It is 5:30 am and the alarm on my phone wakes me from my deep slumber with its cacophonic ring. I had slept late last night after taking part in an elaborate ritual at the 12th Century Madurai Temple which drew to a close only around midnight.
Known as the Palliarai pooja, the hour-long event saw the faithful escort Shiva from his shrine to that of his consort Meenakshi’s to spend a night of love-making. A ritual that has taken place every night uninterrupted for the past hundreds of years in the temple’s inner sanctums.
It was slowly dawning on me that in this part of the world common folks honoured their gods with much affection and awe. They were never separate or divided from them. Even their gods’ emotional and sexual desires were fondly celebrated. But more of all that in another post.
Today, I am on my way to Pamban Island connected by a road and railway track over the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. On to India’s international border with Sri Lanka under a radiant blue sky, surrounded on three sides by equally radiant blue oceans. My destination is a tiny patch where land, sea and sky meet, and where one of Hindu mythology’s most significant events took place, at a distance of 192 kilometres south-east of Madurai. Continue reading →
“Excuse me, Banganga kahaan hai?” [Where is Banganga?]
This is the umpteenth time I have stopped to ask. There are no sign posts of any kind. Guided by countless shopkeepers, cab drivers and Marathi women with flowers in their hair, I finally find my way off the main road on to a small side lane with stone steps leading down into a valley.
Yes, I am confused. Around me urban Mumbai throbs with concrete high rises and bustling markets. The corner store keeper assures me, “Down the stairs on your right.”
“Yes, sure.” And smiles.
So down the stairs I go, and at the bottom look to my right. A huge water tank guarded by deepstambhs, pillars to hold diyas, and surrounded by temples and dharamshalas clinging to its walls greets me with old world whimsical charm. Continue reading →
I am not one for religious rituals for the simple reason that I am quite ignorant of most of them, whether it be what one is supposed to say and do in a temple, church, mosque, synagogue or gurdwara. But that has in no way diluted my love for religious places. 🙂 Yes, god is everywhere—Next to me, as well as you. But within certain sacred walls, in the culmination of art and the faith of followers, He (or to be a feminist She—God doesn’t really care; we are the ones with all the issues) is a bit more tangible. Almost visible in his invisibility. Continue reading →