If you see the temples in Karnataka, they are kept very neat and clean. We need to teach the people in Tamil Nadu to maintain cleanliness.
Often people come to the temple, break a coconut and spill the water all over and then leave in a hurry.
This is because the people are too caught up in rituals in Tamil Nadu. In North India that is not the case. In the North, they sit and sing bhajans, and the temples are kept fairly clean.
Of course, there are some temples there also which are dirty. We need to educate the priests of the temples to keep temples clean.
The thevarams (hymns) that are sung in the temples are so beautiful. They address God saying ‘You are my wealth, you are my honey, my eyes, my everything’.
This is a very unique way of addressing God as my beloved. When these songs are sung, the meanings should also be explained to people; otherwise, they chant in some language that nobody understands, and people don’t connect. They just go to the temple, do some rituals and leave the temple.
Actually, when you go to a temple, you should sit there for some time and then come. But what do people do? They do an act of sitting down and getting up in 10 seconds or less, they pretend as though they sat. Why? Because it is part of the rules that if people don’t sit in the temple, then they won’t get any benefits. This is written in the temple’s rules and regulations. That won’t help; sitting means what? They should sit in meditation.
There are a thousand pillars in many of the temples in Tamil Nadu. These pillars are meant for people to sit and meditate, and go deep inwards, but nobody does it.
Even the aarti that is done, nobody understands why they do it! In aarti, you light a camphor and say to God ‘Let my life keep going around you only, and not away from you. Let your thoughts linger on in my mind all day and night’.
This is the prayer. Our life is like a flame. If you light a candle and turn it upside down, the flame still goes up. Like that, you pray, ‘Let my enthusiasm, my life and values always go up, and let it always be around you’. This is the feeling behind the aarti, but we don’t understand it.
Why do you break a coconut in the temple? Our body is compared to a coconut. Body should be strong like the shell.
The mind should be like the white kernel inside, and your heart or feelings should be like the sweet water. So by breaking the coconut, you say, ‘I keep my emotions and feelings, like the sweet water, in front of you.’
You need some rituals to express your feelings, e.g., when someone dear to you comes, you greet them with flowers.
In the ancient days, they did these rituals. Whatever God is doing to you, you say, ‘I am going to replicate, do the same to you.’ Like when children play, they say, ‘I have become a doctor, and I am going to test you or I am making coffee and you should drink!’
There is a joy in playing like that; puja is the same (concept). God has given you rain, so you offer him water. He has given you rice, fruits so you also offer rice and fruits. Such practices are also there in Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Sikhism. This has been developed in the East and is also done in Islam and Christianity; you offer candles and flowers in Christianity. In Islam, you go to the Darga, spread a sheet, offer prayer beads and flowers. If these rituals are not done with feelings, then there is no purpose in doing them, and it is not compulsory that you have to do it.
In the olden days, temples were not just places of worship; they were centers of culture where dance, music and poetry would flourish. It was a meeting place for community people to get together, there were no separate community halls those days. Weddings happened in temples, there was art and architecture. You see the Meenakshi temple in Madurai, see the amount of paintings and carvings there, it is unbelievable.
When I was in Hyderabad, they took me to this 1,000 pillars temple, which was dilapidated. The beauty was that you could pass a fine thread through those stone carvings. It is a wonder as to how they carved such needles without breaking the stones, where only a thread could pass through; we had some amazing workmanship then.
Temples were the kind of places where all this was exhibited, so we definitely need to keep them clean. We need to educate people; knowledge of all this is necessary.