Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nandi Hills

Nandi hills is a few hills which rise several hundred meters above the otherwise flat plains 65 kilometers north of Bangalore. Like high places the world over they have attracted people seeking closeness to God for generations. They have also served as a summer retreat for for Tipu Sultan (17th century Moslem ruler based in Mysore who resisted British rule) and later the British who replaced him. On of the must see list is "Tipu's drop", a 600 meter shear drop with stone fortification at the top from which it is said that Tipu Sultan had condemned prisoners flung to their death.
Today there is a guest house, a restaurant, formal gardens and a collection of food stands at the top. When the driver dropped us off and went to park the car we quickly attracted an unofficial guide. He took us on a tour of the lesser shrines, including the bull shown above. The sign outside the shrine proclaimed that it was "neither finely craved nor beautiful, but was typical of the carving of the period." The man in picture is a priest who accepted our offerings and presented them to the bull. Before we approached the shrine our guide picked yellow flowers growing wild on the hill. At the shrine we removed our shoes as is required when entering Hindu holy places. (This is why an Indian doctor friend told us to be sure to wear socks when traveling around--even with sandals.

Otherwise you can pick up parasites from the soil.)

The guide gave the flowers to the priest who tore them apart petal by petal chanting and throwing each on at the bull's feet. The priest then picked up a tray on which were some coins (offerings from previous worshipers), some petals of the yellow flowers a small bowl of red powder and a small bowl of water. The priest marked each of our foreheads with the red powder. The guide was quite anxious that he also receive the mark. After more chanting he motioned for us to hold out our hands to form a cup and he spooned a small amount of water from the tray into our hands. I'm not entirely sure but it seemed that we were supposed to drink a sip of the water and splash the rest on our forhead...perhaps drink it all and raise our hands to heaven. Finally he placed a couple of flower petals into each of our hands. I held out my left hand but he waved it away and placed the petals in my right hand. At some point in the ceremony Donna placed a few coins on the tray. After it was all over he posed with us for this picture. {Note from Donna: Holy or not, there was no way we were going to drink the water offered. As inconspicuously as we could, we pretended to take a sip of the water, then tried to imitate what they had done with the rest. We looked pretty clumsy, and the people around grinned.} The mark on the forehead is what you see around India every day--evidence of the person having done their morning worship or punja. The color is sometimes white, or a combination of colors. It is different than a bindi, which is a beauty spot, worn only by women, sort of a dedication/reminder of the location of the woman's spirit. (Readers: Please feel free to comment and explain this better.)

After the tour we gave the guide some money in rupees, although what he really seemed to want was some American coins which we did not have. I don't know why he wanted US coins.

The hills reminded us of the green mountains of Vermont but with fewer trees and more monkeys. The monkeys clearly believe they own the place and the function of the tourists is to bring food and toys for the monkeys. You seen them sitting on the stone wall that serves to keep cars form falling off the winding road up the hill and climbing in the trees all over the hills. But the biggest concentrations are people park their vehicles. This monkey on the motorcycle is resting after searching the row of parked motorcycles and and finding several snacks which were not adequately locked up.

This monkey is eating a coconut up in the tree where the dog will not bother him. He would break off pieces, eat what he wanted off of them, and then drop the remainder. The dog was less picky, and snatched up anything the monkey dropped.

The final monkey picture shows a monkey explaining to Donna that she has no business telling him what to do, and if he wants to eat the rubber seal around the car's windshield, that is his prerogative!

We also enjoyed a watching a monkey check out an ice cream bar someone had tossed in his direction. He seemed unsure about the cold ice cream at first, but apparently decided that it was O.K. and settled in for a feast.

Another interesting feature of the trees in the area was that some of them were actually poinsettias. In areas where lower branches don't get much sunlight, the "flowers" are white, whereas they are red at the top.


Anonymous said...

My guess is that the US coins are of more value than rupees.

I liked those monkey pictures!

What brand of motorcycle was that?


Jean and Grace said...

Hi Joe and Donna,
Great to hear of all your adventures. I am going to start a booklet in the Narthex with a printed copy of your blog for those in the church who don't regularly get online. Hope all is well.
Jean B.
Hi Joe and Donna!
it's me Grace. I loved the monkey pictures, especially the one where the monkey is explaining to Donna that he wants to eat the rubber rim of the car and that Donna should stop telling him what to do. you are all very much missed,

Anonymous said...

About the US coins - He would have wanted it because its foreign, he is probably collecting it for his kid or a friend. Its just the usual intrigue about foreign things....

About the Bindi - you can read all about it on Google.

Anonymous said...

Most likely they want the coins for collection.
It is very hard to exchange or convert coins to indian money. So the value of the coins may not be primary.