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marianne Udupi - A travel report by Marianne
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Udupi,  India - flag India
4343 readers

marianne's travel reports

Chariots and Elephants

  21 votes
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Udupi is famous for its temple and monasteries, the round the clock viewing of the deity, the man-hauled chariots and vegetarian cuisine. All perfectly good reasons for a visit.


pilgrims throng the sacred enclave round the temple
pilgrims throng the sacred enclave round the temple
Udupi 60 km north of Mangalore is a place of pilgrimage. It is most famous for its Krishna Temple and Car Festivals when men-pulled gigantic chariots move around the temple.

It is also highly likely that you will see temple elephants who bless the pilgrims by hitting them on their head with their trunk.

Beside the temple there are no other sights. That is to say if you don’t count daily life in a small town as a sight. We liked strolling the streets, avoiding wandering cows, looking at the shops and talking to people.

Udupi is smaller than Mangalore and it was far easier to find our way. The bus stands are in the centre, not far from the hotels and Car Street with the temple complex.

The railway station is 3 km from the centre, but not all trains stop here.

There is only one direct bus per day to Gokarna. We went to Kumta where we boarded the Gokarna bus, another pilgrims place. (see my Gokarna report).

We stayed in Hotel Kediyoor, three minutes on foot from the bus stand, easy to find as there is a big billboard with an arrow showing the directions.

The Tourist Office is near the temple in the Krishna Building, friendly but could not give much information.

Bus schedule from Udupi:
www.udupipages.com/home/pages/bus.html

Udupi town map:
www.udupipages.com/home/pages/umap.html

Favourite spots:
One of the eight monastries
One of the eight monastries
Udupi’s main sight is the Krishna Temple in Car Street, two blocks east of Main Street with the bus stands.

The temple is surrounded by eight maths or monastries and founded by Sri Madva, a Sanskrit philosopher. He taught the existance of a Supreme Lord, of individual souls and a material world. Each is distinct from the other and individual souls are superior to the material world but inferior to God.


What's really great:
wood-carved chariot
wood-carved chariot
Our visit coincided with the biennal temple festival in January, when the temple management changes hands.

Large numbers of pilgrims had congregated in and around the temple complex. This is a major festival when three huge bulbous-domed, wood-carved chariots totter around the temple, pulled by a dozen of pilgrims. (Instead of the usual one chariot on less festive days)

Hundreds of devotees were waiting in front of the temple for darshan, viewing of the deity. The queue was too long and the sun too hot. We did not join them.

One of the pilgrims told us the deity has over fifty dresses and wears a diamond crown worth one crore rupees (one crore is 10 million (€1,730)

He then made sure that we wouldn’t miss the car procession in the afternoon and evening, and he took us to a kind of garage where we saw a silver-clad chariot.

Our friend told us that this chariot would be out once the new pontiff took his seat in a week’s time.

Sights:
Drum band
Drum band
The chariot procession attracted thousands of devotees who thronged Car Street. Two richly decorated elephants lumbered through the crowd followed by a drum band and the three chariots.

At regular intervals they stopped and temple priests who sat in the chariots high above the pilgrims threw out prasada, food blessed in the temple sanctuary.

At first it rained small biscuits, sweets and cashew nuts but soon the misiles became larger and heavier. Bunches of grapes, hands of bananas, oranges and coconuts pelted down. People bent, ducked and grabbed.

The night procession was even better. The chariots were illuminated by strips of lights. Car Street was a cacophony of clanging bells and exploding firecrackers. A pungent smell entered my nostrils reminiscent of a mixture of incense and gunpowder.

Accommodations:
Hotel Kediyoor
Hotel Kediyoor
We stayed in Hotel Kediyoor close to the bus stands in the centre and five minutes on foot to Car Street and the Temple.

Fairly large hotel without standard hotel rooms and attached bathrooms.

Perfect service. Inadvertently, I pushed a button I thought to be the light switch. Within a minute a knock on the door and an enquiry after my wishes.

In the morning a complimentary English-language news paper is shoved under the door.

The hotel has a bar, but we didn’t go there. There are two restaurants, one of which serves vegetarian meals, prepared in a separate vegetarian kitchen.

Non A/C double is Rs 400 (€8)
A/C double is Rs 900 (€18)

see tips for the address.

Nightlife:
Elephant Blessing
Elephant Blessing
Next to the temple stood a richly decorated elephant who blessed pilgrims by banging its trunk on the devotees head, but not before a coin had been slipped in the folds of the trunk. The elephant allowed the mahout to pocket it before it struck and blessed the devotee.

(In the picture you can see the mahout, the man with the stick in his hand, putting the money in his breast pocket)

Hangouts:
Souvenir Elephants
Souvenir Elephants


Surrounding the Krishna temple are small shops that sell knick knacks like Krishna idols, incense holders, miniature chariots and toy elephants.

Restaurants:
Hotel Mitra Samaj in Car Street
Hotel Mitra Samaj in Car Street
All over southern India we had seen so-called Udupi restautants. They serve pure vegetarian meals and are famous all over India.

Udupi stands for healthy and authentic food. Strictly speaking Udupi food is food prepared by Brahmins at the Krishna temple, to be used by the temple. Therefore, it is pure vegetarian. Onions and garlic are never used.

(Brahmins are the members of a caste of priests within Hindu society)

Hotel Mitra Samaj in Car Street is the place where masala dosa was invented. Don’t be mislead by the word hotel, because it doesn’t mean a place where you can sleep, but a place where you can eat.

Masala dosa is a favourite for breakfast but also a snack, which means you can get it from early morning to late at night.

Masala dosa are paperthin rice pancakes, crispy when served either plain or with a filling, often potato curry and accompanied by coconou chutney and sambar, a thin lentil based curry with tamerind and asafoetida.

Other recommendations:
GFishermen mending their nets
GFishermen mending their nets
Malpé is a fishing village 5 km northwest of Udipi. There are frequent buses from the bus stand in the town centre. It is a very quiet place. The most exiting thing is to see the fishermen repair their nets.

Malpé looks great on the map, right on the sea, a good road to Udupi, two small islands in front. One of them is St Mary’s island. Vasco da Gama is said to have planted a cross there in the 15th century, but no traces are left.

Don’t be tempted to stay in Malpé, you are far better off in Udupi even though it is crowded, noisy and hot. Malpé beach is full of flotsam and jetsam. The smell unmistably indicates that the beach is used as a public toilet.

More photos of Udupi in my slideshow: Udupi: Elephants and Chariots

Published on Tuesday June 20th, 2006


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Sat, Jun 24 2006 - 01:33 PM rating by st.vincent

Your descriptions of the festival and cultures make this a great report to read Marianne, and the colourful photos definitely make it a 5*

Thu, Jun 22 2006 - 07:49 PM rating by karlakern

Very impresioned!!! muy bonitooo!!! Nice bonita Marianne! Thanks for your time in this report, i like your style writte! Lovely pictures.

Wed, Jun 21 2006 - 10:44 PM rating by downundergal

Another top notch report.
Did you know the Temple Festival was on or did you fluke the timing?
Kerrie

Wed, Jun 21 2006 - 01:57 PM rating by mistybleu

What a wonderful report, I enjoyed reading it. The chariots are fabulous the wood carved one is priceless, its a wonderful picture, very illustrative.
Amanda

Tue, Jun 20 2006 - 10:15 AM rating by frenchfrog

Yet another fantastic report, very informative.

Tue, Jun 20 2006 - 07:53 AM rating by rangutan

Another well written and colourful report. Nice to see a slideshow linked to a report as an "extra"!

Tue, Jun 20 2006 - 06:18 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

wonderful report

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