Travels: The Detroit of India (Chennai)

As a quick weekend trip, I decided to visit Chennai since so many of my friends recommended the area. Without any ideas on what to do, I booked last minute and hopped on a flight with the hopes of wandering my way around Mylapore to find unexpected surprises. When I learned that Chennai was considered the Detroit of India, I was prepared to see a big industrialization influence on the local culture, but instead in the area I stayed in I found myself near many religious sites. Being surrounded by many temples, mosques, and churches, I decided to do a guided tour on local religious sites to learn about the roots of each religion. Most of my time was spent on learning about Hinduism and the many deities of the religion including Ganesh, known in the modern-day as the Lord of Computers since he has a mouse. 😉 Just kidding about that fact of course.

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Kapaleeshwara Temple Entrance Gate

My favorite story on the tour was the history of the Kapaleeshwara temple tank. The temple tank was built on land given to the temple by a Muslim King. Although the temple priest offered to pay rent to the Muslim king for the land, the king decided to gift it to the Kapaleeshwara temple  on the condition that every 10th day of Muharram the gates to the tank would be opened for Muslims to perform their ritual. Since the establishment of the temple tank has many origin stories about its’ construction, the one I was told is difficult to verify.  However, the Madras High Court has decreed that if Muharram and the temple festival fall on the same day, the first preference should be given to Muslims to use the tank. This rule is still upheld and practice to this day. I loved this story because it depicts an imagery of two religions living in harmony and interchangeably. The progressive ideology of open-mindedness that the Kapaleeshwara temple tank represents can be lost in today’s society but it is stories like these that serve as a reminder to strive towards acceptance and respect of all cultures. Leaving Chennai, I made seven new friends, one new pun, and a reminder to continue questioning the roots of everything I encounter in these final few weeks.

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Local travelers I met on a tour

Wandering around a local market

Wandering around a local market

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About Coleen Truong

Coleen Truong is a sophomore pursuing a dual-degree in Business Administration and Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. After graduation, she would like go into consulting and focus on the healthcare or social impact industries. This summer, Coleen will be spending four weeks in Hyderabad working in the public health field focusing on expanding access to adolescent sexual and reproductive health education and contraceptives. She will be interning with Family Planning Association of India, an organization dedicated to providing quality reproductive health information and services to men, women, and children through educational and clinical services. Coleen’s culminating research project will focus on examining the socio-cultural and operational challenges affecting the sustainability of a family planning and reproductive health clinic in India. Through conducting this research, she hopes to propose solutions to these challenges and establish a basic framework for enhancing the implementation of reproductive health organizations in developing nations.

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