Chennai and Pondicherry

Trip Start Jul 12, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, December 12, 2003

After all the serene little villages and beach towns we'd frequented in Sri Lanka, it was back to the big smoke, namely, Chennai (which used to be called Madras) in India! As far as arriving in India goes, it must be one of the better cities to do so as it wasn't as traumatic an experience it's made out to be! Luck may have been on our side though as we managed to share a cab into town with some India savvy Brits of Indian origin, our saviours!

We didn't stay long in Chennai, but we managed to overdose on dosas, became accustomed to drinking chai all the time, and saw the craziest, most colourful wedding procession winding its way through the streets. As well as several hundred men, followed by a hundred or so sari clad women, there was a marching band, a decorated truck, a turbaned man on a decorated horse, and people dressed as animals (like sporting team mascots) dancing amongst everyone! It was such an amazing sight to see, and so different to anything we'd seen before.

We then spent several days in Pondicherry, which was once a French colonial town. It's set by the sea, and apart from the usual Indian mayhem on the streets, there were actually some really nice areas of town, and really beautiful restored houses painted in all different pastel colours. There were several churches and cathedrals dotted around, and some really colourful Hindu temples which we visited. I don't think we'll ever come close to understanding all the different gods and goddesses associated with Hinduism, it's really confusing!

One of Pondicherry's most well known places is the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which was founded by Sri Aurobindo and an old French lady known as 'the Mother'. We visited the ashram which really was kind of creepy and cult like - perhaps our first and last ashram?! Heaps of shops and restaurants around town had framed photos of the Mother above their counters - she looks pretty scary, and we still can't figure out why a hippy backpacker was down on his hands and knees at the ashram worshipping her shrine!
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