Monthly Archives: March 2017

For the Love of Chidambaram

This morning I stood to watch the crystal linga and then ruby Nataraja abhishekam, up front with a gaggle of little Indian ladies, one of whom chanted/sang beautiful mantra the whole time. I watched as the murtis were drenched in water, milk, honey, fruit, sandalwood, rice. I watched as the crowd gasped when the lamp alighted the ruby Nataraja from behind.

I sat in the hall afterward and tried to take it all in. There is something so rare and true and real and accessible here, it is so precious.

Priests chanting the vedas (one using his cellphone for reference). People sitting meditating, or chatting. Dikshitars doing their business. Westerners walking around dazed and confused.

I cried to know this is my last day here. I sat for quite a while soaking. Soaking in the grace of it all. Indescribable.

Then I made my rounds.

Each corner of the temple holds something. The plethora of deities too numerous to keep track of them all. The hunched old people who can barely walk. The dikshitars striding to do their business. The making of garlands.

And everywhere: worship. Palms raised overhead like a little temple or pressed together in front of the heart. Light offered, ghee lamps. Pranams. Mantras.

So alive!

A hidden corner with nagas (snake deities) and the Goddess in one of her many forms.

A dikshitar chanting into a cellphone, then handing it to a younger diskshitar who begins to listen to it.

Endless small shrines in the pillars, anointed with kumkum and lighted with clay lamps filled with ghee.

Inevitably my steps take me to the Dakshinamurti shrine. I have been sitting here in the early mornings when it is not too stinky. Today it is too stinky.

Around past the saints all labeled (in Tamil, which unfortunately I don’t read) and lined up. Respect, honoring lineage.

Pausing at the mula lingam, the oldest part of the temple.

Looking at the natural light as it plays in the long hallways and imagining what it looked like when the temple was lighted with the oil lamps lining the ceiling rather than electricity.

Moving on to Kamasundari, who has her own temple and it is fabulous. A little hike and at 11:30 the stones are quite hot on bare feet. Sticking to stones in the shade, or hurrying.

Walking down the steps inside…the beauty of the ceiling! Different vintages of paintings tell stories of the Goddess and of the temple. A lone dikshitar chanting, struggling a little I can tell. Yesterday he was there with two others, one named Shiva who is the son of Sundaramurti Dikshitar, who has been our host. Yesterday, Shiva seemed to be guiding the others, and I sat and listened to them chant for quite a while.

Inside it is dark, yet the beautiful saris on the sapta Matrikas are shining-alternating purple and gold.

It is too hot for proper pradakshina around the outside of the Goddess temple, so I take a quick sidetrip to sit in the shade before the Shri Yantra shrine.

The heat sends me “home” to my hotel, knowing I will return tonight for the chaos of the arathi, gazing back and forth at the reclining Vishnu, Nataraja dancing, bells clanging, singing, clapping, and happy chaos, again trying to soak it all in, holding it in my heart of hearts.