Kerala temples are different from the temples anywhere else in the South or North of India. They do not necessarily have exquisitely carved walls like the temples in Chennai or Mangalore nor are they colorful like the little roadside temples in Bangalore.
The temples are built in black stone, may be painted or not, with a spacious courtyard around it and a pond where one can take a dip. There may or may not be an elephant depending on the wealth,size of the temple and it’s stature. Every village has a temple.
Even a village temple like the one close to home, is spacious and could easily house 800 people at any point in time.
People in the village wake up to the sound of “Suprabhatam” ( a hymn played to wake God from his sleep). As a child who studied in the convent, I have always loved the sound of Church bells and when I moved on to College and stayed at my Grandmother’s house sound of hymns at the break of dawn, brought the same feeling of peace deep within and when I married and came to the Middle East, this was replaced by the early morning prayers at the mosque. Different religions and yet the same message- the message of Peace!
On most days, it’s the people living in the vicinity of the temple who visit daily after a bath, religiously or more from discipline both in the morning and the evening.This is especially so in Kerala, probably because of the convenience of having a temple close to home.
Whatever the reason, it’s a way of life, a habit which helps in self-preservation in a world that is now filled with more news of violence and distress than peace. It gives one a chance of being with oneself amidst the noise, hustle-bustle of an everyday existence. So many crimes all over the world happen in the heat of the moment, sometimes because there has been no time for the person to think, to validate before acting. It allows one to collect one’s thoughts, meditate and plan the day as one completes the rounds around the temple complex.
The quiet, open temple grounds allows you to get hold of yourself. As one looks up at the sky towards the East and prays, there is a feeling of gratitude that sweeps over- the white sky clear after the night’s rains, the tall coconut trees in the distance and the rays of the sun glistening through the fronds- a realization of being insignificant in the bigger scheme of things and providing a renewed hope.
People visit the temple again at dusk giving them a chance to think of the day gone by, consider their actions. The place looks divine, oil lamps glowing in the dark, hundreds of them lining the walls of the temple, their golden yellow flame warming the soul and providing solace.
It’s probably because of having churches, mosques and temples in every neighborhood in Kerala that the culture of beginning and ending the day with prayer in a place of worship exists which also is one of the reasons that Kerala happen to be the safest state in India.