Return to South India Home Page
Our last full day in India finds us rested, happy, and now well-informed thanks to the excellent services of our hotel. Lobsterboy is still red, but the application of cold wet towels, air conditioning, and plenty of cold soda seems to be helping. We watched BBC for an hour as we unpacked, then again in the morning, and we are fully up to speed on the disaster. We take a few minutes to write another quick email home, just to reiterate that we are fine. The hotel grounds seem generally ok, though clearly some of the cottages were flooded and are under repair. As we walk around, we also notice that all of the trees are clearly numbered, though we not entirely sure why. Tree poaching?
The last stop for us is Mamalapuram, a Pallava 8th century collection of granite sculptures right on the seacoast. The drive along the beach road confirms the impression we received on the news - open areas near the road are dotted with tents, some buildings were obviously flooded and are under repair, and small boats lie scattered and seemingly abandoned on the beach. However, the cement and brick buildings all seem rather intact, and some areas have little damage at all. On this coast the damage was very dependent on the orientation of the coastline. Only one of the sites at Mamalapuram was damaged, the Shore temple, and we are lucky as it reopened to the public only yesterday. As we wander, we see painting, replanting, and other minor repairs, but even the Shore temple seems untouched. There are some small fortunes in this disaster.
The Mamalapuram carvings are a bit of a mystery, as no one is quite sure why some are clearly unfinished. Many temples were left partially completed, some later used for worship, and others lost under the sand. A huge bas-relief mural-esque wall seems to have a number of only partially connections scenes, perhaps carved over a period of many years. Although this was a trading center for the Pallavas, their capital was inland. It shows no lack of order or completion, so why does this area? One theory is that this was an artisan's community that used the granite outcroppings along the beach for practice. In any case, it gives us examples of several types of granite carving in several styles to admire.
At this time, figures were more natural and forms less formulaic, so while the themes are familiar, the format is fresh. The mural is a clear favorite, the carving clear and sometimes fanciful. Animals sit profiled in niches observing the scene. One small (live) goat managed to get himself trapped in a crevice near the top and was bleating for help. His herdmates seemed unperturbed, but we hoped he found his way out eventually. If nothing else, he probably shouldn't be pawing at a World Heritage Site! He could probably be ticketed for that…
The day is quite hot, well into the 90s, so I was grateful to return to the hotel and enjoy an unusual treat. After hearing recommendations from others, I decided to indulge in an Ayurvedic massage and steam. While this is just the thing before a long day of flying, I did wind up feeling just a bit like a greased chicken ready for roasting. After a wonderful dinner on the beach (still no mosquitoes on Steve), we finished packing and head to the airport.