"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Our Life in India : A visit to the Sri Chilkuru Balaji Temple...

... also called The Visa Temple, because it seems that people who go there and pray Balaji with their open eyes see their wish of getting a visa granted... In which case you are to return to the temple to thank Balaji, and walk around 108 times (why 108 times, I do not know and was unable to find out.)
Outside the temple, these young men sold us pretty cloth bags (no plastic, which is good, and too rare) containing two coconuts and two flower garlands, for 34 Rupees each (a little less than a dollar, at the current exchange rate.)

We then went in, and broke our first coconut.

You have to hit it hard against the edge of a long concrete sink and one half of the coconut usually falls on the other side, and you keep the second half. Of course, I got coconut water all over my clothes... Some people drink the water left in their half of the coconut. I ask my friend if there was a significance, but she just laughed and said : "No, they must be thirsty."

Once inside the temple, you see throngs of people walking around and around. Many carry a small piece of paper containing a grid of numbers, and each time they complete a tour, they either check the number on their paper, or punch a hole in it.

I always feel a bit awkward visiting places of worship as a "tourist," however interested, sincere, and respectful I may be. There is a discrepancy between the people around me, and my wide-eyed self, camera at the ready, looking everywhere, trying to make sense of what I see, asking questions (when I can), noticing things that amuse, puzzle or impress me.

When I came out, my first thought was that I would like to come back, so I can renew this experience in a different way. I would no longer be distracted by everything around me, and may then be able to experience the moment in a more meaningful way.

Anyway, one of the things I noticed, as I walked around and around (we did not do it 108 times, by the way. This will be in case my wish comes true) were the signs.

This last sign is interesting. In Sanskrit, the word "darshan" means "the sight", "the vision." In other words : do not close your eyes while you are looking. Of course, there is a deeper meaning to this. The Balaji God in this temple has a peculiarity: His eyes are open. Usually, people tend to close their eyes while praying or wishing for something. So, here, we are asked to keep our eyes open.

We went inside the small temple, left one of the flower garlands as an offering to the God, and a priest marked our foreheads with kumkuma (red powder) and recited something after we told him the names of the members of our family. I did look at the eyes of the God, but it all went very fast, and I was trying to make sure I did everything the way I was supposed to, so it's all a bit blurry, now.

We then broke our second coconut in the second temple, this one to the God Krishna, and our friend told us to sit and reflect. Here we are, afterwards.

Finally, we took a tour of the small market outside the temple with its usual choice of bangles, little trinkets, bindis, devotional images, CDs, and statues - notice the rows of laughing Buddhas - etc, etc.


Nandini said...

Sound is a silent killer lol!!
Lovely pictures, but they're making me homesick. Good thing we're going to India soon. BTW I remember that the Hindu rosary usually has 108 beads too.

Linda Austin said...

Fascinating, Katia, thanks for sharing this. I love learning about other cultures, and India's is particularly rich.

valerie said...

Bracelets: ramenes-en quelques kilos pour ta filleule. Elle adore et je n'en trouve jamais a sa taille.

Katia said...

Nandini, thanks for the info regarding the Hindy rosary. Will try and find out more about the meaning of that particular number. And I know what you mean about feeling homesick. Sometimes, when I think that I will, one day, leave India for good, I start feeling homesick a priori. :)

Thanks, Linda. Yes, there is so much to see and experience, here. It never ends.

Valérie, faudra me donner une idée de la taille, parce qu'après le fiasco de l'été dernier, je suis un peu traumatisée, hein ? Je plaisante. OK, je m'en occupe. Bisous à la filleule et à ses frères (à la mère seulement si elle est sage.)

Katia said...

Oups, Nandini, should have read myself again. The HINDU rosary, not hindy :)