Thursday, November 10, 2005

India - Day 3 - Part 2

Our tour continued across the street to another market, this one dedicated to clothing, jewelry and just about anything else you might need. It was here that our tour guide took us to one of the shops that sells scarves and pashminas. The guide said that we didn't have to buy anything, but it was obvious that he had some kind of connection to the owner, who immediately took us to the back of the shop in a secluded viewing area where he proceeded to show us his wares. I was particularly interested in some beautiful silk and cashmere scarves, but still having no idea of the actual value of things, I decided to do as the tour book said, and offer him half of what he was asking. He immediately tried to sell me more than two and the negotiating continued. Gary kept laughing at me, and really wasn't much help at all. In the end, I paid 1800 rupees ($54. CD)for two scarves. I have no idea if I got taken, but it worked out to about a 10% discount. All Gary could do is laugh. I soon realized that bargaining is an art that needs to be practised to be any good at it.

At the end of the street was a cool looking mosque or temple. I later found out that it is called Mumbadevi Temple, and is dedicated to the patron goddess of the island's orginal inhabitants. We didn't go inside.

After the scarf shopping, we decided we had seen enough and proceeded to leave the market. On our way out we were approached by a rather aggressive street hawker who tried to sell us a pair of sunglasses. He assured us that they were "real" Nike sunglasses, and that he was giving us the best deal in Bombay. The price decreased dramatically as we continued to tell him we weren't interested. He was so persistant, he followed us all the way out of the market and across the street to where the car was parked. Even our driver couldn't get rid of him. He continue to hound us while we got in the car. I snapped this picture as we drove away.
Our tour continued along Marine Drive, which is also known as the Queen's Necklace, because of the dramatic curve of its streetlight at night. This picture was taken on our way to Malabar Hill, which is an expensive residential area (it didn't seem all that ritzy to us), and is looking toward the financial district of Bombay. The next three stops that we took were all in Malabar Hill.

Jain temple- There are at least four million Jains in India today. Jainism was founded in the 6th century BC by a guy named Mahavira, who was a contemporary of Buddha. Jains believe that you have to achieve complete purity of the soul before you can attain liberation. In order to do that, they believe in fasting, meditation, and retreating to places of solitude. They also believe in nonviolence. They are a wealthy community and spend a lot of money keeping their temples in good order.

The temple itself is quite ornate. I was surprised that I was allowed to take pictures inside. I did get in a bit of trouble when, while trying to get a good shot, I accidently came between a marble alter and a figure of one of their gods who was in a cage. I quickly apologized and moved on.

In the center of the temple, there was some kind of a ceremony going on. There was a group of three men, dressed in traditional Jain clothing, standing around a table burning incense and chanting something over and over. It kind of reminded me of the Hari Krishnas we used to see in downtown Calgary in the 70s. Meanwhile, people came in and began praying to various figures around the outer walls of the temple.

This is a picture of one of the gods in the Jain temple. Most of the other ones we saw were behind bars. I'm not sure why.

The next stop on our tour was the Hanging Gardens. I'm not sure why they call it that, as I didn't see anything hanging there. There were a lot of bushes sculpted into animal shapes, but other than that, it was pretty unspectacular. The entrance to the park was crowded with a number of hawkers trying to sell postcards and peacock feather fans. My favourite thing though, was a man who had a monkey that did tricks. He made it dance first, and then he called out "fight!" and it began hitting him on the head with a stick. It was entertaining, so I took a picture, which I had to pay for, of course.

Across the street from the Hanging Gardens is Kamala Nehru Park. It is a lot smaller but has nice views of Chowpatty Beach, Marine Drive and the city. I must say that these two parks didn't really impress me all that much. They are kind small and there wasn't really any place to sit down. I watched a couple of kids kicking an old AA battery around for a while and got this nice picture of the city. Right near here, hidden in the trees, our driver showed us a place called the Parsi Towers of Silence. It is the place where Parsis (the Parsi are a remnant of the great Persian Empire, and followers of the Persian prophet Zoroaster) bring their dead to be picked clean by vultures. This is because they hold fire, earth and water to be sacred, so they don't cremate or bury them. It's kind of a secret place and they don't like sightseers there. With good reason, I might add.

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