Tentirupperai: December 2015

I’ve been thinking a lot about temple space. How people fill these spaces with waiting–I’ve always trained myself to ask and to take note of when a mandapam is used, for what festival, at what moment in the festival. Yet, the answer really is, that the mandapams and kuradus are almost always in use–they are rooms in which to wait, to cultivate patience, to gossip, to make friends, to make space for someone new, someone lost, someone come a long way to heal or to learn, to fulfill a vow or to see something special. A place to sleep, to rest, and most of all, to wait. This is all so obvious, and yet, it is not. It is in the waiting moments that you see things that have escaped your eyes. They are spaces through which we move and we stay. Spaces through which god moves and stays. Built of stone and fixed in place, but ever moving and ever changing.

All this became all the clearer in Tentiruperai last night. I was there to photograph the festival–7th day of Irapattu Utsavam. It was magnificent. A light rain dusting the air, that special, heady rain-perfume intoxicating the senses, the sounds of the drums, the conch, the nagasvaram. The chanting of Tiruvaymoli, the lively chatter of the women exclaiming at Vishnu’s astonishing beauty. And then, unmistakably, the shrill, high pitched sound of a kitten’s meow. And there, they were, a whole troop of them, racing out of the garbha griha, siblings chasing each other, tumbling about in play, trotting happily out for the bowl of milk set out by the priest. Regardless of whether the curtain was drawn or not, whether the occasion was solemn or not, whether Vishnu was within or without, these little kitties, cared not a whit. This was their palace, and no one minded. No one shooed them, as they went where most cannot go. And one couldn’t help think about puppies or piglets, who would have no such free reign of the space. Boundaries again. Of a different kind.

Here are two of the many kitties of Tentiruperai. Happily fed, cuddling up against their Amma on a cool winter’s day. I call them Sri (Mum), Bhu and Nila.