on the way to srikalahasti, we came across this building, the mandapam of the oneness movement. it is the largest pillarless hall in india (the movement claims), able to seat 8,000 people. the oneness devotees are followers of sri amma and sri bhagwan, a holy couple that preach … actually, i have no idea what they preach. love, compassion, a higher power … ma nishtana, one might say. oneness’ adherents say it is “a world changing phenomenon that is helping people of all faiths and paths move into higher states of consciousness,” and the temple is supposed to be “endowed with spiritual powers of ancient rishis who had meditated in the region. On entering the temple, the [movement’s] pamphlet declared that ‘the cowardly become courageous, the unwise become intelligent, barren hearts start flowering in love, and everyone will experience divinity'” (according to a journalist who investigated the place). of course, when we tried to go in, it was closed for renovations. we didn’t get any farther than the parking lot. (shades of walley world.)
across the way was this (for me) mesmerising tree plantation, one of a few that we saw as we drove through the south of the state. clearly, the a.p. forestry department is doing its work. in fact, we then drove into a national park and set out for the waterfalls, until we realized that it would be a 3 km hike in each direction; at mid-day, and without water or food, it wouldn’t be a good idea. still, it was nice to get a brief look at a decidedly not chennai-like vista – truly idyllic until the holiday-makers showed up.