I was disappointed that nothing panned out for Holi (the festival of color, where people throw powdered paint on everyone and Indians go crazy...uh, crazy in a good way). Originally, we had planned part of our trip around it. My cousin told me that a great place to spend Holi was in the Northern town of Vrindavan, although it is celebrated all over India. I looked up the date as we were planning the trip and got March 21st...when we arrived and discovered it was the 10th and we would be in the South, we just hoped that we would still get to celebrate.
I suppose we did get a small taste.
When we arrived in Madurai on the 11th, we saw some kids running around the streets covered in pink paint. And we saw the the occasional person going by with their clothes, face, and hair covered in the brightly colored paint, and we drove by in a rickshaw to see some young men smashing the colored powder into their friends hair yelling at us, "HAPPY HOLI!!!", but we never got to participate.
Madurai was also a disappointment, as the purpose of our going there, the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple (a temple celebrating the marriage of Shiva and Parvati), was under renovation.
The major draw, 12 gopuras (towers), elaborately carved and brightly painted with depictions of gods and demons, were covered with scaffolding and bamboo leaves. Boooo!
All wasn't lost though, because at least the temple was still open so we were able to explore it for part of the day (it is one of the largest temples in India). They were mostly repainting everything and power washing the thousands of carved pillars that fill the halls.
What was finished was amazing.
My favorite were the mandalas, different colors and patterns, covering the ceilings...hundreds of them. I also was blessed by the temple elephant. I gave him a rupee and he touched his trunk to my head. =)
The next day, we took an overnight train to Bangalore just to catch a train to the next destination, Hampi. We had the day in Bangalore and planned to see some sights, but I got sick again from some train food so we got a room for the day so I could rest.
Riley was able to explore some and got some new digs (Indian style, kinda 70's polyester) and I was I was better and ready to go by 10pm for our over night to the Hubli station in Hospet, Karnataka.
About 13 km from Hospet is Hampi or Vijayanagar, The Rock City. We arrived this morning and we will spend 3 nights here. The terrain, described as "bizarre" in our guide book, is really beautiful and different; lots of large rocks, boulders and lush greenery. The landscape is covered with many temple ruins which we plan to explore.
It is kind of touristy, but on a much smaller level than other towns we have been in...which means, more modern commodities and less crowds.
It only took us 5 weeks, but today we actually booked train tickets ahead for the rest of our trip (We have mostly, been booking a week or less in advance) I am excited that we will have time to visited all of the places we set out to see.
From Hampi we travel the longest leg of our trip (a 12 hr bus ride and a 24 hr train ride, with a night in Hyderabad in between) to Khajuraho, then to Agra (we finally get to see the Taj Mahal!), Vrindavan, Rishikesh (The Ganges, yeah!), and back to Delhi. Phew. Time is really flying.