This is Prof. Allocco with just a quick update on our first day: students should have some time to blog tomorrow, but I wanted to at least post a brief summary of our really fabulous first day in the interim.
After sleeping just a few hours students dove into a fabulous Indian breakfast buffet promptly at 7am (!) and we headed out as a group at 7:45am for our first walking tour of the larger neighborhood. Our route brought us to what is arguably Chennai’s most iconic Hindu temple, where students were able to bring Justin Brown’s “site paper” about the temple into conversation with what they were seeing and experiencing. From there we walked just a block to a Jain temple, which has a very different architectural style, and students were able to to witness individual ritual practices in the beautiful and serene interior. Virginia Johnson’s paper on Jain religion offered a framework for this visit and will provide material for further discussion. We headed down a busy road to the San Thom Cathedral, built over the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle. Our visit coincided with the Tamil Mass and extended into the English one, and we were able to explore the tomb and the church before walking alongside a lower-class housing colony bordering the Bay of Bengal. We enjoyed our first vegetarian “meals” or thalis at lunchtime and had space for rest before we reconvened at 4pm for class time and an evening walk that including shopping for Indian clothing, a trip to the vegetable market, a festival procession of a Hindu deity, and dinner. All in all, a fantastic first day! Prof. Pennington and I are thoroughly enjoying students’ excitement and curiosity and look forward to Day 2, just ahead!