Madam Halebid shrineReally, where else can you go to temple and see the same ceremony and hear the same words, spoken in the same way as they were 5000 years ago?

That’s like popping in on a service that was set up for the Pharaohs. It’s really quite something.

When I went down to Chidambaram, in Tamil Nadu to see the temple built around the place where Shiva danced the world into destruction and back again, I was part of an unbroken tradition that stretched back 5 millennia.

Well ok, that particular temple is only 1500 years old – but the words spoken, the prayers and the movements are the same. The sutras, at least the very oldest, are handed down perfectly from the past. And really – how freaking cool is that?

And quite frankly, that alone is worth a visit.

But once you’re there, it’s something else to feel the devotion of the spirit and to be part of the crowd as they pull back the curtain and reveal one of the 5 lingam that represent the elements. There was a sort of collective gasp and lurch forwards that was entirely different to the surge at a rock concert. This was respectful energy, but also electric as it meant so much more.

And that’s appropriate as at Chidambaram, Shiva represents himself as sky (here’s that’s one of the five elements. Five, not four as we know them. So it’s sky and air, fire, earth and water). The five lingam representing the elements are spread over India, massively distant from each other. Anywhere with one of these amazing things there is a vastly important religious site.

And that’s before you take into account it’s also the place a god danced the world out of existence and back into being again. It’s a kind of full on religious ancient twofer – and you just don’t get that in most countries

Incredible India in so many ways.

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This post is part of the ‘Reasons I live in India’ Series. Which is now poignant as I’ll be leaving soon. Read more of them here:

Reasons I live in India : The Sky
Reasons I live in India : The People
Reasons I live in India : It’s more colourful

And do please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.