Eighteen kilometers west of the Tamil Nadu tourist town of Mahabalipuram is a town of about 24,000 called Tirukaludundram which is known for its hilltop temple, the Vedagiriswarar temple. The temple consists of an upper part up on a hill, which can actually be seen all the way from Mahabalipuram:
and a lower part consisting of multiple towers and the customary temple tank (taken on a very clear day!):
Connecting the upper and lower part of the temple are 565 steps, each with splashes of yellow paint and red dots:
You can read all about the temple itself and the legend surrounding this Shiva temple and the two eagles (actually Egyptian vultures) that came every day at noon (last sighted in 2000), at this website. The website has a super-easy-to-remember address: www dot thirukalukundramvedagiriswarartemple.tnhrce dot in. Try saying THAT quickly three times! Or you can check out this blog post written by a foreign visitor to the temple – very informative!
We paid our admission fee and spent the next 15 or so minutes climbing the steps in increments. It was about noon and by the time I reached the top we were soaked in sweat. We had been warned not to pay additional money at the top, and were told by a temple priest that it was only a couple of hundred additional rupees to see the inside of the temple. Meanwhile Indian visitors walked right past him. On principle we declined, but would have made a donation otherwise. But we got a nice photo of the town below (see above) using a film camera – and I haven’t seen such a clear shot on any of the other websites – they all look a bit hazy in comparison.
We were joined at the top by about a dozen monkeys. I know you’re not supposed to feed them (they can be aggressive) but we thought them might enjoy a Chee-toh (all the food we had with us). The monkeys sniffed them, and examined them visually and rolled them around on the ground a bit before taking a bite. And afterward, they licked the bright orange “cheese” powder from their fingertips. Yum!
Once we made it back to street level, we had to find some smaller bills in order to pay the fee for leaving our shoes below (you have to walk up the stairs barefoot). While waiting, I saw this saddhu, or Hindu holy man, leaving the temple area as well:
There is also this odd contraption, basically “center stage” as you approach the temple. I don’t know what it is and don’t want to speculate too much – but it looked like a giant pile of salt. Maybe someone reading this, who knows the temple, can educate me?
Afterward, we walked around town for a bit. We got a close-up view of the towers we had seen from above, and I thought this one, with India’s iconic Ambassadors parked underneath, was pretty nice in black and white:
Within the town itself, this is basically what it looks like. The flags belong to some political party.
As we walked by some different merchant stalls, we spotted a bicycle tire repairman sitting down for a coffee (while repairing an inner tube) with another saddhu, this one dressed in white, rather than the typical orange we see elsewhere. In a combination of simple English and sign language, we showed them our cameras and asked if we could take a photo. Initially they were reluctant, but I showed them that I was carrying one of those new “instant” cameras – a Lomo’Instant I had recently acquired as a part of a Kickstarter project. I explained that I would take one photo for each of them, and then a photo each for myself. This sounded like a good idea to them. So here are my photos:
And as you can see in the lower photo, I have also given him his instant photo (in his right hand). I’m not sure if he was impressed or not.
My final photo before getting back on our ride back to Mahabalipuram was this shot of a poster of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, quietly deteriorating behind a couple of bicycles. I think it’s a pretty cool photo.