Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ooo. I saw God.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the abode of a deity at one of the richest temples in the world. For a self-confessed religious apathetic, this was the first visit to a temple in four years and was more a product of compulsion than free will. However, a minor factor that materialized the journey was indeed free will, although restricted to savouring a certain sweet delicacy the temple gives away, possibly as consolation for having to navigate a mile long maze to catch a glimpse of the deity.


My contingent reached the temple at the crack of dawn. ‘Heh, we’ll beat the queue before it even forms’ was the motive. Sadly, as if to certify India’s upholding of ‘unity in diversity’, several thousand people with the exact motive as my parents’ had already taken their places and there we were, sorry faced, at the far end of the queue. As we inched towards the gold building, I realized the unimaginable: Indians are the most motivated people in the world. The aforementioned citizenry that had thronged a square kilometre space had only one goal that day – get a glimpse of ‘god’. Nothing else mattered. Nobody even bothered to look at the five-hundred year old inscriptions engraved on the temple’s walls, built by an emperor considered among the greatest in Indian history. That the stone temple stood on an entirely stone-based foundation plastered with clay over centuries did not matter to them as did the fact that the food they would later be served is still made from the same recipes the emperor’s cooks used half a millennium ago.


This theory of no-gaze-avert was put to test when the crowd reached the gold-plated architectural marvel. Yours truly overheard discussions revolving around bullion trade and jewellery with miscellaneous entertainment about how many necklaces and bangles could be made with the building’s gold exterior. Again, nobody took a second look at the figurines etched in gold: souvenirs from Hindu mythology that boasts of magical birds, animals and events, all beautifully depicted. But my version of culture shock happened when we were in front of the holy idol. It was a world I had seen only in Discovery’s coverage of the Kumbh Mela – chants, prayers, closed eyes, palms gathered, all with genuine, unshakeable faith. I don’t know if they were repenting for sins, praying in gratitude or seeking the almighty’s help but the faith that was obvious in their intensity of salutation, their desperation to get more than a glimpse of their god, their determination in trying to manage a few more prostrations before being pushed away to make room for more people..was almost like passion, passion I had never felt before, faith that I have never seen nor had in time, people or even in myself. For someone alien to the concept of belief, looking at an idol could never be as meaningfully comprehensible as seeing what it meant for the millions who travelled for days..for that single glimpse of god.


And then surprisingly, it all ended. The tension, the adrenalin they had in front of the deity almost instantly subsided. Theoretically, almost an equal number of people were expected at the Prasadam Counter but I seemed to be among the few lone, obviously exhausted warriors seeking an oasis. With more than sufficient sugary spheres to last the return journey, I exited the oasis in glee.


Back home, nothing had changed. The same people who could grind mountains to dust before the almighty had come back to level zero and went on with their business as usual..daily prayers still being offered, prostrations still made, chants still pursued, finer details of their day still overlooked.


And D.K Bose, still running.

31 comments:

Anirban said...

LMAO..!! Well put...
Good buildup, but unfortunately the impact lasted for barely a few lines. Great job for just a morning of work! Not really right for me to comment anymore, considering that I don't really write.

P.S.: So, still agnostic eh?? :D

Akshatha said...

Thank you. :)
Wrote this after about 40 sleepless hours so had to cut it short.

And no, not sure if I'm agnostic..just apathetic when it comes to religion.

Aditya said...

'We’ll beat the queue before it even forms'..LOL!!!
TTD should patent the queue as something of their own,like the ladu :p Oh wait,they're still depressed that they no longer are the richest temple board!
It's bloody business these days! The ganesha (temple) complex business is flourishing :D

Akshatha said...

What?! The laddu is..patented? Nooooo! The ONE (shady) business idea I have and they get to know of it. :x

Oh yeah, it is no longer the richest temple..not for long though. A gaze into the 'earnings counting room' (which incidentally has glass-paned windows) revealed a Rolex watch and several red Gandhi notes spilling out of sacks. TTD will soon be the richest again. :s

No comment about the Ganesha temple complex. I choose to pray to Vada pav and samosas at Sunny Namkins nearby. :)

kiran said...

Woahhh..so different a style of writing compared to your previous posts:) albeit, a good record of your preregrination to, i guess mostly tirupathi( my g.k denies me most of the times). yeah when we approach Him with a longing desire for material things, we get blind to other things around us and trust me, we do lose our awareness of present moment.
And.........where is the prasadam?

Akshatha said...

Well, thank you for noticing the difference in style. :) Yup, Tirupati it was..and awareness was certainly lost when I saw a woman taking off all her jewellery and offering it to god. Never seen that before!

Prasadam has been consumed in its entirety. :)

Praveen said...

Hehe this is damn funny. You could've given even more details about what goes on inside - for the benefit of people who don't plan to go there - ever. :D

Also, I didn't know that 'the food they would later be served is still made from the same recipes the emperor’s cooks used half a millennium ago'!

Ok you're right, I should do a TTD atleast once...for the food. :P

halfsigma said...

You know, every time you update your blog, I am wonderstruck. Are you sure you want to work? You will do great, being a writer. :D :P

I don’t know if they were repenting for sins, praying in gratitude or seeking the almighty’s help but the faith that was obvious in their intensity of salutation, their desperation to get more than a glimpse of their god, their determination in trying to manage a few more prostrations before being pushed away to make room for more people..was almost like passion, passion I had never felt before, faith that I have never seen nor had in time, people or even in myself.

Yappaaa!! Laughed like crazy... :D

I have never been to Tirupathi. I have this lingering fear that some barber will snatch me and forcibly shave my head. :-/

Akshatha said...

@ Praveen:

I go there every 4-5 years for the laddus alone. Totally worth it. And the temple is beautiful, when you look past the fifty thousand people or so. Do give a visit. :)
And apparently, some of the recipes date back to Cholas of the 13th century..before chillies and groundnut came to India!

@ halfsigma:

Thank you for the kind words. :)

And you laughed at THAT?! People there actually fold their arms in prayer and..cry before god. You HAVE to go take a look.

You could visit the barbers there for a change of hairstyle too, you know. Take a picture of a mohawk along. :P

Purab Roy said...

hilarious!
so what you have 'faith' and 'belief' now?

Adithi said...

Hey! I remember "Kanti Sweets" selling laddoos in the name of Thirupathi laddoos.. Does it really have a patent? :P
And Aksie, I'm terribly tempted to visit the place now. Just mentioned it to mum n she suddenly remembered her "Harike" of a few years ago that she would visit the temple if I get an Engg. seat! Sigh. Corruption begins at home eh?

Akshatha said...

@ Roy:

Dude, it'll take more than this to shake me into faith. :P

@ AD:

That's the exact reason we went..my mom's 'harike'. Well said. Corruption and weight gain begin at home. About the blackmarket laddus, no idea..all I know is the TTD outlet near school sells them too. They don't taste the same, though.

Aaah..laddus. :)

kiran said...

feels strange hearing that..:P

Pooja said...

You had to put that last line dintcha? hahaha. Never been to this temple. But you just talked a pious, religious soul out of going there..cheers. :p

Anonymous said...

Bravo! The first two paragraphs made me feel you would make light on religious sentiments that could hurt someone like me. But thanks for proving me wrong and for the great read. I notice carefully woven sentences. even the long ones are perfect in their construction (I am an English teacher.). Keep it up.

Nakul PS said...

*peregrination @kiran comment. Tirupati laddu was and shall remain The example for GI tag in IPR during the halcyon days of engineering.

Akshatha said...

@ Kiran:

Bro, I actually did finish three laddus in two days. :D

@ Pooja:

That was NOT the intention.

@ Anon:

Thank you for the kind words..I shall try hard to keep it up. :)

@ Nakul:

Of course!

K said...

came across your blog recently n read most of the posts. all are very good..i have have sent the link to bhava. think about full time writing. :)

Akshatha said...

Thank you, akka. Really happy hearing that from you. :)

laksh said...

I was about 9 when I got to go to Tirupati. I remember buying these books and comics about Indian mythology, and reading them while I waited for hours. Remember vaguely the walk along the cramped tunnel, and the whole "trying to have a peek" at the idol made me feel very silly indeed. But, if there is one thing I recall clearly, it is the way I felt after reaching the top of the mountain and breathed clear, fresh air (this was about 14 years ago, so not sure how fresh its now!).....I enjoyed reading your post. Glad I found your blog through IMBB :D

Akshatha said...

Haha..our memories are somewhat similar. :D
The air still feels fresh and crisp, btw. A lot of greenery, no plastic or rubbish around. Really glad the surroundings are well maintained. :)

shai said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog, it is seldom visited! Through IMBB?

I read a few posts and quite enjoyed them :) You write well.

will come by when time permits!

Akshatha said...

Thank you. :)

Anonymous said...

For someone alien to the concept of ‘belief’, looking at an idol could never be as meaningfully incomprehensible as seeing what it meant for the millions who travelled for days..for that single glimpse of ‘god’.

What's the meaning of this sentence?

I guess you should take that "never" off.

To say, For someone alien to the concept of ‘belief’, looking at an idol could "in no way" be as meaningfully incomprehensible as seeing what it meant for the millions who travelled for days..for that single glimpse of ‘god’ .... is wrong.

Akshatha said...

Thanks, anon. Check out the sentence now.

Anonymous said...

For someone alien to the concept of ‘belief’, looking at an idol could never be as meaningfully comprehensible as seeing what it meant for the millions who travelled for days..for that single glimpse of ‘god’.

What's the meaning of this sentence?

Do you mean to say - for someone alien to the concept of ‘belief’, seeing what it meant for the millions who travelled for days..for that single glimpse of ‘god’, would "always" be more meaningfully comprehensible than looking at an idol?

Akshatha said...

Yes. That is exactly what I meant. Perhaps with "always" in the latter half of your rephrsal replaced by "any day", which, in my opinion would be one of the colloquial antonyms of "never". Thank you for considering my scribble worthy of such keen attention.

Anonymous said...

Yep, keen attention. Because hair splitting couldn't be more pleasurable.

Back to it. To someone alien to the concept of belief, looking at an idol could be as logically incomprehensible as seeing what it meant for the millions who travelled for days..for that single glimpse of god - smells better to me. Someone who is not designed to be a theist can neither make sense of idols nor the minds of theists.

Ingrained faith is the parent of god. What then is the parent of faith? Well it has got a couple of good parents.

God is undoubtedly great, if "It" exists.

Hope your treasure (read phone number) is safe in the vault..


Ciao.

Akshatha said...

It certainly is.

Merin said...

Damn. You and I can never go to a temple together. You'll either laugh at me or simply disown me. :|

And I didn't think this was even possible, but you've gotten SO much better with your writing! Incredible, I love this post to bits.

Akshatha said...

Thank you. :)
Did you carry the mini shrine from your room to the hostel? :s