Posted by: chobhi | February 18, 2009

letter from Chennai Feb18

Last weekend, I went to a small village in my state, Tamil Nadu. The place is hard to pronounce in Tamil, let alone English, Thirukadayur. I had never heard of this place though the region around it is famous for its green paddy ( for growing rice) fields and other crops. Apparently ,devout Hindus come here regularly to get married, celebrate their 60th, 70th and 80th birthdays with great pomp and auspicious ceremonies.Why? Well, mortality rates were high less than a century ago and many people never reached the age of 60. It was considered an important milestone and hence the celebrations. Well, today, the practice continues and my devout Hindu relatives dragged me to this little village with an ancient history.
I was a little apprehensive about accomodation, hygiene, food etc. I need not have worried. The place has two beautiful, spacious hotels with clean,air-conditioned rooms and excellent room service. I hardly had time to unpack my bags and change into a silk sari to rush to the local temple for ceremonies for the couple celebrating their 60th birthday.
Hindu temples are massive stone structures with intricate carvings. This is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati. In the Hindu religion, there are three main gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu is the Preserver and Shiva is the Destroyer and Regenerator. The triune aspect is similar to the Triune in Christianity, The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.
Now the various sects, sub-sects are created by who you worship. Most Hindus in my community, the Brahmins, are divided into Shiva or Vishnu worshippers. I come from the sub-sect called Iyers, who are Shaivites or Shiva worshippers. ( I was raised an agnostic, but I am very aware of all these divisions.) As you can tell, I come from the most priveleged caste in India, the Brahmins.I will tell you more about all this in my next letter, bye for now!

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