Travelling Around the South of India
This is my diary from a visit to southern India last December – January. My travelling companions and kind sponsors were Peter Hayes, Moira Keyes, and Gail Staveacre.
December 28-29: Bombay
After a sleepless flight to Bombay we are met at the airport and taken to the Chowpatty ISKCON temple, a splendid building finished in Rajasthan-style carved sandstone.
We settle in, have an excellent and proper Italian pizza lunch at the Govinda’s restaurant, and then take a long walk on the nearby Chowpatty Beach, famous for its annual Ganesh festival. The sun sets and we see some of the nightlife of Bombay.
Its India, so everything is family-oriented and polite. The most dangerous things the teenagers get up to is eating the red-hot curries from the beach vendors. We walk back to the temple, changing money along the way. The temple guestrooms are comfortable and we all quickly drift off to sleep.
First day in India, on Chowpatty Beach
December 30: BombayBombay is a large, long, thin city spread along the coast. With the dense traffic it takes quite while to seriously get from one part of town to another. So we start early.
Marine Drive in Bombay
We leave the temple at 6.00 am for the Bhaktivedanta Hospital. It’s a large building on five floors. The nurses and other workers start their shifts with prayers before a statue of Srila Prabhupada. We tour the wards; see the young nurses training, the newly born babies, the operating theatre. On the top floor of the hospital is the special kitchen which prepares the midday meals for 45,000 schoolchildren. It’s a spotless place with stainless steel and marble in abundance.
From here we move on to Gopala’s Garden, the school for 150 devotee schoolchildren; the ISKCON Juhu temple with its new wing just about to open, and then the Gate of India.
The Gate of India, with boats leaving for the Elephanta caves
A 20-minute boat trip out to an island takes us to the Elephanta Caves, a rock temple from 500 AD. Its very hot, and the many steps up to the caves makes us sweat, but its well worth a look. Mango ice cream back at the temple.
December 31: Bombay then by train to Udipi
I led the kirtan following guru puja and the large number of young brahmacaries made it a very energetic experience with enthusiastic dancing. I then walked barefoot – “there will be no place to safeguard your shoes” – to attend class given by Niranjana Swami in a nearby Shiva temple. The sun was shining brightly in the sky and it was already warm as we walked carefully back to the guest rooms. We were served a great breakfast of cut papaya, apple, pear, a cool pina colada drink, and fresh parathas finished off with rasamalai, a traditional Bengali milk sweet.
Next to Lokamanya Tilak Station for the sleeper train down to Udipi, a Vaishnava pilgrimage town near the coast in the state of Karnataka. We have dinner of more parathas and vegetable subji that was packed for us and bless the devotees of Chowpatty for their wonderful hospitality. We are all too tired to see in the New Year at midnight, and 2006 becomes 2007 as we speed through the night on our way to south India.
Our travelling hotel for New year’s Eve