Another interesting start to the day. One of the people that set up a tour group in Mangalore dropped out, leaving the rest of the group short a couple of people. This particular tour is a set price no matter how small the group so the tour would be prohibitively expensive for the 4 remaining. So, they disbanded. No one told the tour company. We had some sick people (are you sensing a theme?) but were able to fill in a few of the spots so only had to pay about $10 more per person which wasn’t too painful. We had one group going into the country to visit a farm (among other places) and three groups heading to the city to see the sights. Magic Tours were once again waiting for us once we passed through immigration and as soon as we had the groups organized, we headed out.
Our guide today was Salman (we called him Sal). He was a young guide, the youngest we have had. He is a college student at St. Aloysius University and was, as he called it, “taking a bunk” from his classes today. Mangalore is one of the largest ports in India, so like Goa was quite industrial. We passed chemical, fertilizer and petrochemical industries as we left the port. Of course, we got to stop at the port gate and have our immigration card inspected. Mangalore is one of the hottest cities in India. In addition to the extreme heat, it gets very humid here. The day started out overcast which helped keep the heat down.
Suzuki is the most popular car brand here; they are everywhere! They are cheap, but also get exceptionally good gas mileage (24 km/L or about 60 mpg). It is more expensive to live here than in Goa. Many in Goa receive government subsidies; they also pay no taxes. The tax rate in Mangalore is about 20-25%. We passed many city buses taking people to work. If it is possible, the buses were even more crowded than the trains in Mumbai. They were absolutely crammed full of people. Mangalore is known for its great educational opportunities. There are many excellent colleges here (mostly Catholic). Nearby Bangalore is an IT hub. The government provides subsidies for start-ups so many come there are many entrepreneurs here. The crime rate is low. It looks like a nice place to live, but for me, the heat and humidity would be unbearable. The cost of a private university runs about 35,000 Rupees per year ($5000+). If you major in food management or tourism, however, the government pays 90% of your tuition (obviously, they want to encourage those fields).
We are stopping at Kadri temple as our first stop of the day. It is a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Before entering the temple grounds, there are stores that sell items that people purchase to offer in worship. Shoes are not allowed so we dropped them off at the shoe storage area. Within the temple grounds, there are multiple temples. Each is dedicated to a different god. There is also a charitable hall where weddings are performed for those that cannot afford them.
We entered the Lord Ganesha Temple first. Ganesha’s father chopped off his head in anger (Ganesha was guarding the door while his wife bathed; I guess Ganesha’s father really wanted to get in!). The god Shiva found a baby elephant and joined the elephant’s head to Ganesha’s body in order to give him his life back. This is why Ganesha is portrayed with the head of an elephant. Shiva’s body is painted blue in reaction to a cobra bite; he survived the bite but the venom turned him blue. Upon entering any Hindu temple, the worshiper makes a clockwise loop around the temple in order to clean their heart before worship. They then ring the bell in front of the priest so god will hear their prayers. There is incense burning by the priest. If a donation is made, a namaste is given by the priest. Some worshippers bow in front of the god. The god statue here is made of pure silver. Some of the temple gates are pure silver as well. We passed by a silver chariot that is used to carry priests on festival days.
Worship here goes on from early morning until about 10 pm. However, the temple is never closed and people can come in later. Some homeless people sleep here as well. There is also a soup kitchen setup here for the needy (they do not need to be Hindu; anyone that is hungry can come and be fed).
We walked up the steps by the bleachers. The pitchfork-looking thing is Shiva’s weapon. It is painted on many surfaces around the temple area. At the top of the steps are the cleansing pools. People were jumping in fully clothed to purify their bodies. We had to remove our socks at this point because the cement around the pools was wet. A few in the group decided against going any further; they did not want to remove their socks.
We were directed to fill a small pot with water and climb another set of steps. We poured out a little bit of the water onto the statue of a shivling (the cobra that is often shown around the neck of Shiva). Next, there was a small altar that we poured more water onto and then continued down the steps and into the main temple. There were no photographs allowed in this area. Near the entry is a statue of a god that is made completely of gold and decorated with diamonds. The rest of the statues in the temple were made of pure silver. There was a booth outside where a person could purchase Pooja (worship items) for anywhere from 20 to 11,200 Rupees. The writing was not in English so I couldn’t determine what the different items were. I would love to know what a person would get for 11,200 Rupees! If a poor person wanted to leave Pooja in the temple but couldn’t afford it, lots are drawn every morning outside the temple for items.
From Hinduism to Catholicism! We would be visiting the St. Aloysius Chapel next. St. Aloysius houses schools from kindergarten through college. One can even complete a master’s degree there. Students here wear uniforms in order to identify who is a student there but also to make sure that all look the same. No one can distinguish between rich and poor when all are dressed identically. Twenty-five percent of the spots at the schools are reserved for Catholics, but anyone of any faith can attend. There are around 40,000 students here (7,000 at the university level).
The chapel itself did not allow photography inside. The interior was painted by one man, Antonio Moscheni, starting in 1899. He painted frescoes on the walls and oil paintings on the ceilings. Jesus’s life is depicted around the walls of the chapel. St. Aloysius’s life is depicted on the ceiling. It is a very ornate church and paintings are quite beautiful.
Our next stop was supposed to the Central Market but no one in our group wanted to go out into the heat to shop. The market area was huge (we drove through it) but the goods were much the same as we saw in Mumbai. Just like in Mumbai and Goa, there were people on scooters and motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic. We were commenting to Sal that seeing 3-4 on a bike was not something he would see in the US. Adriana called them “Indian mini-vans”. Too funny! We had not noticed any beggars today. Ben said that they typically come out in the evenings here, and that they go door-to-door to beg rather than sitting on street corners or accosting tourists. They tend to ask for charity from those of their own religion.
Our first temple stop today was an ancient temple. Our next stop was a modern temple (rebuilt in 2014). It was really spectacular! We had a few minutes to wander around and take photos, and then Sal walked us through the different temples. We passed by a charitable hall (for marriages), then reached a temple with a war theme. A warrior had asked Lord Krishna to join a war, but Krishna declined and gave the warrior his blessing. In the interior of the temple was a solid silver statue of Lord Krishna. We also saw our 2nd silver chariot of the day. There is also a solid gold chariot somewhere on the premises, but that one never comes out for festivals like the other two do.
We passed another marriage hall; up to 15 weddings at a time take place there. We stopped to take pictures at Shiva Lake. At the end of the lake are statues of Lord Ganesha and his brother. Around the lake are statues of Lord Shiva (notice the snake around his neck).
The main temple is a temple of light (fire). We did our clockwise walk around the temple, stopping to take pictures as we made the circuit. At the fire pit, people were making offerings. Coconuts are broken for good luck. The fire is a witness to the offerings. There was a silver replica of Krishna’s cradle. The nine Navagraha dolls represent the 9 planets. There was a statue of the temple founder. He stood against the caste system (he was from a lower caste).
We saw two more temples. The first was dedicated to the highest monk who devoted his life to charity and working with the poor. The other was Bhagawan (Lord) Hanuman Temple. Hanuman is the monkey-faced god.
We were actually ahead of schedule today so Sal suggested a drive up to Holy Hill (holy hell for the driver – a tough road with sharp hairpin turns). There were great views of Mangalore from here, though you can’t tell because it was a hazy day. There is an outdoor chapel for prayer. It was a nice stop.
We finished the day visiting a Cashew Factory. Sal told us that this is supposed to be a great opportunity for women to work here. The pay is 100 Rupees per day (less than $7). Those that work in the slums earn up to 500 Rupees per day!. The work looked miserable. The nuts are steamed open in machines but have to hand opened after cooling. Those women’s fingers were flying shelling those nuts; they do that for 8 hours per day with only a one hour break (no restroom breaks, no smoke breaks, no coffee breaks; just one break per day) 6 days per week. They coat their hands in castor oil (some also had tubes covering their fingers) to prevent scarring. It was incredibly hot and noisy inside the building. I really don’t know how they manage it.
After the nuts are shelled, there is still a hard coating attached to the nut. We saw a woman removing this skin with a sharp knife. Then the nuts are portioned and packaged by machine. Most of the nuts from this factory are exported to Germany.
We made it back to the port on time (I think this was a first for us on this cruise). Sal was a really enjoyable guide. He is new to the job but has such a pleasant personality that it made the day fly by. We have discovered how important the guide’s personality is; some ports have had minimal interesting sites, but we have had guides that made the day memorable. Today was a double bonus – great port and great guide!