I have fallen behind on blogging (mostly because the internet is so darned slow and I can’t load photos quickly)! So a little explanation with some photos will have to do!
We loved Mahaballipuram! The previous post had plenty of photos to show you how remarkable that city is. The morning of departure, we did a yoga session on the beach, a short walk from our hotel. The yoga session was graced with a stray dog who came up to several of us. She simply wanted to cuddle and show love. She felt safe with our group and seemed to know that we are all dog lovers. We named her Shanti and fell in love with her sweet character. Dogs in India just seem to coexist with the crowds. Who owns them? Surely someone does. They are gentle and, for the most part, seem to be fed. They are not fixed and nap in shady spots along the roadside. Shanti was joined by a male friend and together they played while we did our yoga.
En route to Pondicherry, we stopped by the salt mines. The heat was almost unbearable, hot enough to evaporate sea water quickly and produce mounds of salt. We got out of the bus and walked around the fields. Mostly it was women who were working the mines. They were dark from hours of toil in the sun. They shoveled the salt into bins and balanced the bins on their heads for transport. The women were extremely thin and worn. I stood there, sweat trickling down my back, arms, and face. The women smiled and one woman placed an empty bucket on my head for a photo. I felt bewildered at how hard they were working. Laboring under such harsh conditions, they still managed to smile and be kind and welcoming towards us. I was deeply moved by these women. They were truly the “salt of the earth”.
Just before arriving in Pondicherry, we stopped by the Auroville, an eco-topia founded by Aurobindo and his spiritual partner, Mother Mira. Together they created this international community “dedicated to the ideal of Human Unity”.
Following is the idea behind Auroville:
Auroville is a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.
43 nationalities live there and the population of the community is 1,680. There are schools, medical facilities, farms, and schools. It is like a universal country without a nationality. Once sign in the interpretive center read: “Auroville is a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of good will who have a sincere aspiration, could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme truth, a place of peace, concord and harmony”.
When I was here in 2001, I was able to meet some of the people living here. It was a quiet spot, with signs all over that asked us to honor silence as we strolled the grounds. Back in 2001, I entered the dome structure, the MatriMandir, and experienced total calm while looking at a crystal in the center of this gigantic structure. This time, however, there were no signs asking for silence. There were throngs of boisterous people everywhere. The day was infernally hot and we walked slowing in a long line to see the MatriMandir, a circular building that houses a giant crystal, a spiritual center. We were not allowed in the MatriMandir. It was a bit of a disappointment because I expected to share a great experience with my group as I had back in 2001, but things had changed.
Onward to Pondicherry, where we went into a beautiful Cathedral. Pondicherry was a French colony and the French influence is in the buildings, in the churches, street names, people’s names and in the food. Lovely time. We wish we had more time to explore. We did get to do some shopping in this very nice town with a quai along the waterfront.