22 May 2016:
Had a day off today before we meet with Vodafone tomorrow and start interviewing women and focus groups. Used the extra time to explore the tiny town of Tanjore. There’s not too, too much to do, but we were able to explore a nearby temple, Brihadeeswarar Temple (also called “Big Temple” in English). It’s a hugely impressive, enormous complex about a two-minute drive from where we’re staying in downtown Tanjore. There’s not too much tourism in this part of Tamil Nadu, but when tourists do make their way down here, this temple is where they all flock to.
When we were driving to Tanjore from the Trichy airport yesterday, Ashwanth’s family friend, Joseph, told us that we should definitely check out this temple while we were staying in Tanjore. He told us it had a great history and that thousands of people made the trip to come see the temple every year. Joseph seemed pretty knowledgeable about the area, so we decided to take the opportunity to ask him for advice on how to best spend our free time in Tanjore.
“Is there any place we can see some neat animals?” Claudia asked excitedly.
Joseph smiled: “Of course! In fact, in the Big Temple, there’s a trained elephant who stays right in the center building.” This, unsurprisingly, stole all our interest. So, you can imagine our excitement when, upon arriving at Brihadeesawarar, we found the center building and saw a long line stretching outside: everyone must be waiting to see the elephant!
Oh, how wrong we were. After thirty minutes of waiting in the line and battling through the 105-degree heat, we saw that no elephant stood at the end of the line. Instead, Hindu priests were offering blessings to the patrons who had come from long and far to see this famed temple. Dejected, we wandered back outside and explored the rest of the complex.
Joseph had also explained to us the intriguing story behind the architecture of the temple. At the center of the complex lies a immensely tall, pyramidal building that has a smaller tower on the top (see above, left). Within this tower lies a pearly orb of sorts that somehow casts no shadow anywhere around the complex. Reason argues that there should surely be some kind of shadow, casting down onto somewhere from this heightened tower, but no shadow is anywhere to be seen. Joseph chalked the phenomenon up to the genius of the temple’s creators, who carved each of the buildings in the complex out of a single, stationary block of massive stone.