The Logical Philosopher

Monday, January 18, 2010

Holy Cow (India Part 3)

Finally we arrived in Mysore, a 200km drive away from Bangalore. We took some time to visit Cubbon Park, where we were greeted to fruit and food stands which provided some color to the day:

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The Mysore Palace was amazing. Built in 1912 it was by far the most decadent piece of craftmanship I have ever seen. It was a 3 story stone building, adorned with incricate stone carvings, guilded columns, stain glass ceilings and ivory / rosewood carved doors. There was even a golden throne which is used for occasional royal ceremonies.

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The palace was also where we experienced the true indian experience of having to bribe some guards to let us in.

Upon entering the Palace grounds there were signs everywhere that said "No Photography", with directions to "store" your camera at a booth. Yet everywhere we looked people were taking pictures. Not wanting to leave our cameras at some random booth, we opted to keep them, as most people seemed to be doing. We went to enter the temple, some people going single file through the metal detectors and some just walking around. Again, being the only foreigners there we were quickly singled out by the guards.

"Excuse me sirs. Please stop there. Do you have a camera?"

We paused, not sure of what to do next, and looked at each other. A tentative reply was given: "Ummm. We don't plan on using it, if that's what you mean"

The guard looked us up and down, then signaled to his partner. "He'll take you to discuss the issues."

Before we knew it we were shuttled off to the side into a small nook. "You see sirs. There are no cameras allowed." He paused for a beat, then extended his hand and his eyebrows simultaneously. "...unless of course you wish to give a simple tip."

I looked at my coworker with a "I-can't-believe-this-is-happening" look.

"How about 20 rupees?" I said, peeling a bill out of my pocket.

His fingers wiggled with anticipation. "Oh no sir. American dollars only please."

I couldn't believe it. Here we were, people streaming into the temple, some using the metal detectors and voluntarily being frisked, and some just walking around the line if it was too much of a wait. We, however, were being asked for a "simple tip" to continue our passage. My coworker looked at me and pulled out his wallet, fishing out an American dollar bill.

"Ahhh, yes. Thank you sirs." he grinned. Then he pulled the 20 rupee out of my hand and vanished back into the temple.

On the way home we took some time to visit the Shri Chamundeshwari Temple, which is atop the Chamundi Hills. Vendors sat outside selling flowers and beads for the offerings:

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Statue of the demon Mahishasura:

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Purchasing tickets at the Shri Chamundeshwari Temple - note the cow I had to walk around to get to the ticket booth.

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I decided we had driven this far and I wanted to go check out the temple. Given my last episode with the shoes, my coworker offered to stay outside and hold my shoes this time for me.
There were 2 tickets I could purchase, a 20 rupee and a 200 rupee ticket. A mixture of not knowing which one to purchase and the attendant not speaking English, I handed over 200 rupees and headed for the line. It looked like a long wait but being the only tourist had it's privilege so I pretended I was an aloof American and walked to the front of the line, handing my ticket to the guard as I went. My reward? I came out as LP the Blessed: