My ex-Perth Qantas flight landed in Singapore on Monday night. There I linked up with the rest of our party who had flown from Melbourne, and we took the night flight to Calcutta (now Kolkata).
Kolkata airport looks rather better than when I last saw it, though the baggage-eating luggage carousel seems like the same one they were using in the ’70’s.
We spent our first night at the Hotel Host International (otherwise known as the Hotel Smelly Carpet) which is just a few kilometres from the airport. After snatching a few hours sleep, we assembled for this group photo at sunrise before heading North for the 130km journey to Mayapur, District Nadia.
We caught a light breakfast of Dob (fresh coconut juice) as we approached the final stretch.
Our vendor expertly lops the head off the immature coconuts with his very sharp sickle (smaller than a machete). Careful with that axe, Eugene! A few more slashes and the inner sanctum of the life-giving fruit is ready to puncture with the very tip of the blade, reaching the cool sweet juice.
In goes a straw and there you have it – a litre of instant, ever-so slightly salty-sweet refreshment.
After you drink the juice, the vendor will slash you off a piece of sharp coconut rind to scoop out the sweet, slippery inner immature coconut flesh, rounding out the wonderful, primeval coconut experience.
The roads were very quiet due to threats of a State-wide strike, so we sailed in to the campus of Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir at around 9.00 am.
The ancient town of Mayapur sits directly on the Tropic of Cancer. The Chandrodaya Mandir campus, world headquarters of the Hare Krishna Movement, has changed so much in the seven years since I was last here. So much new construction!
Pictured here: the original building on the left is the Lotus Building, and to the right the Conch Building, both used mainly for accomodation. There’s a contingent of 78 buses arriving at the end of this week, carrying over 3000 devotees from Mumbai. I’ll enjoy the relative quiet until then.
It is hard to do justice to the wonderful atmosphere and sheer enormity of the place by photo. But I’ll attempt to give you a taste over the next week, and share my spiritual adventures with you to the best of my abilities. Stay tuned!