Today I traveled a few hours to the state of Tamilndu. I went there to a temple that was so old, nobody I spoke to actually knew. I went there for a special pooja or ceremony to honor Shiva. I did not know how long it was going to be, I was told about two hours. 9 hours later we finished. We did actually have one hour for a break, after 6 hours of sitting on a stone floor. Started in a room received a plate with a banana, rice, leaves, a ring made from a type of straw or grass. Then we entered the area where the pooja was taking place. They had me sit up front next to the musicians. They asked me my name and where I was from. The guy said that this pooja was so important that someone from the US heard about it and traveled all the way here. This was all translated for me. It was amazing. The murtis or statues of Shiva and his wife Parvati were carried out on old style platforms that have four posts. The platform was raised above the four guys shoulders and they danced around. There was live music playing. Two drummers and two horn players. They one at a time brought the statues to the main platform. The statues were untied from where they were carried and retied to the alter. We began by taking some rice from our plates and throwing it towards Shiva. They began by pouring various mixes, each one representing something different. One was coconut water, another time it was turmeric, ghee, milk, fruits and honey and many more, some I did not recognize. Each mixture would be pour over them for some time. There was a line of men holding onto a copper bowl full of that particular mix. It would go on for some time. At the start of each new mixture they would say what this was for and that is what people would ask for during that time. After each mix the main guy would pour water over the statues until the mix was washed away. He would then clean them by hand. It was amazing to see his focus and devotion in making certain they were clean. Once they were cleaned he would put some flowers on them and adjust the cloth they were wrapped in. This devotional process would continue for six hours. Each cycle of new mixture and cleaning took some time. They would take some of the mix that had been poured and pass it around to the people sitting around the statues. Some things were to be eaten and some were t be put on our foreheads or throats. There was a time that ash was continuously poured over and rubbed on Shiva and Parvati. I asked what the ash was and the guy next to me said it was supposed to be cow dung traditionally but more recently corn husks were used. The ash was passed around and we placed some on the forehead and throat. We were given a break. I first watch the guy in front of me stand up with great difficulty and turned to me and made a face. Once I stood up I realized why he made that face. We were sitting on a stone floor for six hours. It was very difficult to stand up after sitting still for so long. They had food prepared for us to eat during the hour break. We came back after eating to sit for two more hours on the stone floor. It was great sitting next to the musicians. They were amazing. The beats and the energy from the music made it easier to sit for so long. When we returned the statues were dressed in amazing in cloth and had beautiful flower arrangements around them. Once the pooja began again, it was to signify the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. They began bringing in tulsi and herb. It was like a river of tulsi. It kept flowing for about fifteen minutes. It would be thrown in the air above the murtis and the guy would stop periodically and with the same devotion with which he poured and cleaned the murtis he arranged the tulsi. He would arrange with such a detailed eye. They brought in lotus and many other flowers for over an hour. From the base the flowers had to have been built up two feet. A sea of flowers kept coming the main guy such care in adorning shiva and Parvati on their wedding day. At the end once all of the flowers and herbs had come the area around the murtis was beautiful. The music the, the image of all the flowers around Shiva and Parvati, the energy and devotion of the entire experience is not really something that any words here can relay. It was something that was felt. At the end they were saying something in their language Tamil. It was later translated for me. I was brought up in front and had one of the wreaths of flowers placed around my neck. The cloth that was draped around Shiva was wrapped around my head. What was told to me later was they had said it was a long time to sit for anyone, especially for someone who had never been though such an experience before and from the US. The were appreciative that I came and experienced this pooja with them and sat for so long. It to me was not about it being a Hindu ceremony but rather sharing in the energy, love and devotion of what people felt in their hearts. Being in a place that was so old and had such a history was amazing. To see all the hand carved stone and beautiful decor was something to be experienced. I am headed to the first Ashram I am going to. I will be there and then will return to Trivandrum for a day between the next trip. On a side note we had taken our shirts off to enter this area of the temple. One of the guys had thought that my shirt was still on when he looked at the tattoos on my back.