Itching and India

Day 112 – Sailing for the Bay of Bengal – Find Insignia on CruiseMapper

Have you ever had a travel itch that could only be scratched with a visit? That would be India for Doris. For years, Louis kept saying, “You have to visit India.” To which Doris kept replying, “No, I don’t.” For Doris, India just didn’t itch. Yet, with four port calls on its southwestern coast, the subcontinent ended up illustrating why Insignia’s around-the-world itinerary was the ultimate itch for your Partout pair: The ship gave us a way to visit dozens of locations we liked the idea of seeing (or, at least, didn’t mind seeing) but didn’t feel the urge to scratch by flying into. Bonus attraction for Doris: the case for visiting India has finally been officially stamped “Closed.”
To be honest, visiting four Southern India cities briefly was not sufficient to convince Doris she should or should not have been itching to visit the country all along. Circumnavigating the world by ship has many benefits; experiencing any one place in depth is not among them. But she has at least sampled some of subcontinent’s legendary color and variety, and Louis is delighted to have pointed four of the five cameras he is carrying at the scenes (yes, five, including his iPhone and underwater camera). Here, then, are several of our favorite sights and a few reflections from five days of being stamped in and out of Indian cities.

The Temples

India is a country of worship, and the landscape is strewn with the religious monuments that prove it. Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Parsis temples. Christian churches. Muslim mosques. In the cities and the countryside, it sometimes feels like every turn reveals another place of reverence, some of them fantastically ornate, others almost severe in their simplicity. We visited rock-temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Each image has been chipped out of a solid basalt hillside on Elephanta Island in the bay of Mumbai.
We stood in the shadow of the 57-foot Lord Gomateshwara statue on a hillside outside Mangalore. Carved from a single block of granite and dedicated to the Jain figure Bhubali, the monument is one of the largest monoliths in the world.
We shed our shoes (so as not to step on and crush any living things) to explore the elegant Thousand Pillar Temple in Moodbidri with its Jain monks carrying peacock-feather fans and where golden images were glimpsed behind locked gates of the inner sanctum.
We delighted at a vibrant International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Temple, where people don’t just worship but string flowers, take classes and make food, all in a joyous riot of color dominated by orange, one of Doris’s very favorite colors of all.
There are late-comer Christian “temples,” too. The Portuguese Basilica of Bom Jesus (to mix a few languages) in Old Goa houses the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier (aka “the apostle of the Indies) who was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.
Meanwhile, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in nearby Punaji provides an impressive example of Portuguese Baroque architecture, or so Wiki says.

Colonial Remains

Churches were but one variety of monument that waves of European colonists left behind while occupying India for close to half a millennium. In Mumbai, the British erected grand rail stations, government buildings, colleges, hotels and libraries that still rule the streetscapes like aging grand dames that may be well past their primes but still carry themselves regally. Mumbi arch Farther south, the Portuguese left behind what is today the largest Latin quarter in all of Asia, a neighborhood called Fontainhas in Goa’s capital city of Panaji. Like any good Latin quarter, the neighborhood is a warren of winding streets filled with postcard-pretty local color.
Even the buildings still awaiting rehabilitation/gentrification manage to be picturesque.

Epic Stories

Beyond the buildings, India is a land of epic stories and expressive faces. In Mumbai, we visited the home where Mahatma Gandhi had lived and worked for several years. Doris particularly loved wandering his library and looking at the titles he had owned and most treasured.
Snowy and Milou were impressed, too.
Also in Mumbai, we strolled the ultra-luxury Taj Majal Palace Hotel that is always introduced with the possibly apocryphal but still charming story of founder Jamsetji Tata being refused entry to the British-owned Watson Hotel and building the Taj to create a high-class hostelry open to all.
At the other end of the social spectrum, we marveled at the washers of Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai’s largest open laundry, where “over 7,000 people flog, scrub, dye and bleach clothes on concrete wash pens, dry them on ropes, neatly press them and transport the garments to different parts of the city,” as they have for more than a century.
We also marveled at the legendary crowds and traffic of India but, more than that, at the friendly, open faces we found everywhere in spite of them. Young and old.
Reverent and irreverent.
Beautiful, one and all including this mother and children who welcomed our friend Kadi’s camera on Elephanta Island. IMG_4949

Another Question Answered

Okay, nobody actually answered this but Partout imagines someone asked, “What are three fun facts about India?” – Mumbai got its pre-independence name of Bombay from the declaration “Bom bai!” (good bay) from the first Portuguese sailors who sailed there. – Bombay passed from Portuguese to British hands as a dowry upon the marriage of the Portuguese noblewoman Catherine of Braganza to England’s Charles II. (He also got Tangier in the deal.) – India has old-folks’ homes to retire cows who are too old to give milk but can’t be killed because of their holy status with Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

Where’s Snowy

Besides hanging out in a Jain temple in India?

Coming Soon!

Colombo 40 Years Later

Fellow Travelers

4 thoughts on “Itching and India

  1. The pictures are so beautiful and the bright colors impressive, your story inviting..
    Still, India is not on our travel list and won’t get there (hmmmm, when talking about attending a cricket match…..)


  2. Thanks for the Indian insights regarding the abundance of revered places. Since you were in both Mumbai and Goa, what you may have seen without realizing it were centuries old synagogues though most are now vacant or repurchased.


  3. I agree with Doris, the closest I ever want to come to India is the show “Indian Matchmaking” on Netflix.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s