Palani, Dindigul Rock Fort and more children
07.11.2015 - 18.11.2015 28 °C
Since 2013, some local NGOs in Tamil Nadu have got together annually to exchange ideas and information and the children also perform a cultural programme. Most of the young people put on a short dance routine, although there was drumming and some singing as well. The event is organised by the Boys Town Society and various children and young people's charities from around the area come to participate. So far every year the Mahathma Gandhi Ashram has won first prize and this year was no exception with the group performing traditional dancing from around India and a cameo role from Gandhi and Nehru themselves.
There was a group from a SEN organisation whose dance encompassed the three main religions of India - Hinduism, Christianity and Islam - and gave a clear message of tolerance, acceptance and peace which was really very touching.
My personal favourites were a troupe of drummers who made the most amazing, and pretty funky, rhythmic sounds - I really wanted to get up and dance, but I don't think that would've been very well received! This group won second prize anyway. Tirumangalum Boys Town also did a great Bollywood number!
We went back to the Children's Village as well. Due to Diwali holidays, there were fewer of the children around, so Mum and I did a session with all of them together. We considered what we could do with a mixed age range and mixed gender group and decided that teaching them "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" would be good fun and hopefully reinforce a few English words. Well, they loved it, especially when we went really really quickly and even Mum struggled to keep up! After this they wanted to show us some of their dancing and Arunpandy and Priya did some excellent speeches in Tamil - they both have a good set of lungs on them, projection was not an issue!
Finding ourselves at a rare loose end, we decided to go to Palani which isn't too far away and is an important destination for over 7 million pilgrims every year who travel, bear foot for hundreds of miles to visit one of the most sacred temples of Lord Muruga situated on a hill 450 feet high. Visitors can walk up the steps carved into the rock of the mountain, take a cable car or a winch-pulled train. Unfortunately the day that we visited the only option was walking and, as it was a warm day and we'd arrived at around 12pm, we decided to give it a miss! So we took the opportunity to have a look around the town itself where there are numerous other temples and shrines. We also had a really delicious thali on the traditional banana leaf.
An early start the following day, we headed to Dindigul to catch the flower market. Upstairs behind an unassuming sign was an unbelievable sight - loads of people with thousands upon thousands of flowers in bags being made up into the hundreds of garlands which adorn every restaurant and shop here - next door to the market the mala (in Tamil) are sold. The craftsmanship is something to behold and to watch the deft hands of the workers folding individual petals and twisting thread around to hold them all together. Most people were happy for me to take photos and one guy called me back to take a photo of him - the amusing thing was that he wasn't even making any garlands at all, he just bobbed down to pose for the photo picking up a few flowers and, as soon as I'd taken the photo, got up and left the other guy diligently working away!
After this and a quick breakfast, Mum and I took a trip up Dindigul Rock Fort - 900 feet high. The history of the city is built around the fort and the name Dindigul comes from the Tamil word meaning pillow as the rock looks a bit like a pillow. The rock is very sparce in vegetation, so we were pleased for the cloud cover or we'd have been sweating even more than we already were. As we got higher, the views of Dindigul city and district got better and better. Our two attentive guides, in their broken English, explained to us that the temple at the peak of the hill is made of granite and is 800 years old. According to one of the guides, the temple was actually made in Bangalore and transported to Dindigul! The other buildings on the rock are around 400 years old and form part of a complex including prison cells, a kitchen, stables and ammunition stores.
There were some places on the rock which were a bit difficult to navigate, so we took our shoes off to get better purchase which I think the guides found quite amusing. At one point there was a particularly steep part and we asked if we could walk back round to the steps where we'd come up, so we walked back a little. The guides just stopped and looked at us and we at them, a little confused, "where are the steps?" we asked in unison - "erm, there" was the response as both men pointed bemused at our feet right in front of us! The descent down the "invisible" staircase seemed much easier and quicker than trekking up...
Nowadays, the only creatures that call this place home are the amazing eagles - apparently up to 400 roost on the rock!