The Rock Fort Temple, up high on a rock in the middle of the city
We awoke to our alarm on our rest day, which is never really that enjoyable but we had a busy day ahead of us and we couldn’t spend it in bed. We got our sticky bodies out of the tent and put on our clothes. We ate some peanut jaggary snacks (kind of like peanut brittle) and headed to the train station. This was a first train on this trip and I was slightly excited. We had good luck, with 15 minutes before the train left we got a ticket (rs18).
There were no seat on the train for us, which was ok, so we stood for just over an hour talking to some Indians. You meet some interesting people on the trains, I learnt a little bit about Pakistan, Holy headwaters and cell phones. The time flew by and before I knew it we were in Trichy.
The view from the Rock Fort Temple
We headed to the bus station and got on a bus (rs6) to see the sights. There are four sights to see and we saw them all, starting at the lest impressive and making our way to the most impressive. The first was the Rock Fort Temple, which had many steps and you have to climb up in your bare feet. At the top you got a good view of the city. Next was an impressive neo gothic church.
We got back on the bus and said we wanted to go to the temple. Indian buses are an interesting affair. It takes two people to operate a bus in India. You have the driver and all he does is drive, which is harder then one would think (you have to get dangerously close to the cars/bikes/people in front of you, use the horn, shift and drive). Of course if you were doing this there would be no one to collect the bus fair. You have another person swimming through the packed bus collecting bus fare, which just might be more difficult then driving the bus. You have to walk from the back of the bus to the front of the bus remember who has paid and work hard at not falling out of the bus (there are no doors, just door ways). I would not want either job.
Elephant giving blessing
The fare collector told us that the temple was that way and we should get off the bus if we wanted to see it. Not totally sure if it was the right temple, we got out and headed towards the tall painted gopuram. Thinking we were at the wrong temple we still ventured in and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The temple was nearly deserted, we were the only non-Hindus and it was an extremely enjoyable experience. We walked around taking in the sights. It turns out we were at the right temple (Sri Jambukeshwara Temple). After seeing the temple we had lunch.
The goparums that guided us into the temple.
We got back onto the bus and headed to the last sight which was the Sri Ranganathswamy Temple. As we walked closer we were guided to the temple by the 73m tall colourful goparum. This is what the Madurai goparums will probably look like, but with new paint on them. A total contrast to the Sri Jambukeshwara temple, there were many people in here (including more non-Hindus) and it was very noisy. We paid Rs10 for a view point, and glad we did, you could see the 60ha grounds, the 21 gopurams and the main temple. The guy that took us up there turned out to be a student and a guide and he did his sales pitch to us. I was all for it and probably paid more then I needed to, but we got a guide.
It was well worth the price in my mind, Rs300 and he knew his stuff. He even said I asked a lot of good questions (just like University). I was learning, and it was great. I learnt a little bit about temple architecture, the Hindu Cast System, the word Sri means holy and so much more. The temple was build in the 10th century and many different dynasties added on the structure. The most interesting was the granite pillars, which were about 4m tall, and must have weight a ton. The granite for these pillars is from Hampi. Hampi is at least 800km away and the granite pillars came from there, before diesel engines, before smooth pavement. Elephants dragged this granite, and there were so many of these pillars. What an amazing amount of energy and resources were put into these temples. Even by todays standards this would be an expensive building, I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like back then.
The packed train
We took the bus around the town and a train to get to Trichy from Tanjore. In total it cost us Rs40 for transportation for the whole day. Amazingly cheap. If we hired a car for the day it would have been around Rs1500, if we got to Trichy and took a rickshaw it would have about Rs500. But we took mass transit and it cost us $1. This is not without its cost though, you are stuck to the schedule of the transit and you often jammed in the bus/train. The train ride back home is a good example of when spending an extra few dollars would be well worth the cost. Our Rs9 each ticket got us a place on the train, but not necessarily a seat. We luckily found a seat for Tanya, I had to stand though. Until some of the locals convinced me to get on the overhead luggage rack with a sign that said luggage only (more then enough room, just no padding). Then when you think the train is packed full of people and no more could possibly get on, more do. I found it comical, there were an amazing number of people on that train. We were happy to get off packed train.