Friday, March 11, 2011



March 11,2011

8-45 AM: Leave for Tanjore (53 KM) from Trichy in a taxi driven by a young commerce graduate from Mailaduthurai. He has not been able to get a job since graduating some years ago. Earning his livelihood as a taxi driver.

Drive uninteresting despite excellent four-lane road. Hardly any greenery on both sides.

9-45 AM: Arrive in Brahadeeswarar temple in Tanjore built 1000 years ago. Unimpressive from outside, but fabulous once inside. Overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of its conception and execution. Just as I was overwhelmed when I first visited the Angkor Vat temple in Cambodia in November 2001. Unless you stand before it and see it for yourself, you can't imagine how huge it is ---its central gopuram over the sanctum sanctorum and the court-yard where 1000 Bharata Natyam dancers of India danced last year in celebration of its 1000th anniversary.

10 AM: As I stood before it and admiring it, a friendly looking man, who appeared to be in his 40s, approached me and asked:

"Want a guide, Sir?"

"Yes, why not ?"

" But I charge Rs.250, Sir. I don't want any misunderstanding over payment later."

" That is OK with me."

" You want me to explain in English, Tamil, French, German or Spanish, Sir"

" I would prefer English or Tamil.You know other languages too?"

"Yes, Sir"

An attractive-looking woman crossed us.


"Bonjour, Monsieur."

"You speak good French."

"Yes, sir, I do"

"Guten Tag". This was to another attractive-looking woman.

"Guten Tag," she replied.

"You speak good German too."

" Yes, Sir. I do."

Then he said something incomprehensible to me to another attractive-looking woman.

"What was that?"

"She is Spanish. I was greeting her in Spanish."

"What is your name? Where are you from?"

"Raman. From Chennai."

" My name is K.T.Raja. From Tanjore. Have a look at this."

He showed me four or five torn and crumpled pieces of paper.

"What is that?"

" A Xerox copy of an article published by "The Indian Express" last year describing me as the best guide in the Tanjore temple."

"But you must keep it properly. It is already totally torn."

" I know, Sir. The original is in the house. This is for showing to the visitors"

" But you can at least keep a good copy for showing to the visitors. This one is so torn, crumpled and brown that one can't read anything except the title and your name."

Then he started flooding me with statistics.

1008 nandis.
252 feet high
216 feet wide
801 feet long
405 nandis around the perimeter

"Do you notice anything interesting about the numbers?"


" You total each of them. It comes to 9."


" How many holes you have in your body, Sir?"

" I don't know. I have never counted."

" Nine, Sir."

" How did you come to that figure?"

"Two ears, two eyes, two in the nose, one in the mouth, one in the penis and one in the arse."

'Oh, I never thought of that."

" Sir, you know why 9 all the time?"


" Because 9 is a lucky number for the Hindus. It is also a holy number. When a Hindu offers coconuts or bananas to the God, it is always either 9 or in multiples of 9."

"That must have been before the inflation. Now, nobody can afford it. God has to be content with only one coconut or one banana," I whispered to him making sure God won't be able to overhear me.

He took me to the sanctum sanctorum of the sacred lingum. He asked me whether I wanted to do an archana.

"Yes." I gave Rs.100 to the pujari.

"What is your name?" the pujari asked.


"What is your star?"


" Do you want me to do the archana in somebody else's name also?"

" No. My name will do. I don't want to confuse God with too many names. "

The archana started. I hope it was the archana. It didn't appear to be either in Sanskrit or in Tamil.

As the archana was going on, I closed my eyes and prayed: " Oh God, cure me of this cancer. Give me back my energy."

As I opened my eyes, my guide asked: " What did you pray for?".

" I am a cancer patient. I was praying to God to cure me of it."

" He will. Brahadeeswara is known for His cosmic power. It will cure you of your cancer."

"How soon"

" It depends on your luck and God's grace. If you are lucky, you may be cured even before you return to the hotel."

" If not?"

" Come back and pray again."

As the pujari was doing archana for me, a big group of Western tourists entered the sanctum sanctorum and watched the archana. The group included three Spanish nuns.

I asked the guide: " Are non-Hindus allowed into the sanctum sanctorum?"

"Of course. This is the only Hindu temple in India where any human being can enter the sanctum sanctorum---whether a man or a woman, whether a Hindu or a non-Hindu."

" Can Muslims also enter?"

"Of course. Many Muslims come here and pray. I know a Muslim shop-keeper, who comes here in the mornings and prays to the lingam before going to his mosque to do the namaz."

" Do you think, it is right for non-Hindus to be allowed?"

" Why not? Only animals should not be allowed. Otherwise, every human being should be allowed to enter this temple and pray. That has been the tradition of this temple for 1000 years. It should continue."

He asked me where I was going next.

Kumbakonam, I said.

" Do you know why it is called Kumbakonam?"

" No."

" Do you know what is Kumba?"


"Kumba is a huge pot. Once pralayam ( a deluge) swept across the world killing all living beings. God Brahma took out their genes, put them into a huge pot, closed it tightly and let it float on the water. As the pot reached Kumbakonam, the floods subsided. The pot came to rest on the ground. Lord Siva broke open the pot with an arrow. All the preserved genes came out and living beings came into existence once again."

"Fantastic. I didn't know that."

We came to the end of the visit. I took out a 500-rupee note and gave it to him.

"But, Sir, I don't have change."

" Doesn't matter. You keep the change."

" Were you happy with me, Sir?"

" Of course, I was."

" Your happiness is more important to me, Sir, than this money." (11-3-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


Broadway said...

Indians must surely rank in the top 3 for linguistic skills.

Will indians accept the idea of a non-indian being a hindu? A white hindu or an african hindu? Do indians form a connection with the balinese people because they are hindu?

The thing i love about indian epics is that it has a bit of every genre - comedy romance horror thriller matrix meets lord of the rings sci-fi fantasy. How can anyone write a book which beats this moral mindfuk? Walk on water? Turn water into wine? Hainji?

Itsdifferent said...

One thing I have wondered about our architecture is, why is it not known widely. Recently I have seen some top 10 architectural marvels of ancient ages, I think I just saw some fort in North India, and rest are all from other parts of the world. Hampi, Belur, Halibedu are all such wonderful cities, with rich heritage and architecture. People visiting these places from outside of India, do so just on their own interest.
We (Govt of India) should do more to promote these places. Alas, I forgot we have a "Con"gress government, with MMS at the helm, who said, Muslims have first right over the resources of India. I am sorry, too high expectations.

Jay said...


Forget about this Cancer now. Dont WORRY about it. ( I know it is a difficult). Worry may generate some chemicals or enzymes ( I dont know !)in your body.

Practice mediatation on Positive Concepts; may be you have to stop writing these articles which always some unpleasant FACTS.

Just like the emotions anger, fear causes some bodily changes ( increasing pulse rates etc.), these positive meditation can cause some changes in your body which will have an impact on these cancer causing phoenomenon.


Hope the great architect of this universe will have sympathy on you.


Jay said...

Also, dontation is one of the greatest "Punya Karma". This is mentiond even in Upanishads.

If you can donate 10% of your income to the NEEDY, it will have positive results.

I was not having kids for very long time inspite of spending lot of money. Finally we stopped all treatments and lived with the fact we will not have the kids.

One day, an old lady ( who knows me ) asked some money from me because of her son's hospitalization. I gave some amount which was more than her expectation.

With tears in her eyes,in a sudden jerking manner, she prayed to God "Oh God, give this son a kid". I was also shoked and was not expecting this reaction from her.

Within 3 days, my wife was tested poisitive ! I always felt it was because of this old lady's prayer from her HEART.

By the grace of God, I have two lovely daughters now; one 6 year old and other one just 2 years old !!

So Sir, please experiment with these type of concepts. Dont wait for scientific proofs to start these experiments in your life.

jc said...

Beautifully written. Reminds me of the writer Sujatha (Rangarajan)

kl said...


I had mailed you the details of Ayurvedit treatment for Cancer available near Shimoga, Karnataka. you seem to have ignored it thinking that it may not be credible.

Sir, you are a man from Intelligence and i am sure you will want to verify things before accepting.I urge you once agin to verify the correctness of the information through your own sources and i feel its woth it. If its credible why not you give a try ?

Parvathi said...

My quarrel with most Hindu temples has been about the fact---they do not allow non-Hindus into the sanctum. I think that goes against the grain of Hinduism.
Now I know I can go to the Brihadeeswara temple with my husband.
TYou have my best wishes Mr. Raman. I hope Siva hears your prayer.

Parvathi Venkatraman-Koelliker said...

No words. Great Heart. That's all...
Salute Sir.
With Respects
MuraleeDharan Raghavan

kumari said...

Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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gowshika said...

interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

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