Journey to the Holy Land

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I was going through my folder named ‘journo’, the folder wherein I saved all my writings from the time I was pursuing a bachelors in Journalism. I chanced upon an article I had written for my college magazine. It caught my attention because it was one of those rare moments when my father on reading it had become quiet, and then praised me for the imagery, sounds and tangible feelings that had been evoked in him while reading it. I think the whole day there was a certain  skip in my gait, since I couldn’t help but bask in my father’s praise. Perhaps that is the reason I am sharing this piece, because it still managed to evoke in me the same imagery, sounds and tangible feelings….

 

The word temple evinces a loud wince in me. But three years ago I found myself on a train, travelling to the Indian state of Orissa for a religious sojourn to the renowned Hindu temple in Puri; the Jagannath Temple. All I can concur now is that my mom’s bribery about beautiful beaches and the scrumptious seafood had me enticed. We reached late at night and as the sea-line became visible, an instant calm enveloped me.

My stomach’s rumbling woke me up early the next morning, and my father and I traversed our way through the narrow paths, punctuated by the sounds of early morning chores and the wafting smells of food. After a quick breakfast at an inconspicuous food stall, we made our way to the beach and the child in me threw off my sandals and proceeded into the ocean water. As the cold waves washed my feet and I walked along the beach, a dead turtle, just a stone throw’s away caught my eye. In no time there were few crows around the turtle trying to feed on it. The scene before me served to display a curious interplay of life, death and livelihood, and yet all in tandem with each other.

Later in the day we made our way to the temple. However, I was intrigued by the heavy presence of monkeys, who appeared to be oblivious to the pilgrims around them, jumping in and around the temple premises. The temple’s sheer size and the intricacy of the carvings awe you. Perhaps more than the deities themselves, it’s the toil and labour of the sculptors and builders which inspires reverence in you. But I was in for some more surprise, as a certain section of the temple were embellished with various love making positions. Not surprisingly it was a source of multitude of blushings and mortified expressions from couples and parents alike, it forced me to introspect about sex being a natural constituent of our lives and an expression of love. I felt their presence in “temples” implied embracing our inner desires, endowed to us by “Gods” and not shy away from it.

A gentle breeze blew when we sat on the ancient ground opposite the temple to eat our bhog; the pure vegetarian food offered to Lord Jagannath. Maybe it was the sea and wind, or maybe it was the pilgrims milling around, or perhaps the unusually ‘disciplined’ nature of the monkeys over there, from the first mouthful I took, there was a tranquility I had never felt before. The last mouthful was to signify this trip as a gateway to spiritual, food, life and sensuous learning, unlearning.

 

 
Image courtesy: http://jitumisra.com/2013/08/31/depiction-of-monuments-and-lives-in-odisha-in-1820s-in-water-colour/

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