Monday, November 07, 2005

Praying in God's own country

If any regular reader of this blog ( the count would be in the low single digits) was wondering where I was (count in decimal points), well I was having a nice vacation in God's own country Kerala.Hats off to the tourism marketing guys for coming up with such a phrase to describe this state. November is probably the best month to visit Kerala, when the abundant monsoon has washed the state lush green and the rivers and streams at their ebullient best and the weather is refreshingly warm with light showers in the night.
Kerala is naturally endowed with a very unique topography. The combination of the sea, the intricate network of backwaters and lakes , the concluding ranges of the Western Ghats and the bountiful rains that nurture lush plantations and forest is just unbeatable. Inspite of being a popular tourist destination, the state still seems unpolluted and clean.
The other wonderful thing that not many non-Keralites know about are its temples. There is some ethereal beauty in the way Kerala temples are built and run. The low entrance, the long tiled roofs, the big courtyards which can put jogging tracks to shame, the way of using sandalwood and diffused lighting in the sanctum sanctorum to create different images using the same idol are unique to Kerala temples. There are other aspects like how the priest still maintains a distance from the devotee while giving prasad,(the prasad is dropped into the hands not given) although the neo-liberals may find it casteist. The temples really make you pious as if the designers knew how to create a pious and devout ambience that stands out compared to the garish design of some other temples in India.
But the spoilers are that most temples insist that you need to wear a dhoti if you are a guy and saree or skirt if you are a gal. Apparently the custom goes that one cannot stand with feet apart in front of God , hence any outfit like pajamas, jeans, trousers that clothe each leg separately are not permitted. Even ladies who normally think salwar kameez is a traditional non-offensive Indian dress are forced to wear a saree. But the smart generation has found the long wrap-around skirt to rescue them from such rituals. As for guys its a twin blow, the first one being to find the right balance while walking in a dhoti and the second being forced to expose one's paunch, hairy chest by taking off the shirt. Its almost as if God wants to make you so uncomfortable and in a way belittle you, that you pray to him to find solace and seek blessings. Its a strange spiritual experience making me believe that a certain discipline and a different attire is needed to maximise the results from praying.
God's own country, devil's own people.


At 3:22 AM, Blogger Mridula said...

Loved your temple troubles. Why not put some pictures too?

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Parth said...

Lucky you!! I really really hope to go there some day. Haven't even seen the Taj, so I guess I have a lot of India left to see. Nice travelogue!


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