Are you Hindu? Are you religious? Are you plain curious or just interested in seeing all the beautiful and I do mean "absolutely mind blowing" architecture of the temples in TamilNadu?
Be ready to be blackmailed, begged, and harrassed to death. Also be sure to take a lot of small change and notes of small denominations... You are going to need it.... Coz Gods and their blessings are being sold here and the customers (read " Bhakras to be fleeced") are US. I never realised what a lucrative business a temple was until now.
Step down from your car you will first be overwhelmed by hawkers selling all kindsa things that just have to be submitted at God's feet/ for archana... if we require any of her blessings. The hawkers come in all ages from 6-60 and God forbid if you take pity and buy from one of them... the rest of them will be on you like fleas on a dog.
They are amazingly persevering and you will find hands pawing you, pulling your shirt, pallu whatever and begging you to buy from them. I think most people buy just to shut them up.
Having escaped this deluge you step into the temple and you have arrows pointing everywhere telling you ... Not which is the mandap for which god but which is the way to buy what... special archanai, annadhanam, special queue to see god and so on and so forth.
The priests are shameless too. They demand that you put money in the Aarthi plate. In one temple where I had forgotten my purse in my car, the priests and different temple workers would not let me get out of the "Garbagraha" (inner sanctum) until I had paid 10 bucks. Did I not want God's blessings? Did I want them to curse me for not giving money?... Arguing took me nowhere and I had to borrow the money to get out of the place.
As we come out, we meet the beggars, all healthy looking men and women, not even all that old or fragile. They do not beg, they demand and one guy actually asked me how I could expect God's blessing if I would not even be charitable enough to give him money or food. hmph!!! oh BTW! If you give them 1 or less Rs, be sure it will be returned back with a disdainful look. I am not sure what is the going rate of begging, but I sure got some dirty looks though
The serious part aside, at one temple the priest took a liking to me and came out of his way to tell me that it was very special to do 24 pradhakshinam (walks around the temple) for that particular god. Needless to say nothing would do but that I walk all 24 of them around the huge praharam... *Phew* came up quite dizzy after all that circling.
Despite all these hassles, it was a fun trip.
So those interested now know where to go to buy God's blessings :-) Happy Praying!!!