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Author’s Note: I grew up hearing about India from my adoptive Dad, who served at a military hospital during WWII. I’ve written one novel, Beast of Bengal, set in the northern part of the Subcontinent. My sequel, Arundati, starts in southern India, Mahabalipuram. This continuing “travel blog” covers highlights of my recent sojourn. India is like no other place in the world, and the places I visited transformed the plot of my novel. My heroine, Arundati, was literally “reborn.”

Saturday, 12/14
We met with  our guide, Charles, for breakfast, and by 8 were on the road. A tour of

Paying homage to Shiva

Ceremonial dance paying homage to Lord Shiva

Chennai and cultural immersion in the ongoing travelogue by our leader. Tamil, explained Charles, is the land of the Tamils. Chennai is the Bollywood of India and at 9 million (counting the greater area) is the 4th largest city in the Subcontinent. Brits established the city, then called Madras, in 1639. Before the Brits, however, Scots arrived in 1524. In 1995, the name was changed to Chennai. It comprises 500 square miles.

Religion: 20% Christian, 15% Muslim, a sprinkling of Jews, Sikhs and Buddhists. The diversity of India theme continues to be a major thread of Charles’s explication. There are more than 1,600 dialects, 22 languages. Charles said more than once that Chennai has an 80 % literacy level.
In addition to the movie industry, Tamil Nadu is location of Bangalore – India’s Silicon Valley.

We passed the train station, a massive Victorian-style building and learned that there are 15 million train commuters. Also passed Fort St. George and the Anglican Church of South India, the University of Madras. A brief visit to an Armenian Church built in 1712, a white-washed complex of church and other buildings, crypts, gardens and dismal accumulations of bricks and rubble from ongoing efforts to restore and maintain the buildings. So moist on the brick walks, covered with a sheen of green mold, that walking was a bit slippery. The smell of mold filled the air!

After lunch, on to St. Thomas Cathedral, where the saint is buried. He came to

Santhome Church, where St. Thomas was buried

Santhome Church, where St. Thomas was buried

Kerala in 52 A.D., preached the Gospel to fishermen. In 1984, the cathedral became a basilica. Rumbling along, we crossed the Adayar River to the “other” Chennai. Pitiful slums, full of garbage and miserable, mud surrounded dwellings. Lots of mutts (they all seem to be the same brown smallish dog): they’re ubiquitous, tiny children, always people cooking. It seems the women are working extremely hard.
Charles and James continued their overview of India briefings.
The Hindu Trinity: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector (10 incarnations), Shiva the destroyer (married to Parvati). Ganesh is the son of Shiva and remover of obstacles. Main texts of Hinduism:  Vedas (which include the Upanishads) and the two epics (Mahabarata and Ramayana). Kolon are the designs outside entrances- sometimes white, other times in vivid colors. Karma: the law of cause and effect. Each action, it is believed, has a reaction.

I was amazed at the diversity of India's religions!

I was amazed at the diversity of India’s religions!