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Which Temple Today?

February 12th, 2009 by Pauline Ranieri, UW Alumni Tours

Pauline is blogging while hosting a UW alumni tour to South India.

After the longest flight itinerary imaginable, I finally arrived in Chennai. My memories ofimg_1995India were instantly invoked as I exited the airplane and smelled the smokey air that was so prevalent in North India. As I tried to exit the baggage area, my small suitcase carrying the group’s audio guide sets raised the suspicions of one of the security officials. I was asked to open the suitcase and tried to explain what the gadgets were. Finally, he understood the concept of a hearing aid, but then he wanted to know about the supply of chapsticks I had brought along for the group. Next, he was perplexed when he saw the small tins of dog bone-shaped mints. I pantomimed eating the mints, so the official had me open one of the tins, he popped a mint in his mouth, the rest of the tin went into his pocket and I was moved along on my way.

109We’re now a few days into the trip and have spent quite a few hours visiting some incredible, intricately carved granite temples. The temple names are long and unpronounceable but that hasn’t affected the awe we feel as we try to imagine how they were completed 1,000 years ago. As expected, the sun is hot and the air is humid so we all move along very slowly. We feel blessed to be traveling in a small group of 12 because even though we are slow, we still able to complete each day’s itinerary.

Our tour group consists of not only graduates of UW, but also of Georgetown, USC, CAL, and Oregon. I plan to turn them all into honorary Huskies by the end of the trip! Our tour director/guide Sandhya is fabulous and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the various ancient cultures that created the historical sites of South India.

This afternoon, we were treated to a demonstration of the art of traditional bronze casting bronze-artistand tonight, we’re looking forward to a poolside performance of a ‘Bharatnatyam’ dance. Tomorrow, we hit the road again for a drive to Karaikudi  and another exciting experience of the Indian roads. This is one trip where no one in the group arrives at the bus early to claim the front seats!

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