February 9, 2013

Of Temple Towns and unspoken prayers

I am not really a temple person. I believe in God and pray everyday. But I don't really think that going to a temple is necessary in order to pray. However,on a recent visit to Tamil Nadu, I tagged along with the elders on temple visits.
I was surprised to see how they knew names of all the temples, the God that each temple was dedicated to, the location of the temple and most importantly, what famous prasadam was available in each of the temples.
It was perhaps the best time to visit Tamil Nadu. Pleasant breeze during the day, temperate afternoons, the lush green Cauvery basin were all a part of a Tamil Nadu unknown to me. I tried imagining the sticky and humid Chennai but in vain - it was that cold in Kumabakonam early in the morning!
This post has been a long time coming. I did not really know how to go about writing it. Story about one temple would be a post in itself. Hence an easy way out and a glimpse of the temples that i visited during my trip last month. Warning- a really long post below.
The first morning at the Thyagaraja Temple in Tiruvarur was an eye opener about how big the temples in Tamil Nadu can be - so much so that the two entrances of the temple are a good ten minute walk from each other!

Like most other temples i would subsequently see, this temple had a HUGE koLam (theppa koLam/temple tank) adjoining it.

And not to forget, a really hi-fi vadhiyar!

The paintings inside the temple walls, the heavy woodwork, the musty smell of the oil from the lamps were a fixture in all the temples.
The elephant at the entrance of the Uppliappan kovil in Kumbakonam blessed me soon as i gave it a coin. And once i turned, the koLam there made me stop and stare.

There was such a symmetry in the multiple dwarams, that i forgot for a moment that we were queuing up to the see the God.

Next stop was the Rahu-Ketu temple next door. Again, brilliant colors on the walls and roof. A hall way that seemed to never end. Lots of open space, sand and a lovely koLam that i could not photograph due to want of light.

Day two saw us visiting the Vaidheeshwaran Temple that is thousands of years old and is known to hold a cure for all kinds of ailments. Lovely light streams into the temple near the entrance, but it is spread over such a vast area that by the time you reach the garbhagriham, it is really dark.

Once again, a huge tank in the enclosure whose holy waters are said to be therapeutic.

And well, in keeping with the theory that it is faith and not really the idol that is important, we did drop in into the dargah at Nagur, where the person with the peacock feather jhadoo asked me if i was there in order to pray for a wedding asap. I retorted saying its not an asap wedding i need, thanks much. He seemed baffled and wanted to know what is it otherwise that i was wishing for. I said my prayers in my mind and got the jhaDoo beaten on my head.

Next in line was the Velankanni Church. A pristine white washed building by the blue sea, people of all faiths culminating to pray, a Tirupathi-like tonsure center out of which came people by the hoards with chandan paste on their newly shaved heads were all sights to behold.

One thing i was convinced of. People have tremendous amount of faith that God holds all the answers. And  people throng the religious places to re install that faith. And irrespective of which religion you belong to, the faith you see in the pilgrims can move you. You also start believing that *This* particular God is waiting above to say tathasthu to you. So you pray- be it at the temple, or the church or the mosque, and hope you are the lucky one!

The wrap to the visit was at a place that i have forever wanted to see - The Brihadeeshwaran Temple at Tanjavur, my native place. The temple is an architectural marvel. It is surprising, that in times as old, people built such a wonder without any machinery. Period. I have nothing more to say.

The sheer size of the temple is something i perhaps can't put into words.

It was a fitting end to the journey.

Oh, and yes, where ever i went, along with God, there was another omnipresent element. There was certainly no escaping her!

On that note, it is a wrap on the piligrimage diary. I came back after visiting many shrines, a lot of prayers said in the heart and maybe with a blessing or two that God bestowed upon me. 


  1. Loved the post and the pictures. I couldn't help laughing out loud when I read about omnipresent "Amma" :D Didn't know your native was Tanjavur - long to visit the temple, looks wonderful!

  2. Finally here is the post.. I know that this post is coming, as soon as I heard that you have been to Kumbakonam and Thanjavur the places I want to see for a very long time.. Really a good one and the photos added a huge value to this post :) I liked the Nagur dargah and the wedding asap part :P Nice one Aparna :)

  3. Wow :) This took me on a nostalgic trip, I used to frequent these places as a kid in my summer holidays and it feels good seeing the pics and reading about them in your post :)

  4. nicely portrayed.. nice blog.. happy to read it..


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