Meet my new friend Ganga.

This sweet little thing is the new temple elephant at a Buddhist temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
We met when I was visiting there last week. I happened to be there on the day of the lunar new year, and therefore had access to areas of that temple that are only open for this one week every year.

Many temples own an elephant. They play important roles in religious ceremonies and festivals. Having an elephant at a temple is meant to bring fortune and good luck. It is also used to draw tourists and locals, who bring money.

Living in a temple doesn’t bring fortune and good luck to the poor elephant, though. They stand for long periods of time on concrete surfaces, chained in one place (notice the chain around both one hind leg and one fore leg) with limited movement. Ganga doesn’t get to run around with other little baby elephants and I’m sure he misses his family. Elephants are very social and emotional creatures, so temple life is very lonely and stressful for them.

See this page about temple elephants on Elemotion’s website for more information.
Elemotion recommends that you not tip the Mahout (the elephant’s caretaker) to feed, be blessed by, or to take a picture with the elephant (but expect them to be unhappy about that – Ganga’s Mahout wasn’t happy about that at all).

The next time we go to Sri Lanka, I will plan to visit the elephant orphanage at Elephant Transit Home at Udawalawe National Park. I’m guessing that the baby elephants are a little happier there. You can see a video clip here and see that little Orphan Vibhi can run and play, and splash in water, unlike poor little Ganga:

The Cave

The Cave

South Indian Christian tradition holds that Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus (you know, Doubting Thomas? yeah, that guy), came by boat to Kerala from Judea in 52 A.D. and preached between 52 A.D. and 72 A.D., when he was martyred on what is now known as St. Thomas Mount, in Chennai.
He is known around these parts as the patron saint of India and is credited with bringing Christianity to the subcontinent.
This is the cave where he is said to have hidden before being killed.
There is also a spring just outside the entrance to the cave. The sign on the stone wall behind it says that it cures diseases, and the lady who tried to get me to drink some of it told me that it was holy water. I had to pass on that. One – I don’t currently have any diseases that I know of that need curing. Two – I wasn’t sure how to explain it when holy water gave me diarrhea. So, I told the lady, as to not disrespect her belief in the holiness of the water, that I don’t think that my belly is so holy.

Shish Gumbab

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I can remember that because it sounds like shish kabob, and I love food. As a matter of fact, just as a side note – my sweetie’s new favorite pet name for me is Lunch Box.  I’ll let you guess why, then I’ll tell you the story when I see you, if you remind me.

One of the many things that I have found to love about India is the element of surprise.  You never know what you’ll see or encounter next.

An example of that is these ancient structures, many of them tombs, built many moons before my country even existed, that just appear in the middle of random places.  This one is in a park, at Lodi Garden.

It’s a tomb called Shish Gumbad, named for the blue glazed tiles that covered it. You can still see some on the upper part after 500-600 years. Mughal architecture, with its arches within arches design, is so beautiful.

No one seems to know who the three people are who are buried inside, but it is assumed that they were part of the royal Lodi family who ruled this part of India 600 years or so ago.  Whoever they are, they don’t have much of a chance to get lonely, as there are always people milling about. Lodi Garden is the most beautiful and pleasant green area in the whole Delhi NCR (National Capital Region), so it’s a very popular place to hang out.  And eat lunch.