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Friday, 4 May 2007

Tirchendur: From Diana cut 2 Britney's Bald

Let me make a confession - I have never been too much of a religious traveler. I had always imagined traveling as freaking out on beaches, mountains or deserts.

It is only after traveling with my husband and in-laws that I learnt how exciting temple visits could be. After visiting some of the most sacred spots in South India, I learnt how even today God is the centre of the lives of several people in this country.

What else could explain the swarms of devotees, clad in heavy silk saris, bearing the brunt of the scorching sun all over the Murugan temple at Tirchendur? There was no sight of strain, no tiredness. But I shouldn't be surprised, after all, I'm a part of a country where people believe firmly that their square meal comes with the blessings of the almighty.

The journey

The fact that I had recently learnt that the Murugan temple at Tirchendur was supposed to be my father's family deity made me curious. So, a detour was planned to Tirchendur on our way to Kanyakumari.

The main agenda of the trip was the mundan (hair shaving) of the younger most member of our travel group- the three-year-old daughter of my sister in law.

On our way, we halted at Pallugal, my mother-in-law's family temple. Located amidst a vast belt of greenery, a visit to this temple gave you such a serene feeling.

The next stop was at Nagercoil where we devoured mouth watering ghee roast dosas.

The heavy breakfast kept us asleep for a major part of the journey. From here began our seemingly never ending drive to Tirchendur. The temperature was soaring and the almost non-functional AC in our Qualis kept raising my husband's temper!

I was afraid we might have to get down in between and wait for another cab because Sujith was anytime ready to pick up a fight with our driver.

Thankfully, sleep overtook him ... My sleep quota had finished by then and I was busy observing the Tamil Nadu countryside.

Even as I cribbed about the weather, I saw a group of women, walking down the fields carrying something on their heads with the sun burning bright over them. The sight put a full stop to all my complaints.

The ordeal

Before entering the temple, we stopped at the Tamil Nadu guest house which had a board saying 'Meals Ready'. Strangely enough, there was not even a restaurant at the place!

So, we assumed that Lord Murugan wanted to see us before we fill our stomach. As we walked our way down the temple, we were quite apprehensive thinking what all would we have to go through for getting the little girl's hair shaved.

We didn't know she had a surprise in store for us ... We were walking swiftly, avoiding the sunlight when I saw the temple area giving way to a huge expanse of water.

Frankly, I had no idea that this temple is situated on a sea shore. Seeing the water was what excited the kids who remained surprisingly well behaved for the next half an hour as we promised them a splash at the sea.

A long narrow passage led us to the place where the hair shaving was done. Through this way, I saw shaved men, women, children and old people, all looking happy and contented. My mother in-law told me that shaving off the hair means forgoing a beautiful part of your body so it is considered a great sacrifice for God.

The general practise is that the mundan is done before the temple visit. So we prepared ourselves for the ordeal. By now, the poor mother of the little one was almost in tears.

In no time, I saw my husband sitting on the patra with the girl. From here, the barber took over and within seconds we could see strands of hair all around the place. We were amazed to see the kid sitting patiently on my husband's lap trying to make sense of what was happening to her.

Fortunately, by the time she understood and started getting irritated, our work was through.

Promises had to be kept and we immediately took the kids to the sea. They happily played around and so did we, elated with the relief from the heat and fulfillment of her father's wish of getting her mundan done.

The temple

The structure of Murugan temple reminded me of the photographs I had seen of temples in South India in school. Its slanting triangular structure is so typically South Indian.

Fortunately for me, there was hardly any crowd thanks to the exam season and we got a lovely darshan.

The priests in the temples down South are an intelligent lot. They could easily make out that in our group, I was the ignorant one and they quickly briefed me about the significance of the deity.

When we were walking back to the entrance of the temple, I spotted a long queue of people assembled in the front of a door. I tried to observe them carefully when I realised they were waiting for the free food ... My heart immediately said a prayer as I walked past them.

Shopping time

My sister-in-law had already told me that we can buy some beautiful glass bangles from this place. We came for shopping after eating a stomach full of the Tamilian thali at a nearby restaurant.

With energy restored, we were in full spirits to raid the shops. I was completely fascinated with the variety of bangles available. Red, blue, black, orange, pink ... a collage of colours were seen at these bangle shops. I was quite shocked when I came to know how reasonably priced the bangles were.

I felt like purchasing the whole shop but my mother and sister-in-law didn't give me a chance as they bought enough for me to wear for the next few years. I bought a few Murugan lockets for my father, through whom I had a connection with the temple.

Sitting in the car, on our way to Kanyakumari (also read At India's Cape with Good Hope), I was thinking of all the stories I had to narrate to my parents of this visits.

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