As mentioned above, the distance from Chennai to Kumbakonam is about 270 km (165 mi), but due to the poor state of India's rural roads, the trip takes a lot longer than you think. What would be a 3 hour trip here at home takes more than 6 in India; we left my aunt's house a few minutes after two, and finally made it to her second house in Kumbakonam a little after 8:30. I like to joke that half of that time is spent just getting out of Chennai, which actually isn't far from the truth...
Anyway, we start off with this old church on the south side of Chennai.
Continuing south, we came upon a huge gathering of devotees in a small village - thousands and thousands of them getting off buses parked all over the side of the road (I forgot the name of the village). Mom explained that a Kali temple has been built here, and attracts devotees from around the state. The color red represents the goddess Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, which is why the devotees are waring red clothes.
Now well south of Chennai, the landscape has turned largely into farmland.
My mom wanted to stop and buy some guavas a few minutes later, so I was able to take a photo of a typical stretch of rural highway here.
Next, the dusty, hectic town of Panruti, just as we were losing the last of the day's light. Panruti is known as THE place to get fresh cashews and jackfruits. The light was insufficient by this point, but the road was lined with street vendors selling both.
You can see here that although India's big cities have changed considerably over the last 20 years, rural India has remained largely the same.
The next day, after disposing of my dad's ashes in his village, we returned to Kumbakonam first before heading back to Chennai. The city was bustling on this Sunday morning, and you can see why India gets so congested - narrow streets built for bullock carts, not cars.
Stay tuned to this blog next week, as I'm planning on putting up a post about our trip to Pondicherry, including a stop at the heritage site of Mahabalipuram.