Friday, January 28, 2005

Chennai Sunrise

I really didn't sleep well at all, less than 4 hours sleep. I'm not sure if it was the heat or what, but I really don't feel that tired at all.

Les, Colin and I meet for breakfast and then off to Sri Parthasarathy Temple, a Vishnu temple in Triplicane. As we get out the auto a woman approaches with red ash and without thinking I let her put it on my forehead as Shuresh did at Kapaleeshwarar. I then hand her ten Rupees, brain still firmly switched off and thinking she is a temple official or something. The the paisa drops and I realise she is just a more cunning form of beggar, as she turns to a bemused Colin and demands ten Rupees also. He is about to hand it to her, following my lead when I interject. Off to the place where our sandals are kept, with this woman and a further 3 or 4 beggars now swarming, only leaving us as we enter the temple proper. The magic "Ilai" doesn't seem to work this time, this crew are professionals.

"Is no camera-a!" one painted devotee tells us. (As an aside, it seems you can make a rough-guess translation from English to Tamil by adding -a to almost anything) Suresh had already informed us, so ours are soundly packed away, but we smile anyway and move on. It's okay by me as I didn't find this temple very interesting at all. Another woman is less judgemental, and as we wander into another part of the temple she guides us with a smile in a clockwise direction around the golden pillar.

I ask Shuresh about a winged golden creature on the roof, and he asks someone else, telling me that this is Garuda, Vishnu's eagle. There are also quite a few large mirrors about the temple, but here the language barrier breaks down and Suresh cannot tell me why.

Back out in the street our admirers return, and they join us as Suresh leads us over to this massive decorated chariot (maybe about 50 feet high)that is dragged through the streets by devotees on festival days. Quite a feat, as this thing looks very heavy indeed.

Then it's time to rescue our sandals and leave behind our fanclub.