Prayer Ribbons at the Ekambaranathar Temple

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Comments (16)

omshakti on April 7, 2008

A very fine picture Marylin. It captures the thickness of life in an Indian temple. It's many-layered, it's ancient, often half ruined, but always renewed, because it's alive.

I don’t know what the speciality of that tree is, but the deity in it is asked by devotees to grant them something, be it to pass an exam, to find a life-partner, or protection against evil eye... and sometimes to attain moksha (that god may be their ishta devata or family god). People tie the wish-ribbons or prayer-ribbons after a pooja. They often promise something in return – pilgrimage to that temple, an ex-voto of some sort. The cradles (difficult to see, I just noticed them after saving the picture and zooming on it) carry the demand to the god for a child, or can be part of the ex-voto.

In the courtyard is the sacred mango tree of the Ekambaranathar Temple whose four main branches were said to represent the four Veda (Rig, Sama, Atharva, Yajur) but it's in bad condition and has only two branches left... Some say it used to shelter the Prithvi Lingam (Earth), a swayambu lingam (self born), like the termite hills which are worshipped all around Tamil Nadu. It might have later been moved to the actual sanctorum, 25 metres away, either during the rule of the Pallavas or the Cholas. Only a few stones remain from the Pallava era. The enclosure around the tree is clearly Vijayanagar, during which rule the wall of the fifth prakara, the gopuram, many pillars and shrines were added.

Here’s a link to the site of late Chantal Boulanger-Maloney, who studied this temple in depth. There are pictures of the courtyard and the tree before it got sick.

Marilyn Whiteley on April 7, 2008

Many, many thanks, omshakti, for your explanation and the links. You did even better than I had hoped in providing the context for my photo! "Many-layered" is an extremely apt description. That is what had fascinated me at the temple and continues to interest me as I look at photographs.

I shall enjoy exploring further the Boulanger-Maloney web site; she was a gifted observer and photographer.

omshakti on April 7, 2008

I thought you may like to read this one: probably the best short account on Hinduism

" I do not take the same view of the Hindu religion as Jawaharlal Nehru. Religion is always imperfect because it is a mixture of man' spirituality with his endeavours that come in in trying to sublimate ignorantly his lower nature. Hindu religion appears to me as a cathedral temple, half in ruins, noble in the mass, often fantastic in detail but always fantastic with a significance -- crumbling or badly outworn in places, but a cathedral-temple in which service is still done to the Unseen and its real presence can be felt by those who enter with the right spirit. The outer social structure which it built for its approach is another matter".

Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga September 19, 1936

Marilyn Whiteley on April 7, 2008

Thank you for sending that; it is so very well expressed.

I have a bit of reminiscence to share, so I will delete if after I know you have read it. I have academic training in the history of Christianity, but almost years ago, through odd circumstances, I was asked to teach a university course in Eastern Religions. I was woefully unqualified, but being both brave and interested, I agreed. (Of course I had done some study of the subject, but not in that great detail.)

The course was open to "outsiders," not just students at the university where it was offered. And so it had in it an engineering student from the other university in the city. He was from India, the non-practicing son of an active Brahman father. I was terrified! What if I "got it wrong"?

It worked out very well. He was interested to learn the historical context which he had never known, and he enriched the class with his knowledge of the practised faith.

Unfortunately that was long ago, and the teacher has forgotten so much of what she taught! And I was very busy during the time leading up to our 2005 trip, so I did not refresh my memory as I had wished to do. Our trip was focused both on sacred sites and practices and on locally based development projects, and it was a very rich journey. But there is so much more to be seen!

omshakti on April 7, 2008

Yes, the Unseen... Sometimes we can feel it.

Hey please don't delete, it gives a bit of substance to Panoramio ;)

OK it's late, the crescent moon has just set here, and I'm off to my dreams of Kanchipuram and other cathedral temples.


Pepe Triton on April 8, 2008

Hello Marilyn. Beautiful contrast and excelent composition.

Thanks for omshakti for information.

Greetings from Spain

Ryan Calhoun on April 8, 2008

It's a very interesting view, and a well-composed one, to see the temple behind the bars of the gate like this.

Marilyn Whiteley on April 8, 2008

Thank you, Pepe and Ryan, for your generous words. I posted it mainly because I correctly anticipated that omshakti would be add to my understanding of the scene.

I'm glad you find it well composed. I don't usually take pictures that are this "busy"--though that's hard to avoid in India! But this scene spoke to me, so I tried to find a way.

Greetings, Marilyn

Richard Ryer on April 9, 2008

Greetings Marilyn, I like the view through the gate and the flags. It makes a nice frame for the interior of the temple grounds.



Marilyn Whiteley on April 9, 2008

Thanks, Rich, for visiting the temple. It was an amazing place, and there is no way to do it justice!

Cheers Marilyn

omshakti on April 9, 2008

Hey Marylin, Would you map this picture? It would nicely add to the coverage of the Ekambaranathar temple. And I'm sure it will become a favourite in Google Earth soon, a bit like Faces Painted Horns or Kolam. Those can almost be spotted from outer space!!! (185 km). Quite something! You are giving some (photo-graphic) introductory classes on South India.

The eyes of the travel-loving people are on your pictures!!!

Daniela Brocca on April 10, 2008

An interesting conversation,Marilyn and omshakti.Thank you to give us somethings more than a photo and the wish to travel to know more and more.Greetings,Daniela

Marilyn Whiteley on April 10, 2008

Thank you, Daniela, for your visit and your comment. I'm glad you agree that omshakti's conversations enrich Panoramio.

omshakti, thank you for the reminder. I've now done so.

I have another favour to ask. I have posted this on a Panoramio page called Photochain to which a number of people have contributed, making a "chain" of "photos" that relate in some way to one another (by subject, colour, composition, etc.). This is a quick shot taken from a bus. It intrigued me, and I wonder whether you can tell me anything about it.

It is not precisely mapped; in fact it may not be mapped at all! I really cannot say where I took it; it was on one of our two day trips in and around Madurai to look at development projects. I have one or two more photos from the area that I think are interesting and I would like to post, but I don't know whether I should do it. I might be able to learn the location of the projects we visited and thus make a better-educated guess, but I could never be really accurate.

omshakti on April 13, 2008

Dear Marylin,

I'll do my best to read the clues from the picture. It's obviously a small shrine, you could call it a temple, as the pinnacle and the shape testify. In India, those structures grow almost "out of the ground". It often starts with a dream, then the person visited by the god erects a stone, sometimes a simple brick. Then a platform is made, with a shade, to shelter a statue; walls, roof and paint maybe added later.

The kolam and the bells at the entrance most probably indicate East. Do you remember if it was evening? The colours are quite unusual, they seem rather North Indian, at least from Karnataka.

Considering the granite pillars -- which must receive ghee lamps at times -- and the metal pipes, its an intersection with some trafic.

The hills in the background may help you to map it: in GE -- Options -- increase the terrain quality to maximum, then slant the view. The relief will appear.

Good Luck, and keep them coming... Cheers

Marilyn Whiteley on April 13, 2008

Thank you, omshakti, for your careful observations and information. Yes, it was at an intersection: that is how I was able to take the photo. I saw it out the bus window as we approached, and quickly took the picture just after the bus had turned. And the time was late afternoon so it was near the end of the day.

Thanks also for your suggestion regarding GE; I might also be able to reconstruct more of our route that day if I am able to learn more of the location of the projects we visited.

I hope to post a photo of a shrine in the country soon. Again thanks.

For any who might be reading this: omshakti's comments refer to a photo to which I have given a link in my previous comment.

omshakti on April 14, 2008

Dear Marylin,

I should thank you: it is a mutual enrichment. Your pictures stimulate me and I'm delighted to be of any help. It was the zenith a few days ago in our tropical latitudes, the light is truly fantastic...

In the Light

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 6, 2008
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Marilyn Whiteley
    • Taken on 2005/02/16 01:48:29
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/400)
    • Focal Length: 6.30mm
    • F/Stop: f/4.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO64
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash