Chennai (formerly known as Madras) is a city in Tamil Nadu (the southeast side of India) and it was our first stop in India. We had the morning to tour the city before heading to the airport. We booked a walking tour to see part of the town. However, the morning of the tour did not go as planned. We overslept due to lack of power, we ran late and had some confusion checking out due to the language barrier and we missed our tour. It was the kind of morning that just felt like a failure.
After getting everything settled with the hotel, we went to see Kapaleeswarar Temple. This is a large, popular, Hindu temple downtown. It was built in the 7th century. As we were walking into the temple there was some confusion as to where to put our shoes (you remove them to walk into temple grounds). This nice family walked over and helped to clear the matter up. They spoke english very well and we asked them a few more basic questions on entering. They told us that they were there celebrating their son’s second birthday, and if we liked, we could come with them. We both declared “yes”!
We couldn’t go inside the temple itself, as we are not Hindu. Once they were finished inside we met up and they walked us around the temple courtyard. Hindu temples are overflowing with multitude of vibrant colors! It was like nothing we had ever seen before. Our new friends explained that all Hindu temples are so colorful and the statues tell different stories of Hindu scripture.
As we walked we came across a small shrine on the larger temple complex. There was a man holding a dish with ashes and fire on it. He put some of the ashes in our hands after we passed our hands through the fire, and we placed the ash on the center of our foreheads, as a blessing.
Next was a small temple to the nine gods of the planets, The Navagraha. This temple it is believed will wash away your bad luck if you walk around it nine times. We all walked around it nine times.
We were lead to a shady spot on the backside of the temple. Our new friends explained to us that whenever you come to temple you must sit down on the ground for a few minutes. Sitting on the ground helps you to absorb the good vibrations from temple. After a few minutes they took us over to an food stand and bought us traditional Hindu temple food. We were told that this food is served in all Hindu temples. It was two dishes, one a spiced rice dish and the other a sweet rice molasses. We ate them both with our hands and enjoy them very much!
We walked the rest of the way around the temple and said goodbye to our new friends after exchanging phone numbers and Facebook names. They were going home to celebrate the rest of their son’s birthday which would include family and cake. We had learned so much from them and couldn’t possibly explain how their kindness and generosity made our day. What had seemed like a lost morning ended up being one of the best mornings, thank to them.
After that we went to a traditional silk shop and enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful material. We also saw this statue of a cow in a water reservoir next to the temple:
Next stop was lunch before the airport. We had a wonderful vegetarian lunch with three dishes. We had a dosa masala, cauliflower appum and idlys.