19 February 2020
I dunk the tea biscuit in my hot cup of tea and take it out just in time while it still has a little crunch but melts in my mouth. It is only 6 in the morning and too early to be munching on biscuits, but Amma is having one and I join in.
We are going on a temple spree today. The first stop is the Devi temple in Kundara. We went there on Sunday but it was a bit rushed and we got told off as well, yes told off. There are some people who revel in that kind of behaviour. The priest was serving us the sandalwood paste when we heard people calling out. The priest didn’t say anything and didn’t look rushed and so we didn’t think it was directed at us. Then it got louder. Apparently it was time for the Devi to go on a walkabout around the mandapam and we were in the way. First time I am hearing this, but then we don’t normally visit the temple at this time of the evening.
So here we are again in the morning and this time we are not getting in anyone’s way. In the yard ‘Kochu Ganeshan’, the elephant, is behaving a bit oddly. I stop to see what he is up to. He keeps swaying, spraying water, picking up coconut leaves, balancing it on his trunk and then dropping it. He looks bored to me, but apparently he is in an agitated state and not well. Next stop Kottarakara.
Normally we visit the Ganapathi temple first and then the Sivakshethram. This time the driver says he will take us to the Siva temple first. Apparently some say we need to see the dad first and then the son. Some the reverse. Superstitions. At the Sivan temple an impolite vendor at the archana counter. I really don’t know what is wrong with these people. You ask a simple question, you get a curt reply. We ignore him and walk away. I thought temples are meant to be peaceful places of quiet contemplation, not a place to show your aggression and authority.
At the Ganapathy temple we get our unniyappam tickets before making our way to the coconut breaking area. I am quite impressed with myself as I smash all the coconuts to (almost) smithereens. In the past my throws have been quite feeble. Inside the temple, we wait for the Ganapathi nada to open as the Pooja is being conducted. It is sweltering outside, but inside the temple it is quite cool. As we wait, it is time to hit the pause button and unwind. Then the conch sounds and bells ring, the nada opens and everyone crane their necks to get a view of the God. There is a tall guy in front of me and I can’t see a thing but it doesn’t really matter. Ganapathi will still be there when everyone moves. He is not going anywhere.
It is Sivarathri in a couple of days and the Anchumoorthi Mahakshethram in Velliyam has special functions going on. Our next and last temple of the morning. Once again we leave our sandals in the car and do our rounds. It is almost midday. The ground is boiling hot and spattered with small and large stones. Velliyam is Kunjamma’s hometown and she joins us. The three of us walk tentatively trying to avoid the sharp stones around the deities. There is ‘annadaanam’ going on in the periphery of the temple surroundings and we join the queue to collect our plate of food. The service is like clockwork and the queue moves at great speed. Next we need to find a space to sit and eat. Once again I eat with unwashed fingers. The food is delicious and the rice payasam is pretty good too. The only stipulation is that we wash our plates and return them. They then wash it again in three more big containers of water before being packed for the next service.
Back home on normal terrain, my feet are still a bit sensitive and it takes a while for normal sensations to return. Ganapathi’s unniyappams prove too tempting to resist and before I know it, the plate is empty and I reach for the payasam pack from the Kottarakkara Sivan temple.