Nanguneri: Adhyayanotsavam

Adhyayanotsavam Day 2: Nanguneri.

I am still getting my bearings around this temple. I am still learning its rhythms. I spent a quiet hour virtually alone in the temple–there was one sleeping man for the first half hour, and then a few priests and others started wandering in. It’s cool here–even at 2 in the afternoon, and cooler still in the evening with a gentle breeze blowing in across the massive lake. Even still, it was a comfort to shelter within the cool dark stone of the temple’s walls, and stare in perplexed fashion at the silent and inscrutable images that grace its walls and pillars.

Thus far, I’ve found the god here at Nanguneri inscrutable too. He’s called Devanayakan–king/hero among the gods–and he truly seems to be as remote as his name suggests. Even in his daily descent, he seems far away, even with the lovely goddess by his side. Even when he’s displaying himself as the conqueror of snakes and birds, it seems to be a charade–all a play that supposedly masks his transcendence. But in Nanguneri, the mask is translucent. He seems hidden too–even in the eye-watering alankaras, it is difficult to know him.

Or so I thought.

At the end of the evening, as the final camphor flame was waved–the god of gods had returned to himself–a woman standing behind me gasped at the sight, all shadow and light, and she whispered in Tamil–is this *our* Devanayakan? I don’t know what she saw in that moment, but it must have been something so new and fresh and unexpected. In that simple phrase was packed a world of intimacy and a relationship of a lifetime, when someone you’ve known for a long long time suddenly surprises in you in the best way possible.

I, on the other hand, am new to this relationship, and Devanayakan is so far receiving me in the parlor. This too, I suspect is *our* Devanayakan.