Tuesday, 19 June 2012

"Mine The Darkness"

The Inspiration For Our Upcoming LightHouse Tours



The old lighthouse at Mamallapuram always meant something special to me, having brought to me face to face with my past life for the first time. It was atop this lighthouse in 1974, looking out on the streams and fields, the rocks and backwaters, that I visioned myself as an ancient princess gazing over the land that she held in trust. Most of all, the green squares of rice fields spoke to me, mirrored back my feelings that this was a rich and nurtured land, rich with mystery and the potential for spiritual awakening.


I've also been up to the new lighthouse in 1974 and taken in with a sweep, what felt like all of Tamil Nadu. But the old one keeps calling me back to share secrets held within the folds of its womb, the Mahishasuramardini Cave. "I will reveal all to the ones who trust me" the steps whisper, as I place foot after foot with reverence on their tilts and twists, struggling to keep balance.

Kim has called them the “priceless sacred caves where Vishnu sleeps and Durga battles.”




This single thought from Kim wrapped up for me her understanding of the mysterious paradox that is India. Think now of the lighthouse balanced on the shoulders of these deities, beaming this wisdom to whoever is tuned in.

As the new lighthouse sends its million watt beacon in a grand sweep over the bay, the old one quietly whispers wisdom to the ones who climb the ancient steps to gaze out
at the sheet of turquoise stretched like a girdle all around. From here you feel you can touch all of the ocean, commune with it rather than survey its grandeur.There is intimacy.

This link speaks of lighthouse tourism as the next big thing in India.
We have a chance to come in with our unique CTT perspective and I eagerly look forward to reader feedback here. This will help us customize our Cyber Yaatras as well as the LightHouse Packages we planning to offer in 2013 spring in the Mamallapuram region.

The old lighthouse is a protected monument so I hope they preserve the sanctity of the surroundings. It wouldn't do to have recreational activities in the vicinity! But it would be an even more pressing need to crack down on the graffitti once and for all. Again I was appalled at the crude etchings on and around The Butterball. I thought there was far too little surveillance at such an important site.

Just came across this article "Mamallapuram: monument of neglect" in The Hindu. Worth a read.





The way they carve and deface these precious monuments makes me cry. I've noticed that monuments for which there isn't an entry charge are quite neglected. It would be a great idea to tax all those picnickers and useless underemployed couples and their ill-bred spawn who go there for "timepass."

And it would be a great idea for the so called “guides” to educate the rifraf on the need to respect, indeed revere these irreplaceable sites.


Kim's reactions to her Lighthouse Trip


"I think one thing that moves me about these two wonderful carvings in the old lighthouse cave is their grand statement on power. Vishnu's seems at first glance to be a passive power; he sleeps while his attendants repel the demon that is threatening him. And Durga's seems to be an active power; she herself battles the buffalo demon, personification of the evil which threatens us all.






Some might say that these two carvings turn gender power stereotypes on their heads, as it is the male manifestation of God who is passive, the female who is active. But I think there are more subtle messages to be found here.






I love it that Lord Vishnu's power is so trusting. He seems completely calm and at peace in his sleep. His serenity is deeply sensual and full of sexual potential, the potential of creation gathering within him as he rests. His arms are languid and relaxed, one fallen idly to his side. He knows his attendants can repel any danger which might threaten him in the midst of his creative meditation. He has nothing to fear, no need to act.


Durga's power on the other hand seems to spring from an intuitive knowledge of when to act. Her carving is filled with energy and engagement; there is dramatic motion and sweeping form all around her.


There must be a relationship between her aggressive outward contest, and Vishnu's peaceful inward trust; between her active initiative, and his passive delegation of power. Each knows how to respond to the moment.


As you know I found Vishnu's sleeping form in the Shore Temple nearby even more powerful. I love it that it was carved from bedrock, that the temple itself was raised over him only afterwards. Somehow his bedrock form seems to symbolize how elemental his creative sleep is, and again, how sensual. Here in this carving, he's stripped of all his outward manifestations of power...no mace, no conch, no couch. He's bare and alone, yet wholly at peace and empowered in his bareness. He helps me understand that indeed, nothingness is everything."



22 comments:

  1. Wow--what an unusual take on Mamalapuram!!! Lighthouse tours!!! How interesting. Beautifully written, so utterly appealing--the light in Mamalapuram beckons me through your words.
    Loved it so much! You may also want to take a look at this site--he presents lovely pics from south India:
    http://myindiantravel.blogspot.in/2011/12/varaha-cave-temple-mahabalipuram.html

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    1. Thank you for the link Bhavana. I'll take a look. There are different ways we could structure this tour depending on the time constraints. Keep a look out here for details!

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    2. I feel the same as Bhavana does. I am beckoned to those caves . As you know Incognita I love caves.I have seen the Karla,Bhaja and Elephanta caves .I want to see the ajanta ellora caves and these .Sculpture from the rock is like nature,wind,sun and the spirit interacting with the rocks. Don't you think so too ? The tattvas interacting with the otherwise stationary rocks in order to read to us the stories our ancestors swore by

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  2. Reading this write-up on Mamalapuram & the beautiful landscape marked by a Light-house now makes me want to experience it. What is the structure of your lighthouse tours though?
    BTW, Good on ya for highlighting the neglected issue of defacing of the monuments by random visitors. It is quite shameful.

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  4. This is a response to both Shiv's and Bhavana's questions about structure. I would personally advise spending 3-4 days in Mamallapuram itself just to soak in the spirit of the place. Last time we wove Kanchipuram into the package for a day and it did get hectic.

    Mamallapuram is unique in having the oldest existing lighthouse as well as a functioning new lighthouse side by side. I would focus on Mamallapuram alone for a lighthouse tour(lest you think we will make a round of selected lighthouses in India) because of the sheer cultural, artistic, historical richness and biodiversity packed into such a tiny geographical area. This makes it very easy and relatively inexpensive to navigate in a short period and every imaginable facility is available for vistors. The cyber journeys that precede the actual visit (visualize them as interactive online miniature study-tours) would address the specific interest of the client, be it history or legend or lighthouses in the symbolic or spiritual sense. They would be about bridging the respective cultures of the teacher and taught, creating a place of energy exchange and, to use the lighthouse metaphor itself, mutual enlightenment! This means we research the culture with which we are connecting and exchanging. We could be talking about and jointly exploring lighthouses in several regions. This is a thinking person’s travel service. Physically travelling can often be the culmination of a series of cyber-exchanges and can be very rewarding that way. We are also planning a tour that has waterbodies as its focal point. Our upcoming Autumn Offers also include a couple of such river-centric packages.

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    1. That is an excellent way of going about it Incognita.We can find out so much by concentrating on a symbol of direction, enlightenment and survival i.e the lighthouse . Me thinks that the light that the new lighthouse will throw would be truly enriched with the wisdom of the old . And it would be so cost effective too .Its like the perfect thing ! It reminds me of the Pataleshwar Temple . the discovery of that single temple made my journey through Maharashtra so worthwhile and enlightening in more ways than one

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  5. Thanks for the information. Cyber-tour is a great way to help your customers. I personally feel the same that it would be better to let yourself experience a place completely and enjoy the nuances rather than traveling a lot from one place to the other on the same tour. But it could be different for different people. Hope your venture offers that flexibility.

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    1. While currently we are offering only some specific zones(Puri-Bhubaneswar region in Orissa, Chennai-Mamallapuram-Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu and several places in West Bengal :) ) we can always develop other zones depending on the interest shown online. The main issue with traveling a lot from one place to another is the time and cost of travel. We are definitely not targeting casual tourists or those who want to "do" India and have a list of places. There are plenty of tour operators who give them just what they are looking for. We think of our tours go far beyond the mundane and are a mutually rewarding exercise. So anyone who wants to move across several zones in a single trip would have to have a good reason from their own academic/spiritual/personal perspective, to be spending all that time and money in one go. If we are convinced that we must be participants in that process, we will definitely undertake it. And of course at that point we will organize the manpower we need at our end!
      Right now we may prefer to stay within the framework of these smaller, focuses and more intimate trips.
      Kim might like to add some value here from her own way of experiencing places. She is an expert on Ireland. Please share your views Kim.

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    2. Want to add that our online services will actually be the doorway to identifying regions we'll offer in future. Also want to add that these are primarily targeted at people outside India. Resident Indians would need an overwhelming reason to sign up for our package rather than just explore their own country themselves. We'll be delighted if they do think we are adding value to their experience and are ready to pay our charges :)

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    3. Apologies for the typos. My eyes aren't letting me do better right now.

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    4. We shall help our travelers to take the first step to cross the thresholds via the virtual tours.Our virtual tours will enable everyone eager and curious to gain better understanding of our marvelous country.I am sure spiritual awakening is on the cards :)

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  6. Hmm sounds reasonable and justified. Thanks.

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  7. It is indeed terrible that graffiti yet again spoils and ruins are culture, our heritage.The opening lines of this post makes me think of a long forgotten, recently remembered story :) .
    Kim's thoughts are so interesting and totally add up.Vishnu and durga compliment each other. While Vishnu is the passive, Durga is active.While Vishnu is calm and unchanging ( the constant character radiates peace ) Durga does the dance of death ,her moves are passionate,creative and deadly.
    Somehow Vishnu regenerates the world via his thoughts while Durga does it by her actions.
    I conclude the above because of the stories I have heard of the divine.Whenever there was chaos,the Devas would call upon Vishnu for advice while when Mahishasura was creating havoc Durga was created with the power of all the mothers in the world .Durga completed the task of killing Mahisha Asura
    This post is so dynamic. While the lighthouse project is something I look forward to,the divine is omnipresent :)

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  8. I agree that focusing attention on one particular area like Mamallapuram and its rich environment of caves, carvings, lighthouses, and monuments is a great way to experience the historical and spiritual depth of India in an intimate way. Within a mile or so, one can find layer after layer of myth, miracle, and magic. Like a lighthouse beam which concentrates its energy and illumination in a focused sweep, Mamallapuram condenses India's past and present in a concise way. Comfortable hotels and cultural delights rest the traveller at the end of a day of discoveries. And then there is the sound and warmth of the sea to embrace the soul...

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  9. you know what, i will be very honest here. i havent heard of this place, but your blog has aroused the curiosity in me, take me along on the next trip and maybe the wiccan in me would find soemthing to help with this blog :)

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  10. What a deliciously written piece!I never thought that carvings would tell such beautiful tales - Kim and Maya, thank you for the wonderful journey :), and can't wait for the tours. :D

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    1. Welcome to the blog and thank you so much for commenting. Love your choice of the word "delicious" :) If you would like to visit these places in the coming spring, let us know. We can organize something.

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  11. How beautifully this post has been written . I can feel the energies coursing within me as I soak in the all pervading quiet of the lighthouse. I can almost listen to the cave as she whispers the secrets of her past life to Incognita :)

    I can almost visualize Vishnu as Kim so beautifully put it "trusting in his sensuality" and the dynamic form of Durga , two contrasts enshrined in one single universe.

    As you all have put it , nothing saddens me more than the graffiti on these stones each of which carry a story rich in culture and history :(

    And the best thing is I have never been to this place, but I could touch the walls of the cave with the spirit of Incognita, Kim and Karan. Have fallen in love with this sacred space of yours.Will keep visiting it often :)

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    1. I can feel you within me, listening to the cave - a powerful shared vibe.
      Thank you so much. This comment has made our day! The sacred space has, to be sure, also fallen in love with you :)

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