Navaratri – Day 0 – VKTK

No trip to Kanchipuram is complete without a trip to the VKTK dhoti store. The selection of dhotis, saris, and beautiful silks is truly amazing. Each day of the Navaratri celebration will include a Suvasini Puja during which a younger and older woman will receive traditional gifts of a sari and other items. It is a charming way of making real the idea that women are the embodiment of the divine feminine.

We also ordered some custom woven shawls for the Navaratri Yagya sponsors.

First it was off to the vegetable market which must not have changed in hundreds of years. First was a stop at a stall run by on older woman whose specialty was banana leaves which are used instead of plates for meals; the ultimate in organic recyclable.

Then the vegetable stand where the proprietor sat in the middle of all the different vegetables. Jayashri (Seetharam’s wife) would say what she wanted, the guy’s wife would pick them, pass them over to her husband to weighwith an old fashioned balance scale, and then he’d dump them into the shopping bag. Efficient but it seems that you took whatever items he gave you…no sorting through to find just the best ones!

Then it was off to some Vishnu temples of which Chanchi has many. Unfortunately my camera developed a bad case of dead battery, so there are no photos.

The first temple was based on a story from the Mahabharatha in which Duryodhana invites Krishna to visit him and constructs a huge bamboo throne for him to sit on. In fact, the throne is so large that a number of the King’s men hid inside in order to kill Krishna.

But Krishna, sensing the King’s plan, simply expands in size, snapping the bamboo and crushing the soldiers. In this temple, Vishnu is shown seated, but about 20 feet tall. Carved in limestone instead of the usual granite, the detail and precision of the carving is extraordinary. The entire murti is covered in a black oil (casturi?) making the whole thing shine. The effect is quite impressive because clearly the temple was built around him and you don’t see the immense size until you are quite close up in the sanctum.

The second temple was from the same period and shows the Vamana incarnation of Vishnu with one foot on the demon King and the other straight over his head as he takes one step in each of the three worlds. Once again, at over 20 feet tall, the effect is very impressive.