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Our Indian Time Machine

Mysore, India - Stardate... January 3. 2011

semi-overcast 28 °C

We left the coast of Kerala on Saturday and drove over the mountains to Mysore. “The road’s bad for only 20 kilometres,” our driver told us, but after being battered, shaken and stirred for 150 kilometres, we gave up trying to decide which twenty he was referring to. But it was an interesting drive through coffee and rubber plantations before we emerged onto the high plain of the Deccan Plateau and the city of Mysore.
By Indian standards Mysore is clean, green and very modern. It has wide tree-lined boulevards, walkable pavements and lots of interesting colonial-era architecture, especially the enormous Maharaja’s Palace which was built by the British in 1912. The breathtaking interior is an extravaganza of ornate cast-iron and glazed tiles and is a cross between the Victoria and Albert Museum and Harrods food hall. No cameras are allowed inside, but it’s pretty impressive outside as well – especially on Sunday evenings when it is illuminated…
Today we booked a tour to a thirteenth-century temple in Somnathpur and then things got weird. The taxi looked like the hotel courtesy car but, at the edge of the city, the road just fell apart and we were shaken violently for several minutes before being thrown back to the middle-ages. The brightly painted modern houses of the city had vanished and were replaced by dirt-floored peasants' cottages and huts of plaited palm leaves...
Regiments of shoeless serfs, wielding ancient hand-sickles, were scything the rice in the paddies while their menfolk drove away the crop on overburdened bullock carts...
Time was spinning backwards before our eyes: herds of pigs, goats and cattle were being driven along the dusty road by peasant herders, while, in the river, fishermen in primitive bamboo coracles cast their nets as their ancestors have done for millennia...
But our time machine wasn’t flawless and occasional flashes from other centuries would creep into the scene - we would spy a Victorian hand-fed threshing machine or a 1930s Massey Ferguson tractor, and we even saw this modern 250cc auto-rickshaw carrying 22 serfs to the fields…
And then we arrived at the Keshava Temple and, as we watched dozens of repairmen using ancient wooden levers to heave huge blocks of intricately carved stone into position, we had no difficulty in believing that we had arrived in the thirteenth century when this impressive structure was begun…

We were told that reconstruction of this temple will take another 5 years, (and can quite believe it unless someone buys the workers a crane and some modern tools), but then we climbed into our time machine and, in just 30 minutes, beamed back to Mysore and the present.

Posted by Hawkson 06:02 Archived in India

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How lovely to know that the time machine still works and that some of us can escape the matrix.

by Janet

Happy New Year you two. It is all quite extraordinary isn't it how centuries can coexist with a short distance of each other. I wonder how many of the serfs make it into Mysore to see the contrast. Given these kinds of contrasts are so frequent is rather amazing that the Naxalite insurgencies don't engulf the whole country instead of just the north east.

by tom whalley

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