It is amazing how waterways in India are always hives of activity. I tried to imagine the Thames being utilized in the same way:
“Excuse me Sir, what are you doing?”
“Good morning Officer. I am doing my vashing. Then I vill make offerings to Shiva. Vud you like some chai?”
I don’t think it would take off, which is a shame really.... I would love to see London turned into a hallowed hub. Apart from the usual ablutions being performed in the river, we saw rows of men and children having their heads shaved before doing puja with the Brahmins. Small squares made of coloured sand had been drawn out on the ground for the purpose. They sat within these sacred lines and chanted continuously, whilst offering food and ghee to the fire that burned in the centre.
The Temple elephant made his rounds next. Nix badgered me to get a blessing from the elephant so she could video it. I relented and took advantage of a small window when there were no crowds around to do so. I had no idea what protocols I was supposed to follow. I looked at the mahut for pointers, but received none. I offered him money and he stared at me vacantly. So I did the only thing I could think to do and offered the money to the elephant. In a feat of dexterity he took the note in his trunk, passed it to the mahut then plonked his trunk on my head. As he lifted his trunk I could hear him breathing heavily through his nostrils. I prayed he wouldn’t sneeze on me, although I am sure it would have been sacred snot if he did. I told Nix it was her turn now to get blessed. She pulled faces and looked unsure. I said it would be good to get a blessing from Ganesha, and she agreed. If in doubt, tell Nix it’s sacred and she’s in. She laughed out loud as the elephant tapped her with his appendage. It’s a very odd feeling to have an elephant’s trunk atop your coconut....
I’d seen on a map that there were cremation grounds near the Kollidam bridge at the north of the island so we trekked there to see what we could find. As we crossed the bridge we saw large amounts of clothes washing being done in the river below us. I saw one clothes line with about a hundred pairs of jeans hanging on it. A profusion of saris and dhotis blew in the wind.... It was a colourful spectacle, made all the more remarkable by the background of the enormous river bed. In full flood the river must be a sight to behold. By this time it was too bright for Nix to photograph so we resolved to return tomorrow morning and continued along the bridge. We saw construction of a new bridge in full swing. Pile driving was being done with engines that looked like they were straight out of the industrial revolution. None of the workers wore any sort of safety gear whatsoever. No doubt they had been to the temple to get a blessing before work, so there was no need ;) When we made it to the other side there was nothing happening at the cremation grounds, but the walk had been worth it if only for the discovery of the clothes washing area and the exercise.... We must have covered over 20 kilometres in total. It always feels good to walk, especially when unencumbered by backpacks. We headed home for a well deserved breakfast of idly and pongal ;)
Tonight we met Dinadayal in the Sri RanganathaTemple again. What a wonderful man, and a perfect way to end our time in Srirangam. My view of Tamil Nadu has softened immensely since being here. Srirangam has made it’s way into the lofty heights of my top 5 places in India :)