Journal -- Day 6

December 24th

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In the morning we have a chance to see lost wax bronze casting in action at a local artisan's home. The initial mold is rather rough, and when the bronze is first cast it doesn't seem to bear much resemblance to the finished product. The form and essence is there, however, and with delicate filing and shaping the final bronze results. The furnace used to heat the metal is just a small covered pit with a fan sitting in the backyard, and the pouring is done on the ground next to the furnace. It's probably a good thing that bronze melts at low temperature.

Santa's really creeping people out.

Next we stop by the temple for a last look in the morning light, and then it's off for our drive to Madurai. Along the way we stop in a village to explore their temple to Ayanar. Ayanar is a local Tamil god who lives in the forest, so his shrines are outdoors in the trees. Past an archway, we walk perhaps half a mile down a shaded path lined with clay horses and other animals. These are brought as offerings and clearly remain there for a long time, as they stand shoulder-to-shoulder the entire way. Under a large tree is the shrine itself, simple and quiet.

Our hotel in Madurai is up on a hill just outside the city affording a lovely view of the valley below. Christmas rears its ugly head again this evening when a local Santa Claus wearing a plastic mask invades the lounge and accosts all the Westerners to wish us Happy Christmas. He for some reason acts a bit like a stage drunk, falling into chairs and being clumsy; perhaps the mask and large felt suit contribute to this troubles? One of the guys in the lounge sums it up perfectly: "Santa's really creeping people out." It's funny -- most westerners who travel at this time of year seem to be out to avoid the holiday, and yet here it is, thrust upon us. Don't ask about the "turkey" or "plum pudding" at dinner tonight. I certainly didn't.

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