Beggars and Priests of Chidambaram

Trip Start Dec 01, 1992
Trip End Jun 01, 1993

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Flag of India  , Tamil Nadu,
Thursday, February 4, 1993

We travelled on the early train to Chidambaram with the office worker commuters. Jai was most entertaining with his alphabet recitals, amusing and endearing himself to absolutely everyone in the carriage.

At Chidambaram we checked into the Star Lodge, and after a yukky thali we went to visit the temple of the dancing Nataraj Shiva. We walked all the way around the temple before we even found a place to deposit our shoes. A lot of the locals were actually carrying their shoes through the temple grounds, using it as a short cut from one part of the town to another. There were so many beggars in the grounds as well. Even a brahmin priest was trying to beg from us which didn't seem quite right somehow.
Quite unusually for the temples I had seen so far, there were a fair number of young priests who looked quite pretty with their long hair. Three of the young priests bade us to have an arti with the planetary deities, and then we were in another arti, to whom I didn't know, after which the temple was already closing up and we had missed the grand arti with the dancing Shiva himself. We thought we had better return then when the temple reopened, though we did find the persistance of the begging corrupt atmosphere overall off putting. One sadhu beggar who pestered us all the way around the temple continued to follow us all the way back to our hotel. Yet he was so fit and healthy looking he surely should not have been begging.

The temple was not to get a return visit from us. Instead we decided to move on to Madras on the night train. We had read glowing reports about an ashram there belonging to the Philosophical Society and were keen to experience this.
Jai expressed a reluctance to move on. He wanted to stay in one place and not keep travelling about. He was crying, saying he didn't want to go to Sri Lanka or Madras, and that he wanted to stay in Chidambaram.
We did get the night train to Madras though.
The train was delayed and we had to wait for a long while in a crap upper class waiting room that smelt of a urinal. At first there was only one other person in the room, a lone sadhu. After a while a woman came in with her family and sat on the end of our seats. These seats were stuck together and the stand under her end was missing, so when she sat down the apparatus tipped up and gave the sadhu on the other end a terrible shock. The mosquito's were rife and unfailingly swarmed upon us. A lot of our energy was spent trying to keep them away.
Once on the train we had two benches to sleep upon and Jai stayed in his pushchair where he was already comfortably fast asleep.

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