When the priest becomes a lady
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We walked into the temple, the thick stone walls beat out the heat. The cool dark interiors were most welcoming for any tired traveler seeking the blessings of the Lord. Its a small temple but here we witnessed tradition in full swing. It was the time for the Uchyakala puja, at the stroke of 12.00pm
It was not a Cinderella we saw, but quite something else. Having completed the worship and abhishekam of the Mother goddess at the Amman shrine, a priest came dressed in a maroon silk saree with rudraksha beads round his neck. Two beaded necklaces hung down from a well covered chest and a benign look on his face made him look very close to the Goddess Herself.
He walked in gracefully, his calm face adding to the charm. He wore a crown on his head, a brilliant maroon velveted crown with semi precious stones depicting Lord Shiva Jambukeshwara on it. He carried a pot with water almost making it appear like Parvati, the consort of the Lord who had descended to bathe Him with her very hands. He looked divine, straight out of the 11th century walking into the temple today.
The thick wooden doors creaked open, and he slipped through while the crowd savored the spectacle they had just witnessed. We waited for a few moments more, understanding why he was dressed that way when the doors were thrown open to all.
The very incarnate of the Goddess who had bathed the Lord now held the flame up to Him. The Arti started and each lamp with a million tiny flames was served up in circular motion to the Lord who stayed behind a grill window. The fire rose into the air, the smoke clouding the interiors, a figure raised his hands, adorned with a crown on his head that was taken straight out of Krishnadeva Raya's closet. I wondered what else there was hidden within these small towns that boast more of our living culture than the cities.
Minutes after the flames rose, and the bells rang, the crowd was allowed to visit the sacred shrine of the Lord representing water. We all moved in, taking our respective queues but no where could we set eyes on that Goddess again. She was just gone.
P.S. This is just my rough attempt to capture that moment to you. Please excuse lack of proportion in the sketch.