Traveling to a Temple in Osur

To where? Believe me, it’s not on the radar, even off the beaten track, of any traveler. Nor should it be. It’s one of myriad tiny South Indian villages where people live out their private lives far from cities and travelers. It’s a speck lost in the vast patchwork of India’s agricultural countryside, many kilometers from any major road.

Osur Village in Tamil Nadu India

Here’s the tiny village shown closer on Google Earth. It’s only a handful of streets:

Osur Village in India

To give you perspective, it’s southwest of the city of Chennai in Southern India. Here is how you would get to the village:

From Chennai to Osur Village

Why did we go there? It’s the ancestral village of my husband’s family. They have been rebuilding a Hindu temple there. I was reluctant to post anything about the location for a long time because I thought maybe the temple had valuable centuries-old stone and wood carvings that were lying around for temple raiders to take and profit. You know, like our own little Angkor Wat. Alas, there is nothing there any more. A few years ago my husband visited the old temple and captured a few photographs of the former carvings. And it was sort of like a little Angkor Wat. (Angkor Wat’s architecture is influenced by South Indian Hindu temple architecture, did you know?) We thought they would clean up and restore the old temple. But instead it was demolished and it’s being rebuilt.

This is no longer there, but this is the old stone “mandap” that my husband photographed. The mandap is like a gateway to the temple. You would pass under this into the temple:

Main Mandap Osur Temple

It’s in the tropics and the forest will reclaim its space if you don’t keep hacking it back.

Jungle Reclaiming Old Osur Temple

Here’s another shot of the main temple dome, snapped by a photographer before demolition began:

Osur Temple Main Dome

This shows the length of the temple:

Old Temple in Osur India

This would have been the scene once you passed through large carved wooden doors:

Osur Temple Doors

You will often see old large carved wood Indian doors in antique shops and they can come from temples like this.

Here’s where they built rustic scaffolding to work on restoration. If I remember right, this little building is still there:

Osur Temple Structure

This is the coolest … an old wooden elephant:

Old Wood Temple Elephant

I am afraid for the future of this elephant though. What’s interesting is that people will pay many hundreds or thousands – even sometimes tens of thousands – for relics from old temples. But this temple and all its stone carvings were demolished without a thought.  They thought it was old junk. Now it’s hard to raise the funds to pay for rebuilding the temple. If we’d known they would demolish all this to rubble, we could have salvaged old carvings and possibly sold them to raise some funds! It wasn’t even thinkable, coming from their perspective, that anyone would pay anything for the old temple carvings. So … we heard the elephant is being kept somewhere to be re-used in the new temple. But, I don’t know for sure.

More carved wood my husband photographed at the temple:

Carved Wood at South Indian Temple

We traveled to Osur and the temple in November 2013 to watch pujas (prayers) being done by Hindu priests for the temple. I went as a respectful observer. It’s not the sort of thing that non-Hindu American travelers get to see or do. They were very welcoming and showed me their plans and opened the little stone building holding the Hindu deities (the representations of their Gods) and explained their hopes and dreams for a better more beautiful home for their deities.

Here is a rendering of their dreams for the temple:

Osur Temple Renovation

Next I will post some photos taken in this temple’s village

 



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4 Replies to “Traveling to a Temple in Osur”

  1. Oh, this must have been heart breaking for you guys – it is for me, and I don’t even have any family connection to it!!! So sad that so many people don’t understand how we, as humans, need these precious buildings from the past.

  2. I have a large copper covered wood elephant standing on a copper covered platform with wheels. I believe it was used in temple ceremonies. The copper on the elephant has elaborate designs tooled in. There is also mirror work as well on the tooled blanket on each side and on headress. Would love to know more about it.

    Thank you
    Rhonda Lackmann

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