|Looking down at the stones beneath my feet, early morning, Chidambaram courtyard|
In the late morning the stones of the temple courtyard burn the soles of your feet, so you walk very quickly scanning for the light-colored ones while headed for the shade of the main complex. You say hello to Ganesha at the temple threshold, and then move more deeply into its center, passing by the priests engaged in business and ritual, weaving through streams of other visitors headed for different shrines in the seemingly infinite corners of the temple, which is essentially a walled village the size of multiple football fields.
When you arrive at the heart of the temple, you find Nataraja, intricately adorned in vibrant silks, jewels, and garlanded with flowers. Endless patterns of ritual revolve around him involving fire, liquid, smoke, and substance, immersing you in a complex synesthetic experience.
The dusty grooves of the temple stones capture occasional puddles of coconut water, milk, sandal, and ghee that cool your toes as you step through them. The bats swoop and chatter through the air accompanied by the temple music’s drums, bells, and horns. Smoke from the ghee lamps and the homa drifts through pillars and columns. Your forehead is host to sweet-smelling smears of ash that mingle with the scent of jasmine from your hair. And you listen or join in with the murmurs of mantras that swell like tiny whispering waves. You are permeated in every sensory manner and you release into it. The temple is a body, pulsing with life. When you are in it, you become an element of its chemistry.
|Jasmine outside the temple|
|A Nataraja murti|
|Morning in the Chidambaram Temple courtyard, South Gate|
Om Namah Shivaya
|Vishali walks through the Chidambaram Temple Courtyard|