Mamallapuram: a world so new
Shore temple, Mahabalipuram:
It was another routine visit to Mahabalipuram, taking my NRI relatives to this very ancient site! As I reeled out the history, my mother continued to entertain the battalion of children we had brought along with us.
Sitting along the green grass carpet of a now well-maintained shore temple we watched all the others who had shown up to this temple on the fateful day before New Year. Shore temple looked even worse than Kumbh Mela, with all of India's population coming to visit these ancient beauties. And we had plenty of variety.
It was interesting to see the groups who came there. To start with we had a very lost-out Italian tourist group who were groping in the darkness of a vast history lying in front of them and trying hard to wade their way through the current Indian population.
In all the garbled language that fell out I heard "Andare turistico per favore".
We watched another group go by, rather uncouth, numbering fifteen guys of what I call - Local Tamil Romeos, who were definitely not there to understand Indian history...they were there to have fun and completely misplaced in this audience.
Hooting around, spilling all the Tamil slang one could hear of in a single day, this group marched on carelessly.
Soon we had another family coming by and sitting next to us. This was a Punjabi family, with a sardarji boy holding a recently bought shankh (conch shell) in his hand and attempting very hard to blow it. What rolled out was a troubled grunt, warning the young sardarji boy and everyone around him that he was not doing something quite right. Instantly his father took the Shank and blew hard, giving the most perfect sound that resonated through the air! My excited mother jumped up and said "yes! That’s the way, you got it", leaving the elderly sardarji completely excited about his accomplishment. What resulted was a series of enthusiastic sounds, now having no reason to stop, leaving my mother wondering why she even went saying "Encore".
Following suit on the green grass was a Kannadiga family who sat down right next door, watching the temple, turned away saying:
"Idu yedu chennagilla. Thumba 'simple' ayiththu. Hampi Vijayanagara thumba chennagiththe".
Ma was not too happy with the comment, for she had the instinctive urge to tell them that for the period this temple was built it was a fantastic accomplishment. She wished she could educate them that what they have back there at Hampi is a mature version, the prototype of which stands right here. She wished they could appreciate everything instead of bringing in regional comparison.
Back at the temple, my cousin and I happened to see a very spiritual group descending from Meghalaya/ Manipur with exceptional devotion. They removed their slippers and threw coins into the Linga Pitha of a now dead temple, where even the Shiva linga was missing in the smaller shrine.
While my cousin tried to wade his way through, we noticed another family from the north, maybe UP, well dressed and decent walking out of the temple, saying:
"Murti pata nahi hai, magar mandir achcha hai"
Another group that showed up was Red clad from Melmaruvattur. These were a group of 20 women, all dressed in red and going about a Shiva pilgrimage, worshipping the Lord in every form possible. Well "the women in red" pranced around in a hurry, speaking garbled Tamil into the air, rushing up to the temple to take a glimpse of the Lord long gone.
I sat back reflecting on this country and its people, who display their faith in more ways than one, so different from each other and yet so united towards a single deity.
Om Namah Shivaya.