I always thought “to stew in one’s own juices” was a figure of speech. Then I arrived in Mamallapuram and ventured out for a morning walk along a very short stretch of the Bay of Bengal. Even with my feet in the water, which was lovely and warm, it was difficult to tell if my feet were actually any more moist than the rest of me. It was unbelievable just how fast my body began seeping moisture.
Our sightseeing regimen wasn’t terribly long but it was exhausting. But as enervating as the weather was, I’m glad I pushed through because it was an extremely interesting day. We’ve had temples up the ying yang on this trip (if I am permitted to use that well known Chinese expression here in India) but today helped to put them into context.
We first visited spots where the Pallava culture (3rd to 9th centuries AD) first began doodling in/on granite. There were earlier temples, of course, but since they were made with less durable materials none of them survives. It was the Pallavas who began working in the granite that was to become the literal and figurative foundation of the temples we see today. We visited sites where in the 5th to 7th centuries the Pallavas began carving in granite and making “model” temples. We saw how the Pallavas were influenced by their Chinese and Egyptian trading partners and we saw how the carvings went from a very natural representation of people and animals to a much more stylized representation. At least I think that’s what we saw. By the time we went from the first bas reliefs to the “scooped” out carving, there was so much sweat dripping into my eyes that I was having a difficult time seeing.
Our afternoon excursion took us to an outdoor museum where many examples of South Indian homes have been reconstructed. It reminded me very much of the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Sussex, England. Once again, very interesting but by this time all I could think was “I’m melting! I’m melting!” I felt bad for our guide who was doing such an excellent job of explaining things to us when we were having such a difficult time with the heat and humidity.
In the second photo below, there is a cleft between the large elephants on the right and the rest of the scene on the left. The cleft represents the creation of the Ganges River. Suffice it to say that by the end of the day, I felt as though the Ganges River and its many tributaries were flowing between all of my clefts!! And through it all, our guide looked poised and fresh.