mastered only after about three years' experience. This is performed by the father, the intricate work of folding was done by the mother, while the daughter makes the crown.
The rush is over
Its quiet with temple worshippers at the moment, the wife steals a few minutes of sleep he takes the opportunity to read his magazine. A little later the street will be busy again and she will sell temple trinkets and he, as a Brahmin, will give blessings as people pass.
The Parrot lick
Many of the seeds and nuts found in the rainforest have toxins in them and animals come to clay licks to neutralize those toxins. This is a daily ritual for many birds in the Amazon. Ecuador has two of the most accessible clay licks in the Amazon and both can be visited on the same day. The clay licks are in Yasuni National Park along the Napo River. The licks are most active on non-rainy days. Five different species of parrots frequent this clay lick including the Dusky-headed Parakeet, White-eyed Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned Amazon Parrot, and the Mealy Amazon Parrot. The morning of our visit this clay lick was quite active, but mostly with the Mealy Amazon Parrot, but there were hundreds of birds flying to and from the lick and the sound was tremendous.
A feast for your eyes
The lively and very colourful weekly cattle market market is held every Thursday in Guamote when people from the surrounding mountains and countryside venture to town. Much haggling is done before the cattle change hands. To sit in the stands of the stadium where it is held is literally a feast for your eyes.
The main feature in the Thursday market in Guamote, is the cattle market. Much money changes hands while bargaining and deals are are done. It takes place in the town stadium, sitting high in the terraces provides a great overview of all that is happening in this colorful spectacle,completely out of the way and unnoticed.
The mystery of the...
We are above Lake Ozogoche which sits at 4000m and is sacred to the local people and holds a mystery. Each year in late august/September migrating Plover birds seemingly “commit suicide” by diving into the icy waters. The scientific theory is that the birds that “commit suicide” by diving into the lake are older and weaker Plovers that are so tired from their migratory journey they fall to their death after hitting a change of air pressure above it. However the Quichua (local) myth which is much more interesting says that many years ago when the birds reached the “Sacred Tribute” (the Ozogoche Lakes) they were accompanied by fog and rain as well as thunder and lightning and a cold wind in the mountains so strong that it howled like wolves scaring the indigenous god-devil Supay into running away. Then suddenly thousands of Plover birds began falling from the sky crying a distinctive song of pain until they hit the freezing waters of the Ozogoche lakes in a mysterious, ancient, and cosmic tribute which they continue to do to this day.
The high school
Literally - the high school, at almost 4000m. Education is the most problematic in this area. Due to not only the inaccessibility of the villages but also poorly trained teachers and lack of community participation. In 2000 illiteracy rate was still 37.55% amongst the population older than 10 years and 44.2% amongst the population older than 15 years.
High in the Andes, I watched corn being sorted, the wool being spun and the cloth being woven all by hand. Traditional villages that maintain their crafts and charm against the onslaught of modern development that is present in the towns.