This time my travelog looks through the eyes of a foreigner, who visits India for the first time.
For the first time visitor from the western world, India is a very unique experience and I am sure this experience remains in their memory for a long long time.
Recently I had the opportunity to take a client from the United Kingdom, on a road journey from Bangalore to Chennai. They wanted to experience India by not opting for the 30 minutes flight. Little did they know that a trip to Devanahalli from Electronics City is a journey in itself!
We started in the afternoon to beat the traffic. The road to Chennai did not impress them at all since they felt being in a developed world. They expected some cows and dogs to cross the road ; elephants to pass by and some odd snake charmers seated beside the road. The road in fact beats any international standard and I was in awe since this was the first time I was travelling to Chennai by road after the dacoity incident that happened in the year 2000 (see my blog – Horrendous experience of my life). It seemed we were looking at perspectives quite opposite to each other.
But hey presto, after some time near Hosur, they saw couple of overcrowded buses, the chaos of a small Indian town, dogs crossing the streets, cows walking gingerly on the road, autos or tuk tuks as they called them running helter skelter. “Organized Chaos” is how they described the traffic condition. The drivers are so organized in creating chaos that they hardly come to blows despite honking and missing each other by few millimetres, they felt. This is India, I told them. At the local bus station they saw a sea of humanity. I was wondering how they would have felt being at Dadar Station (Central Mumbai) at 6pm in the evening.... All said, the experience was really unique.
On the way to Chennai we took a detour to Sripuram near Vellore to visit the famous Golden Temple. I was not really keen to take them to a temple but was recommended strongly by my colleagues. Why not then, if these guys want to see the real India and as we know India lives in its villages. The road to the temple was dotted with small houses on both sides of the road. This gave them a real glimpse of the Indian village. On the way we stopped for an Open Air toilet break amidst dense shrubby area. This to them was a unique experience.
We reached the Golden temple at around 5pm in the evening. My experience here was contrary to what I had thought. Maybe I was more surprised than them to visit this place, which seemed like a Fort Knox converted to a temple – 100% GOLD. A Mahalakshmi temple called 'Sripuram' is made of more than a tonne of pure gold. The temple was built in 7 years from 2000 to 2007 by a 30 something Godman who calls himself Narayani Amma. Devotees hail the temple as 'one of the wonders of the world' and say that it is the only temple covered fully with gold.
More than 400 gold and coppersmiths are said to have worked for seven years to craft the Rs 6,000 million gold temple located on 55,000 sq ft of land on a 100-acre salubrious environment. As per records, the temple has more gold than the Golden Temple of Amritsar. The temple is surrounded by a huge landscaped garden with Idols of Gods and Goddesses. I was taken aback by the cleanliness within the premises which proved the old saying “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” just right. The entry to the temple is well planned right from taking off the footwear to the entry into the sanctum sanctorum and back again. Mobiles and Cameras are strictly not allowed and the tight security ring ensures this discipline is followed
Its advisable to visit the temple at dusk so that you can enjoy the beauty of the lighted golden temple. Messages by 'Amma' have been laid out along the path to the temple alongside messages from the Gita, Bible and Quran. "When one enters the Sripuram, their focus is just on the magnificent temple. But when they leave, they cannot do so without taking some messages and gaining some wisdom,"
My guests from UK were impressed and could not take their eyes off the magnificent golden temple. They asked me if all temples in India were like this. Although the older temples in India have rich historical and cultural significance, little thought has been given to cleanliness or orderliness. This certainly was a very unique experience not just for them but to me as well. On the way back from the temple they enjoyed the village fair and got a taste of real India once again.