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

In Conversation with Cereal
In Conversation with Cereal

Early this year, kamalan collaborated with the UK-based travel and lifestyle magazine Cereal to produce a journey for them...

Narrative North India
On Immortalising Transience
On Immortalising Transience

Does a camera grant the photographer control over the narratives of a happening...

Narrative South India
Journey into the Great Plains
Journey into the Great Plains

A journey along the cities of the Indo-Gangetic Plains exploring the ways of life of its people as shaped by the river Ganges...

Bespoke Journey North India
In the Land of Palaces and Kings
In the Land of Palaces and Kings

This journey explores the rich Rajput and Mughal heritage exemplified by the resplendent architecture of North India...

Bespoke Journey North India
Taj Rambagh Palace
Taj Rambagh Palace

Hailed as the stunning ‘Jewel of Jaipur’, the Taj Rambagh is a palace of transitions. It was built...

Hotel Guide North India
A Bullock Cart Race in Chettinad, Tamil Naduj
A Bullock Cart Race

In the land of sun-worshippers, dawn is a blessed time. It is advisable to start early and take a break during the hottest hours of the day...

Narrative South India