A mention of Tamil Nadu’s old temples and there they appear to me, the magnificent images; the distinctive Gopurams, holding possibly a million figures in vivid colors, demons and Gods paused in their most glorious moments, for generations to come; the vast dark corridors that surround the sanctum sanctorum; the lithe and graceful idols; the soothing stone floors and the vast, vast spaces they occupy.
A breezing trip that saw its day some five years after my parents had visited “some” old temples around Kumbakonam. My mom is one of those people whose descriptive powers can elevate the ordinary to the sublime! I can imagine a disinterested listener getting piqued….
Needless to say, I was captivated! A promise to do it together sometime was made.
We made it in November, 2010. Dad enthusiastically makes the arrangement and we set out, early one Saturday morning headed towards Kumbakonam. Our first stop is the Vaitheeswaran Koil, near Chidambaram.
Somewhere along the way, a while after the landscape changes, the concept of measured time and measured spaces of bustling town centers disappear. The pace gets slower and it is as if your mind slips on some pajamas and ambles around.
How beautiful it is to journey..to see how things are elsewhere, to be surprised at how different and yet how comforting it is. To imagine the kings and their people. To imagine the many people taking this route, each time possibly, a different attire and a different reason.
Temple corridors reverberating with dancers, people bowing in worship; the shrine adorned and the sanctum sanctorum glowing with the oil lamps, people drawn to these spaces for a million reasons. Very old places like these temples seem to retain everything within them, the millions of footsteps and the millions of prayers. Their echo sounds like the oceans. A peace that is there to be felt.
The next stop, Swami Malai temple near Kumbakonam.
Our last stop was the Airateswara temple at Darasuram, near Kumbakonam. It was nearly deserted, this exquisite temple. It is now a protected monument and there was ample evidence of the presence of the Archaeological Survey of India.