New Year holiday rush at the temple is really on a high. People throng the temple from near-by states. This makes me to stay away in the evenings and late mornings. But what I experienced over there will make me stay away from this temple for long time to come.
This temple for one encompasses within a big area (not as big as Madurai Meenakshi Temple). There are Gods from different parts of India for worshipping. The temple has a nice architecture though the surrounding areas are not appealing. Some steps to clean the area would be really good.
More than all this is what happens inside. I stand in a queue waiting for the darshan ticket Rs.25/-. Fortunately its early in the morning so there are not many people in the queue and no ones pushing around. While standing in the queue I notice a priest offering prayers to God. Once done he calls everyone passing by to get blessings of God. Fair enough. He asks them to also to namaskaram. When you do so, one can notice that there are certain notes of currency placed and priest wants you to notice the same and put some money.
After about 45mins the counter opens and tickets are sold for the second darshan in the morning. Then you move into another queue which is to go near God and offer prayers. This queue is currently stopped since there are people still inside from previous darshan. Some rush into the queue some like me are relaxed. One guy starts a conversation with me just to squeeze himself inside the queue instead of standing at the last. God only knows what hurry they got in life. After the conversation I tell him to go back since there are others standing behind and they have also waited quite long.
The best part is there are cops everywhere regulating the queue and maintaining order. Once you walking up the steps at the top end of each set of stairs there is a priest standing with a wooden stick in hand. He will tap you with that. Never get irritated with them. All they are tapping you is for you to place some money. If you give them money its like offering God. Sometimes the tap could be real hard also. Just ignore and continue walking. Close to where the Gods murthi’s the entire area is dark with very minimal lighting serving no purpose. And there is water all over and three big steps which you need to climb down and climb up later when coming out. With water, its slippery. In the dark you cannot see anything. I hold on to the sides of the door and get down. Others are busy pushing and rushing in. But, the interesting fact is no one ever falls down in all this.
Once inside the main sannidhi, one priest brings a plate of aarthi (burning camphor). He would bring it close to your face. Duck underneath and escape, dont take your hands out, and take the offering. Once you do that, you need to put some money on the plate.
Normal Hindu belief is any temple or sannidhi you need to go around atleast once clockwise. I also do the same. Its a 3 sided enclosure. You are standing at the fourth side. The space for doing this is very limited and you need to maintain queue. The moment you take a turn there are two priests pushing your head towards the wall of sannidhi and making you take blessing. Dont take this blessing. On top of the wall are placed notes of currencies and you have to definitely put some. At the second side there are no one. On the 3rd side there are 4 priests at two places, remember there were none on the 2nd. All of them try to take money out of you.
Once again never get irritated or argue with them. You cannot digest the insults from them. Try out your own means of getting away from them.
One advantage I had was I was single. Couples normally are weak links and easy to get money from. I ignored all the requests/tactics from priests and kept walking. I was successful in walking away without paying any money. These tactics also had a bad impression on me that I just walked out of the temple too deciding not to walk in again.
In all these I still feel and its true to large extent that Thanjavur Brihadeeshwar temple is the best, quite and serene place. You have lot of peace inside. Am still attached to this place and temple more than any other temples.