Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kailasanathar Temple, Kanchipuram

The first glimpse of Kailasanathar temple

Heading to the Kailasanathar temple, one has to leave the crowded roads of the main town emerging into village like areas of the district, bringing with it a distinct feel of calm. The first glimpse of Kailasanathar temple with its huge green lawn - the stamp of the ASI - although repetitive, has a similar effect. Since the temple is under ASI, full fledged worship (vazhipaadu) and pooja's are not allowed. A priest comes and performs minimal rites twice a day.

The courtyard around the temple lined with pillars

The temple is all done in a sort of sand stone or lime stone. If you have been to the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram, the resemblance between the two - both in terms of material of construction as well as architectural style is unmistakable (yes, even to the untrained eye!). The inner walls of this temple are covered with sculptures depicting different stories. Even this had a distinctiveness as each sculpture seems to be encased in a mandap of its own and bordered by thin pillars.

One sculpture that caught our eye was this one, primarily for the hair style resembling that on buddha. Buddhism was just about getting prominence around this time, and maybe this was an evidence of its influence on the Pallava rulers!

A sculpture on the wall

The British, during their time, apparently attempted some sort of a restoration effort, however ended up ruining the homogeneity of the temple. While it is not clear who really was the cause for the destruction, you cannot miss the evidence of failed restoration efforts.

Remains of paintings on the walls

The priest who was there kindly gave us a brief on the temple. Legend goes that Lord Vishnu worshipped Lord Shiva here. Vishnu had just destroyed a demon, who also happened to be a devout worshipper of Shiva. Therefore his penance here was for cleansing himself of the sin of destroying a Shiva worshipper.

Another interesting belief is that of the cycle of life. The passageway around the inner sanctum in this temple is blocked at the entrance and in the exit - with only a one feet tunnel like opening to enter the passageway. You have to crawl through these small tunnels in order to go around the sanctum. The belief is that, once you have crawled through these two tunnels, you have left your sins behind and have been reborn.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chaatwala on the Street

This peanut chaatwala was the source of nibbles for many of the audience through a play at Horniman's circle. When we left the circle garden at about 10.30, the place was nearly deserted. Except for him. He was still sitting around, chating with his friend, and still doing his thing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Monotonity... and Then This!

The week has been horrible. Monotonous. A sense of restlessness weighed down only by inertia. Sometimes, you just indulge in a bout of boredom hiding under the excuse of purposelessness of everything. From drinking coffee to reading a book to planning a vacation. It was scary for a while, that just for the few days of doldrums, nothing spiked my interest or energy levels.

And then this arrived.

I recently decided to join the library service launched by my company (aah, I wouldn't call it a return to normalcy yet, but more the 'the ship is sinking, but we'll make your last moments very pleasurable!' effort). All we need to do is log in and place our orders - and the book is deleivered to ur doorstep - all wrapped perfectly in glass paper. Ahh the pleasure of ripping apart the cover - feels like it's gift opening time everytime! Anyways - this one just arrived today, and I have hardly been able to contain myself. May be, just may be, this would be my summer destination of 2009.

Reminds me - time I started making a wishlist!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Land of Thousand Temples, Kanchipuram

My mother has a strange fascination over Kanchipuram. It's difficult to ascertain exactly when in the last few years, this small crowded temple town got its hold upon her, but it has. Ever since then, Kanchipuram has been thrown at us as an all-stop-panacea. Out of sorts, want to go to a temple? Kanchipuram. A day out from Chennai? Kanchipuram. Do you have particular plans when you come down from Mumbai to Chennai? No? Then, Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram is a standing joke between my sister and me, both of us always desisting my mom's urges to visit the town. But it seems like my mom has made some kind of a convert of my dad ... he patiently gives her company on her expeditions, though his un-religiousness remains intact.

In the last couple of years, my parents have discovered several temples in this town through their frequent visits. So, when my mother first mentioned the Kailasanadar temple, my interest was piqued. Plus, I wanted to explore some old and lesser known temples myself (yes, getting to know my roots). And so we went in search of a particular Guru temple (where he is present with his spouse, a rarity, it seems) and of course Kanchipuram for a day.

Idols outside Kailasanadar Temple

My mom is probably the perfect company if you wanted to 'temple' - she can tell you the stories behind the temples, the gods. This is of course as long as you have the patience for the single mindedness of a true devout. The nandanar story of Chidambaram was my favorite. The story of Mayiladuthurai, of different nayanars (or followers of shiva), the story of how the Thiruvasagam was written. Visiting temples for me is always tied up with listening to these tales of devotion, gods conquering the asuras or of divine romance, stories listened to with the same fascination as for fairy tales. Visiting Kanchipuram was just like the old times.

Kanchipuram is called the city of thousand temples. Among the 'puranada' temples or ancient temples, there are 108 Shiva temples and 19 Vishnu temples. Did you know that The Kamakshi Amman temple in the center of the town is the only shrine for the goddess in the town? Kamakshi is believed to be a form of shakthi or supreme power. Kanchi's Kamakshi, along with Madurai's Meenakshi and Kasi's Visalkshi are three epitomes of the shakthi forms. Exemplifying her importance, none of the Shiva temples in Kanchi have the usual secondary shrine for the goddess. Interestingly, all the Shiva and Vishnu temples have been built in a way that these deities all face the Kamakshi. Yes, Kamakshi appeals to the feminist in me.

The Gopuram at the entrance to the Kamakshi temple

It would be hard to cover all the temples in Kanchi at one shot. We managed to visit the Kailasanadar temple and Vaikunda Perumal temple, but had to miss the Ulagalanda Perumal temple, amongst others we hoped to cover. Without doubt, this one and several others have been put on the list for another time. There is also a Chola excavation site just outside of Kanchi - the name eluudes me for the moment - but, that has also been put off for another time.

Oh, yes, there will always be a next one to Kanchipuram, what with my mom threatening to retire here!

A flower seller at the entrace of the temple at Govindavadi

Lighting a lamp

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Memories from Yesteryears

Last weekend, my sis and I were rummaging through some of cartons at home, all ready to be shifted into the new home when I caught sight of my slam books from school. I couldn't remember the last time I had laid eyes on them and of course we stopped midway through the rummaging to dig into memories of yesteryear's.

A lots of things that I couldn't remember - a really long long emotional 'won't ever lose touch' goodbye from my best friend... and no we haven't. :) Lesser emotional write-ups from others. Called a hard nut to crack by one, impulsive by another. Unbelievably, I have actually added slots in my slam book for classmates to fill in their crushes, the boys they were teased with and their embarrassing moments. What's more interesting is that all my friends have with dedication filled those out - priceless !

I had also filled the first page out in a 'this book belongs to me, and a bit about me' fashion (no, i didn't fill in my crushes or my embarrassing moments), but interestingly I have written that I want to travel the world. And I just can't remember wanting it back then. Of course, I was totally jealous when a friend went to the US for a whole summer vacations and she wasn't even half as excited as I was. And I was always the first to line up for school excursions - turtle walks, trekking in Himalayas, Lakshadweep. Of course, I also wanted to be a computer engineer... hehe, and we all know how that dream turned out!

Anyways, always fun to look back.

note to self: scan pics fron the by gone age. Can't be forgetting what I used to be!