One of the most important things that we learned once we got to the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Chennai was that shoe removal is required to enter. And so, though we’d spent most of the morning trying to get to the temple, we opted not to go in. The benefits did not outweigh the potential risks. Let me explain:
There was a time when I would’ve thrown caution to the wind in favor of so-called once-in-a-lifetime experiences like seeing the Kapaleeshwarar Temple up close. But that time has long passed. We’ve seen so many different temples scattered in various places across the globe that I can no longer number them on my fingers and toes. I love to go see the ruins of old cities and I thoroughly enjoy watching people worship at active temples, no matter what the religion. But since I’m not an archeologist, my appreciation for temples is mostly recreational. As such, any health or safety risks I might incur from a visit to a temple wouldn’t be worthwhile unless I was visiting something as iconic to Americans as, perhaps, the pyramids or the city of Troy. Even then, I think I’d avoid major risks to health and safety if I knew about them. Which brings me to my next point:
When I first started traveling abroad, I was oblivious to many health risks. On our first trip abroad to Turkey, our second trip abroad to China, and our third trip abroad to Mexico, I didn’t even take any just-in-case-medications along with us. On our fourth trip to Spain and Morocco, John got Cyclosporiasis while we were in the middle of the city of Fez. I learned after that to bring along an assortment of medications and also, that health risks vary quite a bit throughout the world. We learned the hard way about things like parasites too…worms that burrow in through the skin of your feet and make their way over time into your digestive tract. These are lessons that are hard to forget.
But for die-hard temple-goers in India and Nepal who would also like to live long, healthy lives, I recommend wearing two pairs of socks on their outing. Take off the outermost pair at the temple after you remove your shoes and then, after your temple visit, remove those socks and put the other pair on. It’s important that you don’t put the dirty socks on and then put your feet inside the shoes, otherwise your shoes will be “contaminated”. Is this OCD? Maybe…for a person who’s never had a major hookworm infection. For me, it’s just smart.
But before you get too excited about temple-going and removing your shoes without worry, keep in mind that shoes are removed and left to the side of the entrance to the Kapaleeswarar Temple. There’s a room for some shoes to be stored to the left of the entrance. This is the ideal location for your shoes to be stored. The other option is to leave your shoes in the piles of trash and rubble near the entrance. One or both of your shoes may be gone when you return from the temple. So be prepared to walk home barefoot (not a good idea in India).
But the temple is amazing…at least what we could see of it. I don’t know much about Dravidian architecture, but
people who do know rave about it. Hands down, it’s one of the most colorful temples we’ve ever seen.
Personally, I prefer visiting quiet sites or at least finding a quiet place to sit and watch people at temples. The Kapaleeshwarar Temple entrance was surrounded by Brahmins offering blessings at the nearby ghats, beggars who lined the street, and vendors sold flowers and food. It was a very active place. We were able to walk back and forth past the temple several times watching the activities going on there. Even though we didn’t go inside to see the temple up close, there were a lot of things going on nearby that were equally as captivating to see.