Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 246 Thanjavur

Now here is one more mystery about Indian culture: coffee and tea is served in a cup + saucer. Usually the cup is overfilled, so that a lot of tea ends up in the saucer. The first time I saw it, I thought it was by accident, but no: it happens all the time, the proper way of serving tea is by filling both cup and saucer and the first sips are drank from the saucer - which kind of negates the purpose of a saucer as the cup will be very messy. Up to now noone could give me an explanation for this. Today I just realized that this has been taken one step further: I got my coffee served in a cup placed within a kind of bowl (instead of the saucer).
Oh, yeah, meditating about Indian hot beverage consumption culture was not the only thing I did today. Thanjavur has a very nice temple, pretty old - built around the first millenium. It is very different from most other south Indian temples I have seen so far - most of them were painted very (very!) colourfully but this one is all sand-coloured, thus drawing attention to the very fine carving. Beside that the huge complex also offered a temple elephant and many Indian worshipers. If westerners think worship they usually imagine some secluded, quiet somehow sombre activity. Here it is more of a family party - everyone prays to the lingam, one member gives a small basket with fruits, grass, ghee and whatever else a god might need to the temple keeper, everyone receives a painting of varying intricacy on their foreheads and then the family proceeds to eat on the temple grounds. And if the male members are gone for a minute the girls can flirt and make pictures with that one weird tall foreigner.
This time I was clever enough to go to the temple relatively early in the day - the later it gets, the hotter the ground will be - not good if your bare foot-soles are untrained for that. Nevertheless there already were some pretty hot stretches to cross. These were actually good spots for social studies: all rich Indians (i.e. those usually wearing shoes) would walk very funny there.
Later that day I went to a palace, which once again wasn't too impressive to me - maybe I am really more of the religious-monuments-enthusiasm kind of guy.

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