31 January 2011

A whistle-stop temple tour

Not too long ago I went on a whistle-stop temple tour. In the course of a day I visited 6 temples in the company of ten Indian aunties. The aunties were a group of ladies made up of my landlady and her friends from her vedic-chanting group. Every month they take a road trip together, visiting a famous or significant temple somewhere not too far away from Bangalore.

The temples we visited were on the way to Mysore, just south of Bangalore. Each temple varied in architectural significance and aesthetic beauty but the aunties were not too concerned about history or architecture - they just wanted darshan from the various gods we visited in their sacred abodes. These included Shiva, crawling Krishna, Narasimha, Ranganatha, goddess Cauvery and Hanuman.

I joined this whirlwind road trip less for the religious aspect and more for the opportunity to see some old temples and take in their majestic architecture, admire the intricate sculptures and just soak up their positive energy.

We made our first stop before we had even left Bangalore at the Jalakanteshwar temple which is tucked away in a small side-street in the city market area. The aunties informed me that this small Shiva temple is supposed to be one of the city’s oldest. We didn’t linger long because we had places to go and things to do so we piled back into the Tempo Traveller and as the aunties passed around sweets we made our way to the next stop: the Sri Aprameya Swamy temple in Channapatna, 60 kilometres away. Here the presiding deity was Sri Ramaprameya, a form of Vishnu, but the aunties were more excited about seeing the idol of crawling baby Krishna the temple is famous for.

One of the other aunties in the group was Christian so she and I hung back from all the puja, priest and prayer stuff. Since I was there for the majestic beauty, I wandered around while the aunties were busy receiving the gods’ blessings. These ladies were part of a vedic chanting group after all, so they loudly launched into whatever sing-song Sanskrit prayer was appropriate for each god we were visiting. We spent maximum 20 minutes at each temple. The aunties were keen on getting their blessings before moving on to the next temple stop!

Next was Sri Nadinarasimhaswamy temple, only two kilometres away. “This temple is 1200 years old!” one auntie marvelled to me. Another told me it was 2000 years old, and then another… 3000, and so it went on… the temple was getting older by the minute! This was quite a small temple at a very scenic location on the Kanwa river.

The next stop was the most majestic temple of all: the Ranganathan Swamy temple at Srirangapatnam, near Mysore. This is one of the most important Vishnu temples in South India and it’s dominating size and regal architecture was proof of its status.

After all this temple hopping, the aunties and I had worked up quite an appetite so it was time for food – an important part of any excursion! The aunties had planned a picnic by the Cauvery river. We hopped back into our mini-bus and arrived at the Sangam: a confluence of 3 rivers. “3 rivers join here!” the aunties told me excitedly. But when I asked which were the other two rivers they had no clue.

This was a really beautiful place. There were huge granite boulders scattered here and there, with the currents of water running around them. Many had Shiva lingams on them. Some of the aunties took a sacred dip in the holy river. They did this fully dressed of course, Indian style. “This river is very sacred! That's why we take bath. You come too,” my landlady coaxed me. I wasn't interested in swimming fully clothed, sacred river or not, so I said I was fighting a cold. She then warned me not to even dip my feet into the water, out of the question!

We finally sat down to have the lunch the ladies had carefully prepared the night before. “Never eat outside food. Home food is best,” my landlady cautioned. Our impromptu picnic attracted the local crows, goats and sheep who were further encouraged by my landlady who threw pieces of her chappati at them.

After lunch it was time to pack up and after making a quick visit to the temple dedicated to goddess Cauvery on the riverbank, we hit the road back to Bangalore. On the way we made the obligatory stop at Maddur to have a quick snack of the famous Maddur Vada and managed to squeeze in a quick visit to a Hanuman temple before finally arriving home at 9pm.

That was my day spent with 10 aunties, 6 temples and 3 rivers.


Tracy said...

Wonderful!! That sheep is beautiful too by the way!
Sounds like a really interesting and exhausting day~~ thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Awwwww Isabel I miss you! I completely heard your voice as I read as if I was sitting across from you at Ants cafe. What an amazing excursion. Wishing you plenty more interesting Aunty adventures in India! Loved the part where the age of temple increased as the number of aunties you spoke to increased:)
take care and be well my friend!
xoxo Nikki

Isabel said...

Thanks Nikki! Nice to hear from you. Please come back!

Kannan said...

Your blog is very nice.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your blog and was amused by your post. Don't know whether to laugh or cry about the aunties. On the one hand, as a singleton, nothing better than putting yourself under the protection of an Indian aunties' circle - they're better than a thousand bodyguards at watching out for you when you need anything, making sure you don't get cheated at the market, and you won't be troubled by louts or touts if you're touring the town with aunties. On the other hand, the nosiness, oh dear, the nosiness....Hope you also have a younger group to let your hair down with.

worldamazingfacts said...

nice pic yaar & nice blog ..

Anonymous said...

The island of Srirangapatna is formed by the bifurcation of Cauvery river, with the two branches encircling the island. Sangama is the confluence of the two branches on the downstream side. The Cauvery flows on south-eastward, being joined by the Kabini river and other tributaries, and finally discharges into the Bay of Bengal.