For many, a trip to India is synonymous with Rajasthan. It’s a beautiful region, but a country as vast as India obviously has much more to offer than that. Looking for a place a little more relaxed ? Why not go for a trip to South India in Tamil Nadu ? You may miss the Taj Mahal, but Tamil Nadu is not bad either in terms of temples and other sights. So, fasten your belts, let’s go. Well actually, you can take off your belts, because this utensil is not too local culture, but let’s go anyway.
As I approach South India, I left France for 6 months, and little by little, my steps have led me here in India. Finally to be more precise, it is rather the wheels of the buses and the trains which made the main part of the course. My legs and feet were often cramped, but I spared them most of the 16,000 km of this course. Because yes, although having climbed more than 5300 m on the road that connects Manali to Leh , I have never left the floor of the cows since my departure from Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. No plane, it was the plan of departure. It’s not a feat, but I still feel a little pride when I look at my mini world map and I say, “That’s it, I made the route to India” . I have been in India for two months now, so I feel pretty comfortable there. I did my classes and am no longer the big beginner of 3 years ago.
No plane, it was the plan of departure
We are in September and the monsoon has not yet said its last words in the North. So I continue my game of hide and seek with her and go for a ride from a single from Delhi to Chennai (Madras), a little over 2000 km and 34 hours of train. When I say this, I am told very often “34 hours by train, it’s not a bit long and boring?” . Oh no, that’s not boring. Forget the train travels in our latitudes where we keep the nose in his book, being careful not to disturb his neighbor (me first for that matter) and where the intruder who dares to use his mobile phone is shot from look if he speaks a little too loudly. You are not here in a TGV and boring is not Indian. A train in India, it lives . When it’s not the chaï wallah 1 tea merchant who does not cease, day and night, to roam the wagons cries of “chaï chaï chaï” , it’s a whole army of small sellers who come aboard at each stop to sell you samosas, peanuts , coca, toys, paans, miracle cures against everything and so on. In short, it is a concentrate of India on rail. You will find more information on train travel in India at the end of the article.
Boring is not Indian
Just arrived in Chennai, 10 minutes ahead of schedule (who said trains in India were always late?), Head to the bus station for a bus to Kanchipuram. As often, it’s a nice mess at the Chennai bus station. I ask right to left to find where to find my bus. I go around in circles until I get a bus. In front, two magnificent turbaned Sikhs seem to be the driver and the mechanic. So I ask confirmation, “Kanchipuram?” And there, my two friends dodeling laterally of the head without emitting a single sound. I repeat my question, same answer. I try to play at the most cunning and change my question, “it’s good, so I can get on the bus?” The answer does not change one iota. Both, in heart, in a harmony and a perfect synchronization sport a broad smile and … nod their heads! What does this thing mean, yes or no? I get on the bus and ask the same question to a passenger who happily dodels … and answers me “Kanchipuram, no problem” . OK, so that meant yes. But that’s not always the case and it’s more like saying something like, “I understood.” To be able to answer only yes or no to a question would be too simple. In short, it’s India what! And in South India, they are true stars of the dodeling. The funny thing is that I end up doing the same sometimes!
They smile broadly and nod their heads
After Kanchipuram, direction Mamallapuram (we are in the country of cities in “am”). Mamallapuram is known for its Temple of the Shore and its splendid bas-reliefs called The Penance of Arjuna. At Temple of the Shore, surprise, the temple is there, but there is an additional attraction. On the nearby beach has been erected a wooden platform of ten meters and at the top, a man looking like Ganghi sits cross-legged and meditates in full sun. Intrigued, I approach. There is a sign, but it is written in Tamil. An Indian comes to see me and explains that this man meditates for peace in the world . Until then, why not, after all, we are in India. But the end of the explanation is a little more surprising. He would not have eaten nor eaten for 43 days! Quite dubitative, I make him repeat, nothing drunk for 43 days, it’s impossible, but he does not budge. 43 days without eating OK, pass again, but without drinking, no. And there he does not nod his head, the answer leaves no room for ambiguity: “no, this man, very powerfull, 43 days no drink, no problem” . 2 no, this man, very powerful, 43 days without drinking, no problem Yes, no problem, it is well known, in India, everything is possible! Lastly, I do not care, I do not care, but these very Gandhian acts of passive resistance do not leave me indifferent. Although it must inevitably drink discrete at night, it is impressive this self-denial.
As for the bas-reliefs, they are splendid, with a delicacy and a depth of execution, I do not tell you more, if it is not another mystery, no one knows since how long the elephants of these bas-reliefs reliefs did not drink.
Continuing further south, I continue my pilgrimage of Hindu temples to Kumbakonam. Close up, some statuettes of this temple adopt poses of the most suggestive. But you will have to go there, do not count on me to cross the boundaries of decency