Leaving the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, we flew to Chennai as we continued our journey in South India. Chennai is perfect as a base to explore the neighboring sites namely, Kanchipuram and Mamallapuram. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Chennai for the next several days. Again, like the Four Seasons in Mumbai, the Park Hyatt here is not a “real” Park Hyatt. Rooms are nice enough but the lobby, service, etc are not that of a Park Hyatt I am accustomed to.
Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is one of the main gateways to South India. It is heavily influenced by colonialism as Madras was founded in 1639 when the British East India Company was granted land to build a trading settlement. Fort St George was built as the British East India Company’s fortified foothold in Madras and now is the legislative and administrative seat of the state. The fort was completed on St George’s day on 23 April 1640 and hence named after the patron saint. There isn’t much left to see inside the fort other than St. Mary’s Church and a small Fort Museum.
St. Mary’s Church inside Fort St. George
St. Thomas Basilica
Notice that Jesus Christ is standing on a lotus flower with peacocks at his feet, which is how Christianity tried to appeal and convert the local Hindus with something they are familiar with.
Mass at St. Thomas Basilica
Also in the Mylapore district, is the Kapaleeswarar Temple which is a large Hindu temple devoted to Lord Shiva. The name Mylapore or Peacock City is derived from the legend where Pavarti seeked penance as a peacock in one of her incarnations before rejoining Shiva in heaven. The Kapaleeswarar temple is of typical Dravidian architectural style, with the gopuram which is an ornate monumental tower at the entrance, overpowering the street on which the temple sits.
Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore
Gopurams are a prominent feature of Hindu Temples in Southern India. These ornately decorated monumental towers function as gateways into the temple grounds.
Pool for worshippers to bathe themselves.
Devotees praying in front of the Dhvaja Stambha or Flag Staff which is a prominent feature of South Indian temples. It is believed that the flag staff gives worshippers an idea from a distance as to which deity is installed in the temple.
Devotees whisper their wishes to the Nandi Bull who according to legend can get them communicated to Lord Shiva who will fulfil them accordingly.
After this short visit in Chennai, together with some shopping, we headed to Mamallapuram which was the major seaport of the ancient Pallava Kingdom. Stay tuned!
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