facebook
CRAFT YOUR JOURNEY
Peeking inside a temple in Tamil Nadu
NARRATIVES

THE TEMPLE, OUTSIDE AND INSIDE


South India

No one can travel through Tamil Nadu without acknowledging the Hindu temples. Their characteristic architecture and the life around them make you want to enter and see if maybe not understand what it is all about. We are travelling with our two sons, who are 14 and 16 years old, and we have decided to visit with them the most important temples throughout our journey. Western teenagers are rarely attracted to religious places, but India seems to be an exception. Outside the temples, there is always a great activity. Merchants in their stalls invariably display their wares: flowers and fruits needed as offerings and plenty of souvenirs of the most original kind. Animals and men get along well in India, monkeys and dogs and often even elephants contribute to the temple scenes. Each one of us buys a basket with roses, a coconut and a packet of ram dana (Mimosa sugar balls), and we enter the temple only after we have removed our shoes.

The contrast is strong between the outside and the inside, from bright sunlight we go into a dimly-lit space where the eyes lose their pre-eminence and other senses take over, particularly the sense of smell, as a rare mixture of sandalwood, incense, and cut flowers invade the nostrils. Acting more confident than I really am, I lead the way by just following the old couple in front of us.

temple outside and inside
Outside the temples of Tamil Nadu

Everyone converges towards a spot in the temple called the Sanctum Sanctorum, where divinity resides. Once we reach it, the pujari, the man who performs the puja, the equivalent to our priest, takes our offerings and pronounces what I would call the magic words, and blesses the believers, smearing their foreheads with a red paste, the sindoor. In other temples, we were given either ram dana or coconut, or a basket full of offerings to take back with us. We were told it is called prasadham, a blessed reminder of our visit to the temple. Some places of worship make you want to stay and sit down on the floor, silently observing the people rapt in prayer; others seem to push you out as soon as you have got the darshan, a glimpse of the deity. Once, we decided not even to try to enter. The crowd was so huge that we could not imagine being able to stand the pressure everyone was exerting to fit inside. There are moments in India when we are reminded that we belong to a different culture and that we are better off outside.

temple outside and inside 3
Inside the temples of Tamil Nadu
Winged Stone Statue, Inside the temples of Tamil Nadu

Explore More

At the Threshold of Saints
At the Threshold of Saints

I stood at the gates of the mausoleum of a Sufi saint, the Durgah. I wondered if I was doing everything right, if I was in the right spirit...

Narrative North India
Cooking in rural south India
The Creator of Aroma

The warm fragrance wanders into the softly-lit morning street. It wafts from the kitchen, through the open door and...

Narrative North India
Where Desert Meets the Sea
Where Desert Meets the Sea

A classic journey to India's west, sojourning the major cities and towns of Maharashtra and Gujarat...

Bespoke Journey West India
A Wondrous Moonland
A Wondrous Moonland

A journey that takes one through the surreal mountainscapes and the unique lifestyles of the Ladakh region...

Bespoke Journey North India
VanaVasa
VanaVasa

VanaVasa is a Sanskrit word that translates to forest stay, which speaks volumes about this beautiful...

Hotel Guide South India
Caravan in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan
At the edge of the Desert

Sand easily overtakes the careless traveller. Grain by grain, it squeezes slowly between tight lips, it threads its way through...

Narrative North India