About two and a half years ago, my family and I embarked upon a trip to various holy places in southern India. We crammed ten people into a van and set off, ready to pray and take in the sights. The journey itself was awful; we had car troubles about halfway through the first segment of our drive, and spent several hours by the side of the road. We got to watch a rather bedraggled group cut down a giant tree with hand saws, and took more pictures than were strictly necessary. We had broken down right next to a household that was in some way associated with agriculture (the exact connection was never made clear to me) so there was also assorted livestock present.
When we finally got back on the road, we had wasted most of the day, and had to adjust our whole itinerary to account for the lost time. Eventually, though, we made it to our cousins’ house, where we would be staying for the night. Over the next couple of days, we proceeded to visit several temples in Southern India – the two that are prominent in my memory are the Annapoorneshwari temple in Horanadu, and Belur Temple.
There is a third temple that I remember – it was high up on a hill, and when I climbed to the top I was surrounded by lush vegetation and stone effigies that made me feel instantly reverent. But unfortunately, the important details – such as the name of the temple, and its location – aren’t coming to mind.
Annapoorneshwari is known as the goddess who feeds the hungry, and there’s a belief that if you pray to her, and offer her what you have, you will never go hungry. To be honest, I’m a fairly irreverent person – but that moment when I was in the temple, and I was watching the priests, and I looked at the idol at the front, I felt a higher power – or a placebo effect – and whatever hit me, I still believe in it. Even our trip down, wherein I spent eight hours with my three year old cousin sitting squarely atop my bladder and had to take an emergency pee in a weird shed area, couldn’t diminish what I felt at that moment.
Both of the temples were steeped in local history, and it was really great to see a part of my culture and history that I hadn’t seen before. I was born in India, but I’ve lived in the States most of my life. While our house was very much a Hindu household, there is something different about walking to a temple surrounded by other devotees. For some reason, visiting these temples that were in the middle of nature, looking as though they had grown rather than been built, was one of the best experiences of my life.
In fact, the picture at the top of this page – my blog header itself – is from this trip. It’s a subsection of the base of Belur Temple – every inch of the temple has been carved into intricate designs, many of which include animals and ancient Hindu mythology.
It’s there for a couple of different reasons. First, because no matter where I go in the future, I don’t want to forget where I came from, or the trip that meant the most to me – I refuse to forget who I am, because while I want to grow and change with new experiences, there are some things I value about myself I’m not willing to leave quite yet. The other reason is because I want to remember the way I felt on that trip, and how I viewed all those new places; I don’t want to forget the newness, the inspiration, or the sheer awe I felt, looking at a temple that took over a hundred years and three ruling princes to build.
It’s likely that as I continue on my quest to make this the most attractive blog ever, that header will change; I hope the feelings I associate with it never will.