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Of lectures, palaces, temples and trash January 3, 2014

Posted by therealtinlizzy in India.
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My postings have been few and far between this past year, but for the next few weeks while I’m traipsing around southern India, this is going to be mainly a travel/documenting/lecture-logue. Not terribly interesting for the wider world, but a useful means for me to capture, sift & sort some of my comings/goings and thoughts thereof. </disclaimer>

Today’s morning class/lecture/discussion started with our daily debrief from 8:45-9:45 where we have the opp to reflect as a group on the previous days lectures & activities, questions, issues, etc. Today’s debrief session was broken into small groups, mine led by Dr. Susan Pleasants, one of the two U of M faculty (along with Dr. Mike Wootten) heading up this earnest rabble of future-physician wannabees (myself included). Our debrief conversations covered a variety of topics from yesterday’s lectures on corruption in India and food security presented by Dr. Balu. After our 10:00 tea break (daily breaks in lectures at 10:00am and 4:00pm for chai tea and biscuits), we settled in for a lecture from Dr. R S Rajan (who, in addition to being a retired cardio-thoracic surgeon, is also a retired brigadier general in the Indian navy) providing an overview of the Indian healthcare system.

Among much other new knowledge sponged up from the lecture, I was pleased to gain from Dr. Rajan’s lecture further insight into Ayurvedic medicine, as well as clarification on what I’ve been able to learn so far about it. He described briefly the origins of Ayurvedic medicine and how it became, and continues to be, the holistic approach it is for treating the health of an individual in the context of their life and specific circumstances.

Dr. Rajan asserted that while Ayurvedic medicine is not useful for addressing emergent/acute or surgically-needful conditions (eg. appendicitis, bone breaks), and that although most Ayurvedic treatments haven’t been scientifically assessed for their efficacy, it can be (although not always is) practiced in line with the principle of “primum non nocere”or “first, do no harm.” Dr. Rajan shared one instance where an Ayurvedic remedy has been found to be clinically effective. The Ayurvedic remedy for high blood pressure Rauwolfia serpentina (aka Indian snake root) was found to contain the compound reserpine, and in the 1950s was shown to be effective in managing high blood pressure and in synthetic form remains in use today.

After class and then lunch (all super tasty vegetarian meals here at the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement hostel!), we headed out for a field trip to visit Mysore Palace and the Chamundeshwari Temple.

Mysore Palace

Mysore Palace

Here I did a reasonable job of making it seem that the tiger is nibbling on my head:

Selfie with bronze tiger on the palace grounds.

Selfie with bronze tiger on the palace grounds.

After our visit to the palace (which was all sorts of gilded, shiny, palace-y inside, but photography in the palace itselt isn’t allowed) we headed up the slopes of Chamundi Hill (approx 300 meters above Mysore proper) to visit the Chamundeshwari Temple:

Chamundeshwari Temple

Chamundeshwari Temple

One means of ascending to the top of the hill (hey, it’s a damn mountain by Minnesota standards) is via a flight of 1000 steps, which a number of us were determined to climb. However, due to the lateness in the day by the time we left Mysore Palace, we wouldn’t have had sufficient time to make the ascent by steps before the temple closed at 6pm. So we all settled (some quite happily!) for the somewhat wobbly, but scenic bus ride up to the temple area.

As in the rest of the Mysore/Hebbal area, there was no shortage of cows strolling/grazing about the temple grounds:

Temple cow #1

Temple cow #1

Temple cow #2

Temple cow #2

Temple cow #3 (of many)

Temple cow #3 (of many)

These cows in particular hanging about the temple are beneficiaries of the offerings of coconuts, bananas, flowers, etc brought to the gods/goddesses of the temple. After the offerings are made, the temple priests collect the offerings and put them out for the cows to feed on. Oh – them (the cows) and the temple monkeys:

Temple monkeys

Temple monkeys

On the not-so-idyllic other side of the cow, er coin, this is also a common scene in most areas of Mysore (and India generally from what I understand) where trash creates an utter blight (particularly by American standards) of even the most touristy and/or sacred public spaces:

trash

Buffalo grazing on trash piles

Yes those buffalo (and two pigs that didn’t make the photo) are climbing/grazing on mounds of trash coating the hill on the other side of the wall enclosing the temple area. India’s trash epidemic is a whole ‘nother topic about which I can’t do any sort of justice in a glib blurb here, not the least facet of which entails how such trash & pollution can and does harm the free-range grazing cows (not to mention subsequent humans who ingest milk from free-ranging cows).

Happily there are others already connected to/immersed in the issue and community here paying mind to and/or fighting the good fight thereof. And while it’s hard to talk about context and reserving judgment when faced with such epic and choking levels of trash, such that even the cows graze on it, one does do well to know that many Indian folk get it and are working hard to change this part of their cultural inertia. But as they say, the bigger the ship – the longer it takes to turn it around. So it is true for India.

After leaving the temple proper, our bus made its way partway back down the hill, where we stopped to visit Nandi the Bull, which Wikipedia tells me is the Mercedes (maybe Bentley?) of Lord Shiva. Not a bad ride to have I suppose, if you’re a god.

Nandi, Lord Shiva's bull.

Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull.

Having paid our respects to and gazings upon Nandi and heading back to the bus, we stopped at one of the vendor carts nearby (of which there are legion, mostly up by the temple itself) to indulge in glasses of sugar cane juice. The juice, with lemon and ginger added, is made by grinding sugar canes through a press – rudimentary but effective.

Pressing sugar cane into juice

Pressing sugar cane into juice

This last photo rather nicely sums up the juxtaposition of the day, and being here generally – brilliant and beautiful, even with trash smudging the edge of the frame.

Sunset on Chamundi Hill, looking out/down over Mysore

Sunset on Chamundi Hill, looking out/down over Mysore

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Comments»

1. Stefanie - January 13, 2014

Wow, I’m exhausted just reading about the day! But it sounded totally awesome!


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