the beauty of india

Rubbish. So often it is the first impression of India. It seems to be everywhere. There seems to be no system for getting rid of it, other than lighting a fire occasionally and burning it away.

However, if you scratch below that surface (!) there is so much beauty in this place and in this people. We were reminded of this - yet again - as we took our friends, Miranda and Andrew, on a quick trip around South India last week. Planning trips for our friends around hamara hindustan ('our India') is my favourite thing to do.

This time there was only time for Mysore, Ooty, Munnar, Kochi and Hyderabad. But that is still ample time for beauty. For example, there is the beauty of the scenery.

On the ride down to the plains from Coonoor in the Nilgiri Hills.

Approaching Munnar from the north, with the early views of the mountains.

The verandah view from our hotel in Munnar, with New Year's celebrations still on a stick desperately seeking a chainsaw (plus a view in the Himalayas where we grew up, to remind southerners where the real mountains are!).

Seeing is believing with Munnar's tea gardens - and we did our best to add to the beauty.

Fort Kochi's fishing nets, originating in China centuries ago, never fail to beguile.

Then there is the beauty of the colours.

Stumbling across the colour-full Devaraja Market in Mysore.

The brightness of those fabrics, especially the saris.

What about the fruit ...

... and even the balloons at the lakeside shooting gallery.

There is a beauty in the buildings - like the Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad. It has been owned by the line of Nizams (one of whom appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in 1938 as the richest man in the world). These buildings were restored recently by the Turkish wife of the Nizam, almost 20 years after he divorced her (and then he went on to marry four others, sequentially - not concurrently!). She came back to make the buildings beautiful again.

Draw near - and the carving is exquisite.

But I am more of a fort man, myself ... here, the Golconda Fort in Hyderabad.

Ahh, the beauty of the people. We've loved watching the urban-globalized style alongside the more traditional-indigenous one ... as captured in this photo of these young women.

The beauty in these (slightly) older women is rather nice as well!

There was even time for 'beautiful minds', as captured in the words of the widely admired, late President Abdul Kalam.

St Bartholomew's in Mysore (see below) captured our hearts. Having lived in places where the church is under pressure I am less inclined to mumble out the cliche about 'the church is not a building, but a people'. True. Very true. But I tell you, in these places the church building itself can be a witness. A thing of order and beauty, amidst the chaos and dirt.

We were given the wrong times for the Sunday service - and arrived in time for the final prayer ... and it was a thing of beauty that stirred us. So we lingered for a bit and noticed this entry in the annual liturgy/calendar. It is not easy being a girl child in India, especially an unborn one - but God longs for each one to become beautiful in Christ.

... and then this plaque on the walls of the church. Sure, colonialism has so many evil faces. We hear a lot about this today. Colonialism is only bad. Indigenous cultures are only good.

Hmmm. Not sure. The reality is that authentic, godly people of beauty, carrying the liberating gospel of Christ, often slipped in the same door as those wicked colonialists. And in sharing and living that gospel, they enabled indigenous peoples to meet and respond to the beauty of Christ and so to become truly beautiful themselves ... and all they were designed to be, within their very own world and culture.

I suspect Mary Eden Benson was one such person of beauty. This world with so much ugliness in it needs many more Marys, from 'every nation, tribe, people and language', in it.

nice chatting



Heather said…
Thank you! So much beauty :-)

I have two questions.
1. What's with the coloured powders? At first I thought they were spices - but surely there aren't actual blue and pink/purple spices? Are they powders for Holi? But isn't that only once a year? Or food colourings? Or not food-associated at all?
2. Those fishing nets, why are they strung up like that - to dry? They looked so striking, but I presume there is also function :-)

I do so love the glimpses of the world you give me - and the love you have for God's earth and his people. Thank you for sharing.
evaden said…
Thank you so much for these glimpses of beauty. I have never travelled anywhere that did not reveal some beauty, perhaps somewhat hidden. I am heading to Naga and Nepal in a few days and your reflections heightens the anticipation.
Paul said…
Thanks so much, Heather ... your enjoyment of these posts is one of the things that keeps me going!

Your instinct on the colours was correct, although we had to go to Google to check - and also ask a staff member here. The powders are primarily for Holi and the colours do have some religious significance.

The fishing nets are amazing. They get lowered into the water just as they are in the photo and this weighted pulley system lowers the nets and then lifts them (full of fish, hopefully!). I've seen the same system working - much smaller - in the little irrigation rivers that run alongside rice paddy fields. Better still, they have a cool history...

blessings - Paul
Paul said…
Thanks, Elaine - yes, indeed - beauty everywhere, particularly the people!

Travel well

Heather said…
Thanks, Paul - those links were really interesting - particularly about the nets. I found a video of one in operation and it was huge! Like you, Martin says he's familiar with much smaller ones from the edges of paddy fields where he grew up in central Thailand, but these were on a much grander scale. It also says something about the value of animal protein vs. the price of human labour in India and NZ - the video I saw showed at least 10 people involved in the catching of a single fish! (I'm sure they caught many more than that in a day, but there's still no way that would be economic in NZ - which was striking/sobering).

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