Friday, June 22, 2012

Gods in Cars and Giant Trees

Giant Banyan trees are the largest trees in the world

I am sorry that I have not blogged for a while. I have been without Internet for a long time, and I have been a bit lazy.

I landed in Calcutta yesterday in the early morning off a train from Varanasi. Howrah Station is a large busy train terminal. When you step out of the station a line of yellow 50's style taxis are waiting for passengers. I decided to change it up a bit, ignoring all the pushy taxi drivers, I crossed the street to the ferry terminal. I hopped on a ferry and crossed the Ganga river for just 4 INR (8 cents). From the ferry terminal I hired a taxi to Sudder St.

Carts with small Jagannatha
Sudder St is the tourist hub of Calcutta. Near the New Market its a great place to buy cheap jewelry, cloths and souvenirs, but beware of the many sales agents that will literally follow you around the market trying to help you find what you need, but really be taking you to their friends shops.

Belur Math
After freshening up I hopped on the ferry back to Howrah Station to take a local bus (number 54) to Belur Math. When I arrived the temple ground was closed and I had 3 hours to kill. I started walking down the village streets when I was approached by a young high school girl named Speeta and her friend Subham. They invited me to their home where we had lunch and her father read my palm. Supposedly I will have two kids, one boy and one girl, and I will be getting married in the next 3-4 years. We will see....

Flower Market
We then together headed to Belur Math. Belur Math is famous temple where the founder, Swami Vivekananda, respected all religions and promoted the unity of all faiths. The gardens around the main temple are immaculate, they even provide rubbish bins, unfortunately they do not allow photography.

From Belur Math we jumped on a ferry to another Hindu temple called Dakshineshwar Temple further down the Ganga river. We arrived in the middle of the Aarti Ceremony during the Ratha Yatr (car festival) were they celebrate the god Jagannatha. All the little kids where dragging around little carts (all different sizes) with small Jagannatha statues inside. In return for a rupee coin the kid would give you an offering from their small cart and the chance to pull the cart along the street for a couple of feet.

Mud sculptures
Today I took a motorcycle tour where we visited many famous Calcutta locations including a huge mountain made of trash, Victoria Memorial, Flower Market, mud sculpture makers, botanical gardens, old china town and Mother Teresa's House.

At three I was dropped back at Mother Teresa's House to sign up for volunteering. Tomorrow I wake up at 5am to go volunteer at the Children's Home called Shishu Bhavan. I am very excited to be helping out such an amazing organization even if it is just for one day.

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