The Lady At The Temple

I always make it a point to visit temples in the morning, as early as possible. It is that time of the day when not many devotees are around, and inside the temple complex I find the atmosphere so different. It is open to the vast sky above but surrounded by huge walls as if accepting only blessings from up above and trying to prevent the not so pious surroundings from entering the pious complex.

There are huge stone slabs all around, one can sit and spend time watching the various temple activities. The devotees around the pools for purification and cleansing, devotees doing their pradakshinas, some of them around the small shops in the complex purchasing the ritual items for worship are all a sight to seeโ€ฆ so common yet so different.

It was during one of the pradakshinas I was taking around the Devarajaswamy Temple, Kanchipuram I came across this sight of an old lady filling lamps with ghee(Indian clarified butter). She was pouring ghee in to the lamps with so much of concentration and devotion, I stood still watching her just like my daughters were. It looked such an interesting activity that I found myself wanting to do the same thing.

Initially the lady was hesitant to look at me and I was equally hesitant to take her shots. Then a ten rupee note broke the ice between us. She paused at her work and posed for me. Each lamp sells for five rupees she said, as I continued taking her shots. They would be purchased by the devotees who would light them and offer them in thanksgiving to the deity of the temple. All the while my mind was calculating: the lamp, the wick, ghee together will surely cost more than five rupees, then, what is her profit? Labor charges??

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46 Responses

  1. Sylvia K says:

    Another very interesting look at your world, Indrani! Love your photos and the information that you include — makes the photos all the more interesting!

    Enjoy your day!


  2. alicesg says:

    Look very interesting and colourful like a piece of art. Nice shot.

  3. Mohan says:

    I like the way you have captured the photos. Yes, it is indeed a common practise in most of the 'Banashankari' temples. At least in the vicinity where i live, lighting up similar lamps made of lemon is thought to bring in good things into life.

  4. Anu says:

    great pics, Indrani… i have seen these women often, but never even thought of capturing them on camera..but this is one job i do often at home…. preparing lamps for lighting! :-)) we light lots and lots of lamps this month, and they have to prepared in advance.. shall send u my pics too…

    and about the cost, they do make a profit.. not much, but it is enough as a side-earning… the lamps are re-used… the wicks cost practically nothing, since they are available at Rs. 5 for a big bunch, or they make it with cotton, which is even cheaper….only the ghee costs money….

  5. kallu says:

    Again a new look at something that we take for granted. Wonderful pics

  6. Bindhu says:

    Great shots and interesting observation. Maybe she takes back the lamps later. Not sure how she manages to sell ghee so cheaply.

  7. Irene says:

    Interesting that ghee is used. It's like the wax candles used for burning aromatheraphy.

  8. Wolynski says:

    Beautiful shots of the candles/lamps – what an interesting post.

  9. Reader Wil says:

    What an interesting post,Indrani! One sentence struck me as being important for the structures of temples:"The temples are open to the vast sky but surrounded by huge walls as if accepting only blessings from up above". That is a beautiful thought.

  10. Sourav says:

    such an awesome post about our tradition and culture and life.


  11. LadyFi says:

    So fascinating! And I love the way she carries out her humble duties with pride and devotion, thus making her act so beautiful.

  12. Anya says:

    A very funny woman
    from your country
    I can read her mood on her face ๐Ÿ™‚
    (Live and work but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Preparing lamps for lighting
    (its total new for me !!)
    But interesting …
    Have fun today
    Anya ๐Ÿ™‚
    Kareltje =^.^=

  13. Dora says:

    So beautiful! U have captured an interesting shot!

  14. Carver says:

    Great shots and a very interesting post. I love the portrait of the lady. So well photographed.

  15. Carver says:

    Great shots and a very interesting post. I love the portrait of the lady. So well photographed.

  16. Prospero says:

    Wonderful post. When I think of candles – I think of solid wax and not butter. Fascinating.

  17. Beauty and art and devotion – what a combination!

  18. chrome3d says:

    The lady and the lamps were really photogenic. The rows of lamps were so abstract and filled with visions. The work and the result in the everlasting way. Thoughtful post.

  19. J says:

    How fascinating, and stunning macro and portrait. I can see how watching her pouring could become so absorbing.

  20. radha says:

    A scene that most of us have observed, but have never thought of recording them as you have. Lovely pictures.

  21. Kamini says:

    Your photos are just priceless! You have captured something I have never had the privilege to see, so beautifully.

  22. Snap says:


    What a wonderful post and what a wonderful face she has! Stunning!

  23. These really came out nice. The picture of the woman is great. You got your money's worth ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Babli says:

    Very beautifully described with lovely photos. I like each and every post of yours.

  25. Ebie says:

    You captured her facial expression well. Very interesting to learn other cultures through blogging. I am also surprised the use of clarified butter instead of parafin or wax.
    Indrani, thanks for this post, I have learned something new.

  26. Nisha says:

    I like the way you've portrayed her story and made it so interesting.

    I have seen devotees doing sundry work but never thought of taking pictures.

  27. Arija says:

    Your thoughts were those of a commercial culture. There still are people who are happy to work for a pittance in the service of their God.

  28. Vinesh says:

    Very nice pictures, especially the second one! Could easily be mistaken for a shot of a chocolate-marshmallow type manufacturing unit ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. I loved the last pic the pattern created by the ghee filled lamps besides the empty lamps is grt to look at.

  30. Samson says:

    Very nice post Indrani, love the last 2 post's a lot and great photo's as always ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Interesting. The lady and ghee lamps stole the space here. Devotion is beyond any price.

  32. These are gestures ancient and simple: the truth is often found right here …

    Wonderful series!

  33. I love learning more about your world. Thanks for sharing and the beautiful photos!

  34. sujata says:

    what lovely shots, you compose your pictures so beautifully, its a treat for the eyes!!

  35. A very emotional and great description of a usual sight with apt pics…

    My new blog on Fashion – FASHION PANACHE
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  36. I really like such kind of photo-documentary

  37. GMG says:

    Hi Indrani! Lovely post! Maybe she doesn't care for the profit…

    Witing for you at Blogtrotter, which is firmly back to an amazing building… ;)). Enjoy and have a great weekend!

  38. Lakshmi says:

    Ive seen and experiences different vignettes of life in indian temples that add to the spiritual feel..ive often spent time away from the deity just to spend more time with the mortals..maybe shd do a post on this ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. Wonderful pics to tell your story!

  40. Sharodindu says:

    Nice capture with equally good pics and lines…:)

  41. ah. Indrani.. leave it you to capture the interesting scenes that evades the eyes of many…

  42. Onkar says:

    Beautiful pictures. You have paid attention to something which we always ignore.

  43. travelmuse says:

    I too love the morning visits to the temple.

  44. YOSEE says:

    So vivid ! The lines on the lady's face hold so many untold stories of a life rich in experience. Such faces are always more beautiful and interesting than dolled up faces.

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