The iconic Indian bullock cart…

Dr Shyamata Vatsa has very kindly asked me if I would do a post on the Indian bullock cart and it is my pleasure to do so.

If someone asked you what you thought the iconic image of India was…what would you say? Maybe the Taj Mahal or the magnificent Ganges river. It is true that these images do immediately conjure up thoughts of chappatis and fresh lime sodas. However when I think of iconic images that mean India to me the Indian bullock cart always springs to mind. I suppose it is because after all my trips to India it is still a sight that makes me smile.

Bullock carts can be found everywhere ~ not just in the country areas of India but in the big cities too. That is what is so delightful about them. You can be stuck in the thick of city traffic when suddenly a bullock cart carrying a huge load of sugarcane will amble on by. Can you just imagine the havoc that would cause back home? But in India nobody so much as raises an eyebrow at the load or the fact that two bullocks are waiting at the traffic lights.. It is one of India’s amazing qualities that the old can blend so easily with the new.

The bullock cart is a lovely reminder of a slower time when everything didn’t have to be done in a rush. A time when getting somewhere was part of the journey and you had time to enjoy the scenery and life along the way.

“Life isn’t a destination–it’s a journey.We all come upon unexpected curves and turning points,mountaintops and valleys.  Everything that happens to us shapes who we are becoming.  And in the adventure of each day, we discover the best in ourselves”…Anonymous

So next time you are travelling try to enjoy the ride as well as the destination…

Magical Madurai…

If you are travelling to South India make sure that magical Madurai is on your itinerary. Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India and is full of wonderful sights. My “must sees” in Madurai are:

  1. Sri Meenakshi-Sundareshwara Temple…This temple is well worth the visit with its massive gopuras and statues. It is one of the largest temple complexes in all India. Be prepared for a queue to get in as it is a very popular destination for Indian tourists. Every day anywhere between 15,000-20,000 people pass through its front gates. It is open daily from 5am-12.30pm and between 4-8.30pm.
  2. Thirumalai Nayak Palace…Only one-quarter of this palace still survives. It has two eighteen metre high rows of columns on either side of the palace which are amazing to walk through. An old museum and many stone statues are housed in an adjoining hall and garden. I really recommend the wonderful light show (in English at 6.45pm nightly). This show depicts the Tamil saga of the “Heavenly Pavillion” and was very entertaining.
  3. Gandhi Memorial Museum…This is a well organised museum which depicts India’s history and the life of Mahatma Gandhi. When travelling to the museum you cross over a large bridge. On your return ask the driver to take you on the lower road under the bridge ~ this will give you a great view of Madurai’s washing being done on the banks of the Vaigai river. Vast lines sway with coloured clothing as far as the eye can see.
  4. Puthu Mandapam…This pillared hall can be found at the eastern side of the Sri Meenakshmi Temple. Here you can buy fabrics and waiting tailors will whip you up an outfit within the hour. I got a lovely white shirt made for 200 rupees.

We stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel located at 114-115 West Perumal Maistry Street, Madurai. It is a mid range Indian hotel that is very clean and well located just a short auto-rickshaw ride from the temple area. The great thing about this hotel is that the rate includes breakfast and dinner. We loved eating here as the food was tasty and  the menu extensive.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Changing Seasons…

Note the beanies, jumpers and shawls...

Note the beanies, jumpers and shawls…

When you tell people you are travelling to India they always seem to presume that it is hot in India ALL the time. However it is winter in India at the moment and in some areas it gets very cold.

This photo was taken on a trip to the hill station ~ Kodaikanal in winter. We were totally unprepared for the cold and I have never been so cold at night in India as I was there. Each afternoon at about 1.30pm a thick fog rose up from the valley and blanketed Kodaikanal in complete whiteness for the rest of the day…an amazing experience!

Let art impart a great start…

The children were all so proud of their hats...

The children were all so proud of their hats…

Art is a great way to break down barriers ~ in my case language and cultural barriers instantly evaporated once art was brought into the classroom.

On the first day of my volunteer teaching at the Sri Narayani Vidyalaya School I was teaching in the three kindergarten classes. It is the first year of school for these littlies so English is still new for them with Tamil being the main language spoken at home.

Fortunately I had my wonderful friend, Reema, to ably assist me in teaching the class as the class sizes ranged between 35-45 students.

We started the lesson with a “The old lady who swallowed the fly” puppet which I had brought with me. Puppets are a valuable tool to quickly gain children’s attention. They really enjoyed feeding all the animals to “Granny” as they called her. Of course when it got to the bit where she swallowed the cow they were aghast and amazed she would eat a cow. Hindus of course believe cows are sacred and would never eat one! We then did some clapping songs which were sung with great gusto. We read a very simple story “Old Hat, New Hat”. The children found an old hat they had in the classroom which they gave to me to wear during the reading of the story.

Decorating their hats...with their class teacher, Mrs Vijaya, in the background

Decorating their hats…with their class teacher, Mrs Vijaya, in the background

We then went back to the tables and Reema and I helped the children to fold a paper hat. They decorated their own hat with oil pastels and watercolour paints. The children had a ball doing this. When you look at the photos you may think what serious children they were but it was quite the opposite. The children often have a serious rather than smiley face on when you take their photograph due to the fact that a lot had never had their photos taken before. I have found this to be very common during my travels in India. Even when you encourage people to smile they still retain the serious stance.

Each hat illustrated the child's individual style...

Each hat illustrated the child’s individual style…

More lovely hats...

More lovely hats…

It was such a fantastic morning with lots of happy and satisfied children. The children proudly wore their hats home that afternoon to show their parents…very sweet.

Do you like my hat? I most certainly do...

Do you like my hat? I most certainly do…

Cure your hiccups the Indian way…

Vaayu mudra...

Vaayu mudra…

I just adore mudras. The Vaayu mudra is a very easy mudra to master. To complete this mudra you place the tip of the index finger on the base of the thumb. Then apply gentle pressure with the thumb on the index finger. Hold the mudra for 15 minutes.

It is a great mudra for calming the mind and our nervous system. It can help with sleeplessness, irritability and restlessness. It is especially helpful in getting rid of hiccups…just try it next time…