It’s a Gopuram!

Several people have asked about the header photo for our Fetching a Toothpicker Blog and wondered exactly what it was. Well, it’s a gopuram! The photo reflects a portion of a typical monumental tower at the entrance to a temple grounds and it’s carved with a tiny fraction of the thousands of gods of the Hindu pantheon. (I look forward to learning exactly who that delightfully mustachioed fellow is–the one with his head tilted at the bottom left of the gopuram–when we return to Chennai.)

This gopuram is at Kapaleeshwarar Temple, in the Mylapore area of Chennai, and it is an excellent example of 7th century Dravidian style. Kapaleeshwarar, as I understand it, is a form of Shiva, and the Mylapore neighborhood gets its name from when Parvati, Shiva’s consort, worshipped him there in the form of a peacock–for which the Tamil is “Mayil arparikum oor.” Of course the early Brit traders couldn’t pronounce all that, so they shortened it to Mylapore.

The temple grounds include a tank, or reservoir, and are surrounded by narrow and crowded streets where sellers offer jasmine wreaths and bracelets and trinkets and sweets–and even those necklaces over which Sarah got a lesson in negotiation Chennai style. When you enter the official temple grounds, you leave your shoes or sandals outside, so there are hundreds of pairs of all kinds of footwear scattered in waves around the entrance and you have to wonder how you will ever find your own . . . but that’s another story.