Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Last weekend was Republic Day in India. My understanding of Republic Day is that is the day India has chosen to celebrate their ability to come together and establish a government capable of ruling themselves. (I am willing to be corrected on this, so if anyone can confirm or clarify this, please do.) It is different than Independence Day. Regardless of the details, it is a day of celebration. A national holiday. This means that we got the day off. This year Republic Day was on a Saturday. For those from the US that would mean that the day would be spent like a typical Saturday, but since Saturday is a work day here, having it off was a big deal.

Many of the international students headed out of town for the weekend, but a small handful of us decided to have a low-key weekend around Vellore. As a result we were about to take in a few of the local sights as well as experience the CMC carnival. Stephanie (from Australia), Maakie (from the Netherlands), Charlie (from the UK) and I decided we would go out to Sripuram to see the Sri Lakshmi Narayani Golden Temple. Sirpuram is about a 7km drive from the CMC college campus and was rather enjoyable, other than the fact that our auto driver must have thought we wanted to break the speed record on the way out there. I have no photographs of the temple or the experience because I knew that cameras were confiscated at the gate and I have become rather protective of my camera.

The whole experience at the temple was interesting. At the gate they take not only your cameras, but your cell phones, bags, and shoes. You are then ushered onto the path that takes you to the temple. Before getting to the actual temple, you circumnavigate it on a path that, from a bird’s-eye view, looks like the Star of David. You end up walking for a long, long, time… barefoot. When we finally got to the actual temple, which is indeed made of gold, we realized we were in the line to go inside for prayer. We realized this beyond the point of no return. So the four of us white girls were ushered in and directed to sit in the very front. We obeyed. As a Christian I had mixed feelings about this. I wasn’t there to pray. I was there to take in the architectural features of this unique building. Having the opportunity to go inside gave me a closer look at the ornate details, but I also felt very out of place. I didn’t linger long there. In fact, I may have been the first one out, despite being seated the furthest away from the exit. Once you experience the temple and surrounding grounds, you are forced to exit out into the town street where you walk down “the block” to retrieve your shoes and other paraphernalia. My summary of the experience is this: it was interesting to see the architecture and elaborate detailing of such a structure, but I don’t think I need to go back.

Upon returning from the Golden Temple, the four of us decided to scavenge for dinner. For the past few years the students at the CMC college campus have put together a Republic Day carnival. From my understanding it has grown from a few booths to a legitimate, fun-filled event that starts around 2pm and goes on into the night. There are game booths, henna booths, food booths, and music (both live and canned). The carnival seemed like the perfect place to find food. It was a most enjoyable way to spend the evening, though by the time evening came around I was very tired. I had started my day with the 5k run and attempted to keep up that pace throughout the day. Not as relaxing as a holiday should be, but lovely none the less. 
Stephanie, Charlie, Maaike ready to explore the Golden Temple.
Maaike at the carnival, prior to visiting the Golden Temple.
Stephanie at the carnival.
Charlie at the carnival. We went to the carnival for the opening before heading out to the Golden Temple.
Hand-drawn signage. 
Not really sure what this character was all about, but he was possible part of the "games" fun.
The carnival ribbon cutting.
I forgot to mention the souvenirs booth...
The carnival by day.
The carnival by night...
More fun lanterns to light the night carnival. 
Lovely henna art on a lovely little lady.
Charlie and her henna-ed hand.
Stop. And look at that beautiful artwork.

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