After an 18 hour flight, Timela Crutcher’s J-Term class arrived in the South Asian country of India, the seventh largest in the world with the second highest population and the most populous democracy.
India’s motto is “Satyameva Jayate” or, translated from Sanskrit, “Truth Alone Triumphs.” Its anthem is “Jana Gana Mana” (Bengali), which translates to “Thou Art the Ruler of the Minds of all People,” and the national song is Vande Mataram, “I Bow to Thee, Mother.”
Students explored a variety of aspects of Indian culture, including such facets as temples, churches, tour sites, permanently fixed installations of Chinese fishing nets and Muslim homes.
Several cities were visited along the way. Students went to Chennai, one of the biggest, cultural economic and education centers in South India. They were treated to sacred sites such as Mahabalipuram which contains a group of sanctuaries carved out of rock in the 7th and 8th centuries: rathas, temples in the form of chariots, mandapas, cave sanctuaries, giant open-air rock reliefs.
The Shore Temple features thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism and Madurai, which contains the prominent Meenakshi Amman Temple were other stops.
Cities were also a part of the trip like Palakkad, a city and municipality in the state of Kerala in southern India, Valparai, Taluk and hill station in the Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu. Cochin, major port city on the southwest coast of India, and Thirumalai Nayak Palace, an important industrial and educational hub.
Among the incredible and strange foreign wonders Crutcher witnessed during her time abroad, one of the most prominent memories that sticks out in her mind was the time she crashed not one but two Indian wedding ceremonies.
The first wedding occurred at the hotel where the Maryville College students were staying. Crutcher and a friend were extremely interested in the event but did not know how to get involved, so they asked their professor for advice.
“She told us to just stand outside and look curious,” said Crutcher, “That they would notice us and invite us in.”
This was exactly what happened.
Crutcher described the guests as being dressed immaculately, covered in jewels with gold and silver attached to their saris. Crutcher and her friend had dressed in formal saris of their own for the occasion.
“The decor was incredible,” said Crutcher. “There were chandeliers, ice sculptures, and the bride and groom sat on a pedestal while everyone else mingled in the courtyard.”
These circumstances were like the second wedding, though Crutcher and the rest of the MC students arrived at a different point in the ceremony.
Crutcher recalled, “The groom was riding around on a horse. I didn’t see the bride there yet, and the guests were dancing in the streets, playing music. They danced with us. It was so much fun.”
The experience was an amazing one, and Crutcher hopes other students get the opportunity to travel abroad someday too.