Andy Stocchetti is an architecture student doing an internship in southern India at the Auroville Earth Institute, where he’s learning about sustainable building techniques and blogging about his adventures.
When I came to India, I wanted to get the real Indian experience, but I never imagined I would be standing at the base of a famous temple, the only American in a group of locals. A group of architecture students interning at Auroville had invited me to see Mahabalipuram, a temple in southern India near Chennai. The structure itself was gorgeous, with animals and Hindu gods carved into stone. Next to the temple were the Five Rathas, which consist of five structures carved of stone. I can’t imagine the time and manpower needed to create the rathas (without the use of electricity or machinery). And while so much effort and energy went into each one, they were only models. Once they were finished, the king would come and choose the ratha he liked best. That one would then be built full size as his palace.
This was a hands-on experience. I’m used to roped-off rooms and viewing historical U.S. monuments from afar–and these monuments are never more than a few hundred years old. That doesn’t compare to Mahabalipuram, which is a few thousand years old. There were no ropes, nothing to keep people from getting close, save a guard blowing a whistle every time someone tried to climb the monument. I was able to go up to and actually touch the carvings. I was able to feel, as well as see, the site and the history. This made for a much more memorable experience. It’s one thing to just see the steps, corridors, and entrances of great temples, it’s another thing altogether to walk through and touch them.
You can read more of Andy’s adventures on his blog, Andy Goes to India.
Photo by Andy Stocchetti