Chidambaram Temples

IMG_1309.JPGIMG_1312.JPGJanuary 5 Sunday

Chidambaram temples

Shiva’s Temple

When we get off the bus, it’s hot and we’ve already been to the mangroves but are not out of energy yet. Although this blog entry is not about one of our NGOs, it still has connections to my studies and I am grateful for it. When I think about temples and communications, I can ask of the architects, artists and those who commissioned the building and design of the temple and what was their message and who was their audience. The message was that Shiva was powerful and deserved, possibly needed praise, adornment and worship. The temple was designed in a way that that would communicate power, grandeur and idolatry at its finest. The first thing we all notice is the size of it. We approach through a alleyway or street that really crammed full of shops and stands and kiosks and people. Holy men are dressed very differently from us and differently from even the rest of who appears to be Indian or of Indian decent. The holy men have shaved borders around the crowns of their heads and are adorned with white yellow and red chalky paint or dye. Our group walks somewhat together and somewhat apart and I always find that I’m checking to see if we’re really together or have lost anyone. Shanthi is with us and whenever she is, I always feel better. The youth, Nirmal and Gautham are with us and I like their energy very much. Before we can enter the temple, we have to check in our shoes and find coverings/sarongs for Kevin, Nirmal and Gautham because they wore shorts. We also get a guide, who was quite cute. He talks us all the way through the temple and the idols but the thing I find the most fascinating is what happened with the boys, collectively.

When we walked our way into the inner temple, we were invited to enter a sacred space which was occupied by an idol that represented Shiva’s second wife, Parvati. We were invited to take part of a blessing ceremony. Women could enter the way we were, however all males had to remove their shirts. Anthropologicaly and sociological, what happened next what truly perplexing. All the male son our trip, who we had seen multiple times, decided not to remove their shirts and do the ceremony with us. The men collectively seemed uncomfortable with the idea and all decided (with the acceptation of Mark Ennis) no to remove their shirts and even seemed bothered by the idea. I found this so fascinating because throughout time, women are told to cover up, uncover this, cover that, wear this, don’t wear that and so on… this is one of the rare times I have witnessed the opposite situation. We had all seen all the boys with their shirts off before because of the beach, pool or just around the Pavilion, but they would not participate if it meant they had to take their shirts off. In retrospect, I wish I asked them what they felt about that situation; however, I didn’t want to make anyone more uncomfortable than it already was for them. The rest of the tour of the temple was unmentionable and we finished up very quickly after this ceremony.

I have special feeling toward Shiva and his wives, I suppose. My name means the same in Greek Mythology. I went into this temple excited and happy and I left just the same, if not slightly perplexed. I think that the importance and the communications of the temple were clear to me. Communications isn’t always words. It can be sculpture, art, rituals and more. I love the idea that we can apply communications to different mediums. This visit would have been even better with an art or architectural historian, but our guide did well and I believe that we received our own message.

 

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