Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kapaleeshwar Temple, Chennai (formerly Madras), Tamil Nadu

When I was in Chennai, at a huge Hindu temple called Kapaleeshwar Temple, they were celebrating a religious holiday (I think) before or during which many people (women and children included) shaved their heads. I promised myself I would write an entry about it when I had a chance. I do not know the significance of the shaving nor of the colored powder on their faces/heads. Blame this on my Hindi or, rather, lack thereof. I DO know that the colored powder is a bit of a constant here (think Holi). Anyway, when I took the pictures I was trying to be as discreet as possible and of course I got caught. Luckily for me, the people I met were very excited about having their picture taken. We get this reaction a lot. The only problem I had was an older woman right outside of the Temple smeared the tikka (is that right?) on my far head and it kind of did not come out. Worse problems are to be had and I always look better when part of my face is covered or hidden anyway. For example, I look my best in the forgiving half light of a candle late at night.


Praveen said...

Hi, this is Praveen from Chennai. Shaving their heads is a form of offering to God, usually after a prayer for better health / prosperity. The yellow colored substance is nothing but a paste made of sandalwood powder mixed with perfumed water. It is a part of every Hindu ritual to use sandalwood powder and symbolizes goodness (though it is smeared on a shaven head to give a cooling effect). Lastly, Hindi is spoken in India except in Chennai, where Tamil is the dominant language.

Joe and Kristina said...

Hi Praveen,

Thank you for filling in the information for about the pictures. You are quite right about Tamil being the language of choice in Chennai. Unfortunately for me, my Tamil is as nonexistent as my Hindi!


*~NiTiN~* said...


D Chaudhury said...

Continuing what Praveen mentioned, the hair collected in Tirupati temple is actually exported to all over the world, with total values exceeding INR 6crores!

However, this practice is specific to people from the South of India - I personally dont know anywhere else in India where its followed in todays world.

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