We drove to the Shore Temple at dawn to witness the pristine structure, built with blocks of granite, dating from the 8th century AD. Overlooking the shore of the Bay of Bengal, it is one of the oldest temples in Southern India. Constructed in the Dravidian style that reflects the royal taste of the Pallava dynasty, its sanctuaries are dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva.
I have an affection for stones. Crazy as it might sound, while in Kanchipuram, I dropped by at the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple at the break of dawn. to walk among the oldest mad-made art in the temple city. Located in one of the busiest cities of Tamil Nadu, the temple was commissioned in the 8th century by Rajasimha, the greatest of the kings of the Pallava Dynasty.
Chattardi in Bhuj is a small yet wonderful place to experience the history of Kutch. These Chattardis or umbrella shaped domes were built around 1770 AD to glorify the tombs of the Royal families of Rajput lineage. Surrounded by sea on one size and the grim Rann mountains on the other, Kutch remained cut off from the rest of India, in a time-wrapped cocoon with its amazing culture and art confined within these natural boundaries.
Today we ride to a 16th century temple in Lepakshi. Hidden away in the suburbs of Andra Pradesh, this small town was sufficiently influenced by the stone sculptures of Vijayanagar Empire and includes a huge monolithic bull that sits staring at the Temple.
We drive deep into rural Bengal to witness the exquisite terracotta temples of Bishnupur. These extensively decorated temples were created during the 17th century using only baked mud and have somehow managed to survive the ravages of time.
Today we head out to the Syorinzan Darumaji Temple in the Takasaki countryside. Constructed in 1697, the Zen temple is the birthplace of “Takasaki Daruma” dolls used as a talisman for good luck.
Today Mani & I visit the temples of Nikko in Tochigi. The vibrant temples at this World Heritage site are strikingly different in appearance from other temples I have witnessed in Japan. The lavishly decorated pillars and other structures are covered in a gold leaves and multitude carvings conveying expressions of religious belief as well as scholarship and philosophy.
Scattered throughout Yamagata Prefecture, there are over two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu. The process of self-mummification was mainly practiced by monks in Northern Japan between the 11th and 19th century. Today we walk down to the Buddhist mummy of Nangakuji Temple in Tsuruoka that holds the remains of Tetsuryou-kai, mummified at the age of 44, in a meditating pose, to understand what drove these monks towards this self inflicted, painful death.
What better to do on the “Mountain Day” than to hike up the steep mountainside up to the Yamadera temple in Yamagata. The temple was founded over a thousand years ago in 860 AD under the official name Risshakuji but people generally know it by its more popular name “Yamadera” which means mountain temple. But to get there first I need to conquer a thousand steps, is it a bit more than I bargained for..