Entering a Hindu temple is quite an experience. From the outside, it is often a very high and colourful building, whith so many sculptures it makes your head spin.
As you approach the center of the temple through very large and high corridors, you leave the light of day behind you and immerse yourself more in more into the darkness. It is cool inside, and very peaceful. You might hear mantras or people singing and laughing. It is not permitted to take pictures in the temple so you'll have to use your imagination for most of what follows....
Everywhere there are amazing sculptures, some of which are smothered in ghee (clarified butter), ash and sacred powders, some of which wear clothes, some of which are adorned with food and flowers. I remember vividly a sculpture of a couple on a pillar in Chidambaram ; the man tall and tenderly protective, the woman smaller and all in sensuous curves, the man had his hand under the woman's chin and somebody had placed a few raisins there. A very moving picture.
Praying in Madurai (c) Claude Renault
Devotees are everywhere, some stay standing, others kneel, a few lie on the floor to show their absolute worship. Some shave their hair and give them away to the temple.
The central shrine is generally not visible to non-Hindus. It is a small dark cave in which a representation of the God is placed (often a lingam and a yoni). Lots of candles are lit. The doors of the shrine are only open a few hours a day. Fire and water always present.
After receiving darshan (benediction), devotees are given a little spicy milk to drink from their cupped right hand. All in all there is a powerful smell of milk and butter that reminds the sweet sour smell of young babys. Therefore it feels a little like being in your mother's womb again.
Theyyam (c) Claude RenaultIn some temples in Kerala region there are trance dancing performances known as Theyyatam at certain times of the year.
All in all something very powerful can be felt there. On my first visit to a temple, I simply cried. Later, I understood that at least in India, God certainly exists. You can see it in the shiny eyes of the people .