On a Temple Run

I have already written two posts about our visit to Kerala. I continue with the account of our trip not necessarily in the chronological order of occurrence of events. After the boat trip and birding trip, we move on to the temple run. After all, can one return from a visit to the God’s own country without paying a visit to the Gods. The presence of a pair of pentagenarians in our touring party totally sealed the case in favor of the temples.

The first person we met as we started our spiritual odyssey was an exponent of the Advaita philosophy – our driver, who had mastered the art of saying ‘Neti Neti’ – “No No”.

“Do you know where we can get vegetarian food?”


“Is there some good sightseeing spot on the way to Guruvayur?”


“Can we visit Thrissur temple on our way back?”


He had this ability to say it with a flat tone, a dead pan expression and the calmness of a Zen Master. I was reminded about Ramakrishna’s parable of God in the mahout that talks about a boy who saw the God in an elephant running amuck and went and stood in front of the animal to receive its blessings ignoring the God in the elephant driver who was imploring him to move away from the path. As one may imagine, the elephant’s blessing proved to be quite disastrous for the boy. While the boy paid the price for his lack of reverence for the elephant driver, my father-in-law’s experience turned out to be the other way around. A quick call to the driver’s boss brought about a miracle akin to one of those performed by ancient day saints with the driver suddenly attaining enlightenment about places to find vegetarian food along the way and the Thrissur temple and other places of interest, like the proverbial Mountain of Mohammed, rising from their remote locations and moving towards more convenient locations along our route. I wondered if in the years that have passed since Sri Ramakrishna’s time God has moved up the value chain and has chosen to take abode in the driver’s boss. But the temples as such seemed to be still stuck in the time before Ramakrishna and continued to maintain only elephants rather than switching to mahouts and subsequently mahouts’ bosses.

We got to visit three temples in all – the main Krishna temple at Guruvayur, a nearby Shiva temple and the temple at Thrissur on our way back. My usual problems with temples are the huge crowds and long queues. My mother used to say undergoing this ordeal was a way of showing devotion to God. That day the lack of crowds denied me the opportunity to prove my religious credentials my mother’s way. However I got to prove the same in altogether a different way thanks to the rule in all Kerala temples that men can enter only in Dhotis and due to my inexperience in wrapping myself in the traditional Indian waist cloth. So I was faced with the daunting task of thinking about God while my entire attention was caught up in hanging on to my Dhoti or rather making my Dhoti hang on to me.

If I had to face the trial by waist clothe, my son had to face an altogether different test. In kind of a portent of the times to come, his worth was measured for the first time – on a weighing balance so that an equivalent amount of banana, jaggery or oil could be offered to the Gods. He wept and wailed to express his dissent, little knowing how in the years to come in every stage of life he would be measured again and again and again by different people on different scales.

Otherwise the religious leg of the journey was largely uneventful. Maybe I should add a passing note about the wonderful Keralite food we had on the first day and the horrible Andhra food on the second. If but had I the skill of Enid Blyton who with her writing skills could even make the infamous British food sound so exciting, what scope would have the wonderful Keralite cuisine afforded me! Or if but had I the devotion and poetic skills of the medieval saints who composed verses after verses on seeing the statues of the Gods. But I am but a fool who can only write about foolery.


Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

Hahaha - That was fun. AND I remember my own struggles with the dhoti on my temple visits in Kerala :)

T F Carthick said...

Thanks Suresh. You at least wear the Lungi. I am not at all used to the traditional wear at all/

mahesh said...

You missed Punnathur Aana Kottai - The Elephant Retreat - Sir veshti is our traditional attire - oru belt a kaetikituaadhu poghanum :)

Thrissur - I believe you visited the Vadakkumnathan Temple.

The bit about your son being measured again and again! Highlight!

Sir continue fooling around :) Love reading your blog :)

T F Carthick said...

Oh. Did we? Actually my wife planned the trip. So don't even know what all we could have visited. Yes - it was Vadakkumnathan Temple. Somehow I struggle with the Veshti even with Belt. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Rio De La Sciocco said...

Your satire is gaining momentum as I see it. This one hooked the mind from start till end longing for more. Excellent.

T F Carthick said...

Thanks a lot, Rio.

Anonymous said...

Nice narration and satire

umashankar said...

I loved the description of the driver —he reminds me of someone from Kerala I recently met. And the only reason I ever visit a temple is it's historical or tourism value. Anyway, I don't mind reading about them especially when written by people with a sense of humour.

T F Carthick said...

Thanks Asha.

T F Carthick said...

Thanks Umashankar. I am writing travelogues my own way rather than compete with already available detailed factual accounts and beautiful photos taken by people who have skill with the camera.

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