Today, we leave for Tanjore, also known as Thanjavur, one of the oldest cities in India and an important center of South Indian art and architecture. It is situated in the fertile Kaveri Delta, a region that is often referred to as the “rice bowl of Tamil Nadu”.
For nearly a thousand years, Thanjavur dominated the political history of this region as the capital of three powerful dynasties — the Cholas (9th-13th centuries), the Nayakas (1535-1676) and the Marathas (1676-1855).
Instead, our destination is the 17th century Adikumbheshvara Temple, which was built on the legendary spot where Shiva shattered the cosmic pot. Like other temples we’ve visited, photography is not allowed in the inner sanctums, but there was opportunity to photograph some aspects of the temple and its collection of vehicles (vahanas) used during festivals to carry temple deities.
Our taxi arrives and takes us to Saga Department Stores on East Main Street where Babe and I are each attracted to representations of Shiva as Ardhanarishvara — a composite androgynous form of Shiva and his consort Parvati. This form is depicted as a fusion of half-male (Shiva; right side: masculine energy) and half-female (Parvati; left side:feminine energy), split down the center.
According to Vedic literature, the female is the main source and power behind the creation of the Universe, as is considered the Maa or Mother, who invariably cares for our Universe. Conversely, the male is the primary ground of this Universe whose every vision is brought into form by the power of the female.