Sunday, 3 July 2011

Temple Tycoon

I get the weekends off here to do what I like. I planned a trip to Trichy, a reasonably large city with potential. It claims 3 impressive Temples and after my last tip I felt compelled to explore more. The only complication was a 5 hour train that only ran once a day, (06.00). Antonysammy, the head of the family I am with, helped me to make arrangements to stay there and I eventually ended up staying at another family's house. I felt childlike and excited about the train as I had seen so many photos of the trains in India with people strewn all over them, Slumdog millionaire for example. The journey went quickly and I traveled with a friend that I have met here called Laura (If anything happens the transition will be an easy one). We were met by a man called Joseph who would be our host in this city. He was a devout Catholic, like many Indians here, and had hopes of working the Vatican some day. He actually left his family here and for the last 7 years he has been living in Italy. He was very welcoming and a good host but over time I grew to dislike him over certain comments and mannerisms.
The first Temple was an extreme disappointment and was run as more of a business than a religious place of worship. We were still the only white people there but there clearly hundreds of Indians from all over visiting. The Temple had the same impressive gates as the one before but was littered with stands selling tourist junk inside. Something felt so fake about the temple that made me feel angry and cheated. You had to pay to get in, pay if you had a camera, pay to go up a tower, this was all a matter of 10p here 5p there but it was the idea that I was not comfortable with. Please don't let this discourage you from India temples. I still stand by what I said about Nataraja, that was truly a once in a lifetime experience and I think visiting this other temple has confirmed that.
It was at this temple that my dislike for Joseph started to develop, he was a nice man and treated us really well, but we obviously wernt on the same page. I asked him what he thought of the temple bearing in mind he was so convinced of his god. I can appreciate all religions as I see them all equally but the idea that people worship these gods must confuse a man who believes he knows 'the truth'. He said that he was confused as to why the Hindus spend so much in gold and temples when there are so many poor in the street. I could feel the breath of Tom Turner over me, telling me to hold my tongue but I couldn't. I questioned him on the use of money in the Vatican but he dismissed this quickly and I moved on. (Triumpant in my own mind). He continued to explain facts and stories which many would brush off but I did start to get worked up. I asked him how old the temple was and the answer was 1000's of years old. We later found out it was barley over 500, but he did point out on a photo that the artifacts that were old. A cloth dated 1706, "See, 17th Century" he said. "18th" I mumbled, quiet enough for him not to hear me but loud enough he knew I said something. Another moment I refused to nod along to the nonsense was when he was convinced a huge dome was "solid" gold. I was beyond skeptical and when we saw a picture of a close up later on the tour I could resist to comment. It was clear that it wasn't solid gold and after I pointed it out he brushed it aside and said that was what he was told.
Please don't think this man was a bad guy, he really wasn't. He was extremely hospitable, there was just a conflict of cultures and ideas. 
After out tour we had breakfast. I am never hungry in the morning, not even at home, and the sight of another curry breakfast was really starting to get to me. The rest of the day included another temple which was interesting but small and relaxing back at the house. I took an early night as I hadn't had much sleep and knew I was up early. The next morning had potential to be a long one, it succeeded.

What do catholics do on a Sunday morning? Yep sit around until noon talking rubbish. I was now part of Sunday mass. I quickly cursed myself for reading the stories on the wall to quickly and may have coped better if I had rationed some for later. I usually don't know what is going on in these things and in Tamil I was completely lost and bored. I considered bowing my head, shutting my eyes and getting some sleep whilst looking like I was praying, but I refrained.

The journey back was long and cramped but I am back now. The weather is starting to turn and we have had occasional lightning storms. The heat remains.


Early Morning start (5 hour trip = 30p)
 The gate to the temple

(bottom right of the cloth = 17th C)

 "Solid Gold" Dome....

Apart from ther signs of plate gold

The unfortunate consumerism

The man in question, Joseph

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