From the golden temple we drive three hours to Tiruvanammalai, famed for its Siva temple associated with the fire element (four other elements are represented at distant temples). It is called Annamalaiyar Sivan Koyil, from the name of the nearby mountain range of the same name. Mannikavasagar sung thiruvasagam here.
In the evening we went to the 5:30pm puja. The hotel had worried we might not get in, as foreigners are strictly forbidden. Not only were we welcomed, but by chance (for those who still believe in old superstitions) the head priest caught us entering with our flower offerings and rushed to our side. His family has been in charge for 13 generations and he performed the most recent kumbhabishekam for this temple. Off he took us, deeper and deeper, faster and faster into the inner chambers. He called out to the officiating pujaris to open the sanctum gate (puja has just ended but he got us in!) Then off to Shakti and Nataraja and.....
We wanted to meditate and he took us to a locked chamber where his grandfather meditated after puja. We were able to feed ladus to the elephant on our way out! Yogi Mayuranatha was amazed to see the structure of an elephant's tongue.
As we exited through the gift shop (two long lines of open stalls on either side of the road where, clearly, the above exit strategy was first (3,000 years back?) invented, we found some small items. Mayuranatha was taken aback when a local sadhu blessed him for giving some rupees. We all felt blessed by everything here.
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