I woke up at dawn to explore one of the most mysterious ancient artifacts found in South India. Krishna’s Butterball is a gigantic granite boulder resting on an extremely small and slippery area of a hill in the historical town of Mahabalipuram. This precariously balanced 250 tonne boulder is believed to be a bolus of butter, the young Krishna would steal. The rock continues to defy gravity and has been sitting on this 45-degree slope since mankind started keeping records.
Unesco World Heritage Site
Today we go on a tour of the monuments of Mahabalipuram. The city of Mamalla, named after the title of Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman-I, was a sea-port during the time of Periplus and Ptolemy. Today it is a town studded with rock-cut caves, monolithic shrines, cave sanctuaries and structural temples. The open-air museum also includes the largest open-air rock relief in the world. The group of monuments at Mahabalipuram, were accorded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1984.
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.
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.
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..
I walked down to Kofukuji today in the evening to catch the huge Pagoda with the moon rising behind it. The five-story structure(Gojunoto) is the second tallest Pagoda in all of Japan. Built in 725 AD by the Empress Komyoh and last rebuilt in 1426, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
It was a painful, yet life changing experience at Nagasaki Peace Park couple of weeks back, so I took off to visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial today. Commonly called the Atomic Bomb Dome or Genbaku Dōmu, it is the only structure left standing near the hypo-center of the first atomic bomb which exploded on 6 August 1945, and it still remains in the same condition as just after the explosion. The structure is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I hike to the incredible cliff-diving Nachi Waterfall to witness its wild beauty. The Sanjūdō Pagoda in front of the falls creates one of the most beautiful scenes in Japan. The tall waterfall boasts the longest drop in Japan. One can drink the flowing spring water, supposed to have healing abilities, from the falls at the Shrine directly below.
We decided to do something different this new year eve. We walked down to Todaiji at midnight to usher in the new year with the blessings of the great Daibutsu. For it is only during New Year eve that the upper doors, in front of the face of the Great Buddha, are opened so all can witness the eyes of the Daibutsu.