We went to the Chidambaram Temples and Mangroves on January 6th. The Nataraja Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva the god of dance. The temple itself showed a connection between spirituality, religion, and the arts. Just how much they are connected and the meaning behind them. It showed me and the group how much art is connected with not only Hindu culture but also Indian culture in general. The displays all 108 Karanas which is the basis of the classical indian dance Bharatanatyam. The current temple was built in the 10th century and you can see bits of the old 10th century temple and the renovations that are being made by contemporary artists. To me it’s quite interesting that renovation isn’t that big of a discussion because in the west when you see the Sistine Chapel or something that is considered to be a sacred piece of art it is always discussed in order to renovate it with the argument that the artists work shouldn’t be messed with, but in this case it is not about the artist it is about the story. When going in the temple we had a guide that explained all about the temple. The biggest thing I learned when experiencing the temple was that the idols of the gods are not necessary the gods themselves. It is a representation of the gods. the gods can go where they please and can come and go where they see fit. The statues are just representation of the spirits of the gods. When going in the temple it was a very magical experience, because meeting holy cows and having such a connection with them and then understanding why they are so sacred. When looking at them you see that they have personalities and maybe there is something magical about that animal.
When going into the temple it was an experience like nothing you would have before. To see the dedication to the religion is something you don’t really see that much in America. To see the people in the temple chanting and focusing and to see all of those people lined up willing to pay what little money they had for a blessing from a god. That just for a moment they would be touched for a moment by something that is beyond this world. In someways a visit to the temple is a space to really believe in magic. To see the belief and to see what belief and faith can do to people and what it does for people. Believing is the opposite of seeing, you don’t have to believe in something to believe in it or have faith in it, but all of those people lined up knew in their hearts that something was better than nothing and the possibility of a blessing coming through could be life changing. In some ways I feel like a blessing has been seen by those believers and their dedication for their religion and belief system is really a testament that being apart of something and the dedication and love you have for something brings people together and really does something for the soul.