Sunday, September 21, 2008

Temples Where Gods Come to Life

"Few things in India express the continuous presence of the gods
better than the ancient, massive temple complexes of Tamil Nadu. Walk
through any city there and what catches your eye first are the soaring
temple entrances known as gopuras, sacred skyscrapers decorated with a
phantasmagoria of Hindu statues of multi-armed, bug-eyed gods,
mythical beasts and chiseled warriors," writes Edward Wong in a New
York Times Travel article about temples in Tamilnadu titled, "Temples
Where Gods Come to Life."

Another excerpt from this article about the Meenakshi temple in Madurai---

"THE god was ready for his night of conjugal bliss. The priests of the
temple, muscular, shirtless men with white sarongs wrapped around
their thighs, bore the god's palanquin on their shoulders. They
marched him slowly along a stone corridor shrouded in shadows to his
consort's shrine. Drumbeats echoed along the walls. Candles flickered
outside the doorway to the shrine's inner sanctum. There, Meenakshi,
the fish-eyed goddess, awaited the embrace of her husband,
Sundareshwarar, an incarnation of that most priapic of Indian gods,

Along with hundreds of Indians clustered around the shrine entrance, I
strained to get a glimpse of the statue of Sundareshwarar, but green
cloths draped over the palanquin kept it hidden. Worshipers surged
forward in mass delirium, snapping photos with their cellphones,
bowing to the palanquin and chanting hymns. They stretched out their
hands to touch the carriage. Priests ordered them back.

Then the priests veered into the inner sanctum, carrying the unseen
god toward the eager arms of his wife. They too had a night of divine
pleasure ahead of them, so we were all ushered out as the guards began
locking up.

This union of Meenakshi and Sundareshwarar is a nightly ritual in
Madurai, the second-largest temple city in the southern state of Tamil
Nadu, drawing feverish crowds of Hindu devotees. In much of India, the
gods are not creatures of distant myth to be worshiped as
abstractions. They exist in our world, in our time, and are fully
integrated into the daily lives of Hindu believers. They move
simultaneously through the world of the divine and the world that we
inhabit, and are subject to all the emotions and experiences that we
humans are all too familiar with — including carnal desire."

Read the full article at--
A correction to this article can be seen at --

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