Friday, March 12, 2010

The temple tour

What does this remind you of ?? South India, traveling in a car or a van and seeing at least 3-4 temples in a day ? Well, you are right about the latter but bang wrong about the former since the temple tour was in London…that’s right…I said London. I saw three temples in a day (and four in all, during my brief stay) and that is a record. The only time I have done this before is when amma or some perusu gets over-excited about a pilgrimage trip in South India and decides to take me along !

The first stop was the Mahalakshmi temple in Eastham – obviously, in the desi part of the town. The temple itself was small (but nice) and what completely shook me was the poo kadai at the entrance, I mean finding malli in winter in Europe is just too overwhelming for someone who lives in Munich. I entered the temple to find it pretty crowded because of the Satya narayana puja that was going on and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw rows of desi couples all set with their Puja saman….to me it looked too real, too desi and although I knew London has a huge desi community, seeing it was a very different experience. Perumal and Thayar were brilliantly decorated and the swamy vigraham itself was beautiful. I felt a shiver pass through me when the archagar (with a nice iyengar namam) placed the sadari on my head and gave me theertham and thulasi.

The walk after visiting the temple reminded me of a less crowded Pondy bazaar….jewelery store, pullayar statues, oodhubathi vasanai…I was smelling home….!

The next step was the Murugar temple. This brought back a bigger flood of memories because it was this typical temple you see in everywhere in Chennai, with multiple sannidhis housing multiple vigrahams – from Pullayar to vennai covered Anjaneyar, a Dwajasthambam, a place for Navagraham and even a used ther ! The only thing missing was the prasadam…unfortunately there were no dhonnais with chakara pongal or vennpongal in it.

The temple Kopurams I saw were all ivory colored and I was wondering why they do not get it painted in colors like in India. I believe its either too expensive to do and/or too difficult to maintain because of weather conditions.

Since I had heard so much about the Swami Narayana temple, we decided to visit that as well. I was simply stunned by its beauty that I didn’t even remember to pray all the time I was there. The only thing I did was crane and stare at the ceiling, then at the pillars, at the arches and then repeat everything all over! Even when looking at Swamy – Rama and Sita or Rukimini and Krishna, I spent too much time looking at them, how well they were decorated and somehow the beauty in the place was too much for me to shut out and concentrate on prayers.

The temple tour came to an end just before I left London, when my friend suggested making the Ambal temple my last stop. As we walked in to the temple, there was a huge hall with a LCD screen that was displaying Ambal. My friend points to it and says ‘Swamy paaru’ and I think to myself ‘enna dhan technology develop analum, vigrahathuku badhila LCD screen konjam too much’ and I say so to my friend who bursts out laughing as we enter another hall that houses the sannidhi. Then I smile with comprehension and realize that the LCD was just a quick preview :D !

Yes, it was my first temple tour outside India. It was also the first time
- I left my snow boots at the seruppu stand in a temple
- I walked into the temple with socks on and wearing a jacket
- I did a hurried pradakshinam because the floor was too cold (and I had these mental images of running around the Sirrangam temple when the sun is blazing hot struggling with the really hot stone floors in spite all the water that is poured on them to keep them cool)

PS: I cannot translate all the tamil words in this post because some of them aren’t even tamil, they are sanskit words mostly used in the context of temples and related stuff.

Gold fish translator:

Poo kadai – flower shop (in India)
Malli – jasmine

Kopuram - (temple) tower
Vigraham - (sanskrit) idol
Seruppu - slippers/shoes


enna dhan technology develop analum, vigrahathuku badhila LCD screen konjam too much’ – irrespective of development in technology, replacing an idol by a LCD screen is simply too much !
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