Namaste, welcome to South India - (3) Chidamabaram, the temple of the cosmic dancer

About sixty kilometers from Pondicherry, an obligatory stop at Chidambaram to visit its colorful temple dedicated to Shiva who "destroys the old world to create a better world".

Latest edition : 18 February 2018

During our journey to discover part of South India, visiting temples was a must. But along the way, we often made stops to share a few moments with the inhabitants, to learn a little more about their life, their work. Like this family that makes ropes - very strong - from coconut fibers.

As soon as the couple's daughter sees us, she checks her hairstyle, her sari outfit.

We can only admire the dexterity of their work, the speed.

I try too, but I only manage to tie a horrible knot and the end of the rope is lost! To make amends, I offer the girl a pair of sunglasses - a luxury item, given her delighted smile!

It is rare that we doze off during the - sometimes long - journeys. First, because the comfort in our mini bus is all relative,

second, because in India there are always six speed bumps, and three, because there is always something to see! Stalls,

an elephant on the way to a ceremony in a temple,

a cart pulled by zebus,

cows (obviously) ...

Our driver also stops to buy jasmine necklaces to hang on the mirror: it brings good luck

But here we are in Chidambaram.

On the small road which leads to the temple of Shiva the cosmic dancer, believers feed a cow: it is one of the many feast days, and, on this day, the cows are entitled to good herbs!

As for us, we take our shoes off again

before being able to enter the grounds of this colorful, very kitsch temple.

Here, it is Brahmin priests who officiate. We recognize them by their hair worn in a high bun on the head and their white dhotis.

Four impressive towers rise from the perimeter wall and stand at the entrances. On two towers are sculpted the 108 poses of the famous cosmic dance.

This is where our guide Thiru explains in detail the representation of Shiva, cosmic dancer. There are over 100 poses to know, that's a bit too much for us! To add to our confusion, when he dances, Shiva's name is Nataraja ...

The god is surrounded by a circle of fire, symbolizing the nature of the cycle of life. His right foot is supported by a demon, so he suppresses evil and ignorance.

His left leg is lifted, leading to salute. The drum in his right hand represents the rhythm of life. The palm in front of the second hand is a sign of protection The first left hand holds the fire, the life force. The crescent moon to the left of his head symbolizes knowledge and the fish to the right of his head, the Ganges, the life-giving water. And the snake to his right is a symbol of fertility, of breath. Sorry, there, I saturate and I give up…. ! And there, I have the impression that Shiva is raising his arms in despair at my ignorance!

The vast pool of water does not really invite you to immerse yourself in it to purify yourself, but a pilgrim does not hesitate to do his ablution.

After having visited a few more parts of the sanctuary,

and observed people

we go back to get our shoes. In the courtyard, a drinking water dispenser is available to visitors. We also see it in other places: drinking water is an important issue in India.

We resume our journey to Tanjore. But before arriving at our stopover for the day, another visit is in order. That of the temple of Gangaikondacholapuram.

Change of scenery and atmosphere: After the hustle and bustle of Chidamabaram, the calm in the compound is a real blessing.

On the beautiful lawns, Indian families meet. Students take advantage of the calm to revise their lessons.

Strolling - always barefoot - on the grass in the shade of the trees is a pleasure.

Indians are fond of selfies with us and we exchange smiles and a few words with great pleasure.

A large statue of the bull Nandi (which served as a mount for Shiva) proudly stands in this beautiful greenery,

just like that of the lion Durga.

The Brihadesvara temple dates from the 11th century. We admire the exquisite workmanship of the stone.

The magnificent sculptures of gods and goddesses like Shiva and his wife Parvati.

And Shiva is still dancing ...

In principle, that day, only two temples were on our program. But our guide Thiru insisted on showing us a third, Darashram.

And we have not regretted so much this temple seduces us with the serenity that emerges from it.

Here too, students take the opportunity to study in the benevolent atmosphere of Indian deities,

Families go for a walk.

As in the other temples, the sculptures are impressive. In Darashram, we especially admire the pillars, each of which is carved differently.

But three temples in one day is enough! Exhausted, we hit the road for our next stop, Tanjore. Following a bus cheerfully displaying one of the many Indian gods, Ganesh.