Photo Report: The Living Temple

Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Tiruchirapalli

When we visited the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai we were very impressed. Wandering around in a “living” temple shows you a lot about India, its religions, its people and its history but because we weren't allowed to take pictures in that temple it's difficult to describe what goes on inside. Until we visited Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Tiruchirapalli. In fact, we liked this temple even more and I can show you what was going on inside this time.

 The road and gates leading up to the temple.

The road and gates leading up to the temple.

 Busy as usual.

Busy as usual.

Our rickshaw driver dropped us off at the gate on a road leading up to the the temple and as soon as we walked through the colorful structure, we entered the temple town. Temples like these were and are much more than just a religious center. They serve also as an economic and social institution with shops, restaurants and even schools.

 Of course, holy cows!

Of course, holy cows!

It was chaotic and loud as usual in India but to our surprise there weren't to many pushy vendors and the walk up to the temple was full of interesting people of all sorts walking around. I think taxis can drop you off right in front of the actual temple but if you can, take a stroll through the temple town as it shows you a glimpse of the real hustle and bustle of the past... A must for any photographer to shoot some nice portraits and street scenes. Come just before sunset if you can for that beautiful evening light. Don't forget to check out more of my photography tips...

About elephants

A short walk later we arrived at the entrance of the temple and in the corner of my eye I spotted a young guy with an elephant. I'm not sure about its purpose there but elephants are always a subject of discussion just like in Thailand or any other country where they're being exploited for tourism.

 Beautiful elephant in front of the temple.

Beautiful elephant in front of the temple.

 Evening light.

Evening light.

Until now I'm not sure how life is in India for these magnificent creatures. Their owners don't seem to use metal hooks. Most of them look healthy and we haven't seen any chained up but yeah, I'd rather see them in their natural environment too. I'll try to find out more on elephant life in India.

Inside the temple

 Flip-flop drop.

Flip-flop drop.

We stored our flip-flops away and then we could finally enter the temple. Sri Ranganathaswamy temple in Tiruchirapalli is the largest temple complex in India and one of the largest in the world. It has been flooded and looted numerous times and it provides a window into the past with 50 shrines, dozens of pavilions and many water tanks.

 Impressive architecture everywhere.

Impressive architecture everywhere.

 Daily routines.

Daily routines.

As a tourist you can't enter the holiest shrines and rooms but because it is a “living” temple, you can still watch what's going on from a distance.

Joanna: “More than by watching the people, I was truly mesmerized by the architecture. Those high ceilings, the endless beautifully adorned columns, the open courtyards; all that combined with walking barefoot on the warm stone transported me to another dimension. Without the suffocating crowds, it felt incredibly peaceful.”

As the sun went down, the atmosphere inside turned into something magical. The pastel colors of the sculpted gates merged with the sky and drums and religious singing started to emerge from all corners of the temple. It really started to come alive.

 Tourists and locals.

Tourists and locals.

People were praying, making offerings or being blessed and everywhere we went, something interesting was going on. Visiting the Meenakshi temple in Madurai and this Rangnathaswamy temple is definitely one of our highlights in India because the photo opportunities are great and it's inspiring to see the people in their daily routines without having to worry about pushy vendors and touts.  

 Woman making offerings.

Woman making offerings.

 Man praying.

Man praying.

 Backside of the temple complex.

Backside of the temple complex.