Tuesday, September 19, 2017

In Search of the Past: On to South India, Part 8: Madras/Chennai

Continuing my book research, we fly from Sri Lanka to the old British port of Madras, now Chennai. During WW2, my character arrived by ship in Bombay, then traveled by train across India and down the southeastern coast en route to what was then Ceylon. 

Our hotel is Leela Palace, an elegant haven of art, flowers, and food.

Marigolds represent perseverance and good luck.

The elephant god, Ganesh, is also associated with good fortune.

This work combines the traditional sacred bull with modern iconography.

My breakfast dosa reminds me of an artist's palette. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost!

The hotel is known for its bakery. Cake, anyone?

In the morning we go to the Kapaleeshwarar Shiva Temple. Demolished by Portuguese invaders, this temple originally stood where the St. Thomas Church is now located. 

I wonder how often they have to repaint these marvelous facades.

Indian temples are more than places of worship. Beyond these columns and railings is an open-air space where people socialize.

A view into the central pavilion.

Do you think this fellow spent a past life as a carousel horse?

Everywhere, I marvel at the details.

Speaking of which...I am smitten by this old door.

Our next stop is the former British Fort St. George--and another grand old door.

I'm also a sucker for old beams.

A small outdoor shrine inside the fort grounds.

St. Thomas, one of Jesus's twelve apostles, proselytized through South India until his death in what was then Mylapore. Marco Polo visited the shrine that housed his remains, which were later moved to the Santhome Church, built over an ancient Shiva temple. Here, it is decorated for Christmas.

Evening is a special time in India, a respite from the day's often cruel heat. Water features are everywhere. The Leela Palace is magical at night.

Next stop: Down the Coromandel Coast to Pondicherry/Puducherry

Sunday, August 13, 2017

In Search of the Past: Sri Lanka, Part 7: Trincomalee Harbor

To continue my novel research, we drive down from Sri Lanka's central highlands to Trincomalee Harbor, where the Americans and British had bases during WW2. No battleships or destroyers now, but a bevy of fishing vessels.

In the distance are the ancient ramparts of a Portuguese fort that later passed from the Dutch to the British. Fort Frederick is now in Sri Lankan hands. This building is my setting for British Naval Intelligence.

More of Fort Frederick's gracious colonial architecture.

In an odd juxtaposition, the fort road continues up the point to Koneswaram Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Location! Location! Location!

A fierce devotée of Shiva, Ravana is an important character in the South Asian epic, Ramayana. Below is Ravana's Cleft.

Love this railing.

Pilgrims come here to pray for blessings. Each little cradle represents a prayer for a child.

Worshippers can also throw down a coconut shell to ask for blessings. If it cracks, your prayer will be answered.

Nandi is gatekeeper of Kailasa, the sacred abode of Shiva. Nandi is also the guru of Shiva's eight disciples, one of whom, Patanjali, is author of the Yoga sutras.

Another view on our way out.

Our final days in Sri Lanka are spent in an architectural wonder, Kandalama Hotel, built in close harmony with the environment. Here is one of our friendly visitors.

Mom and kids.

The hotel is constructed right into the mountain.

The corridor at night.


Hotel creatures.

Next stop: SOUTH INDIA!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In Search of the Past: Sri Lanka: Part 6: The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Having come to Sri Lanka for book research, I hope to set an important scene at Polonnaruwa, an ancient city-state of culture and power in the central upcountry area. About 1000 years ago, the visionary king set out to create an enduring civilization. To maintain a water supply, he built a great reservoir lake, now left to the wild elephants to enjoy.

His irrigation canals are still in use, too.

Otherwise, much of his development has fallen into ruins, which I begin to explore in search of a dramatic spot for a secret meeting. We tromp around the king's swimming pool.

His parliament.

His great Buddhas and temples.

His palace.

Then, just up from the lake, an eye-catching butterfly leads us to an intriguing site...

The old library. I can see my character creeping up from her lakeshore picnic into the shrubbery...

Viewing the clandestine rendezvous through crumbled openings.

While spying on my imaginary characters, the langur monkeys are spying on us, including this mother and child.

Next stop: In Search of the Past: Sri Lanka: Part 7: Trincomalee Harbor, Fort Fredrick, and the Koneswaram Shiva Temple