Tag Archives: Hindu

Hare krishna, hare, hare, rama, krishna, krishna

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For curiosity’s sake, Mom and I decided to visit the massive ISKON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple–the Hare Krishna sect in Bangalore. My dad was worried they would kidnap us and he would never see us again. The event was rather underwhelming in many ways, surprisingly. I couldn’t take any photos at all inside the compound, so the photos below are all pulled off of the internet. I did get a really cool shot, though of a dhobi ghat, or a big open air laundry facility just outside the temple.

The images below I pulled off of the internet. I picked the images of what we saw.  It’s a massive place. The main impression at the entrance where we were allowed to enter was a lot of stairs and a LOT of turnstyles. This place is designed to host lots and lots and lots of people.

  

  

We wound our way around the metal gates, although the place was quite deserted midweek, at least compared to the amount of space there. You head up the steps and stop at two smaller temples en route to the massive one. We had to pay about 200 rupees entrance fee. This fee basically gave us a VIP pass, so the turnstiles that we were in lead us past the lines of people and right up to the front of the shrines. We felt a little silly since we didn’t even know exactly how to act at these shrines and we were blocking the view of people who were very awed by the shrines. But they were interesting to see. Here is one that we saw.

Finally we made our way into the big temple. It is massive. Too massive really. It felt rather impersonal. Big frescoes on the ceiling. Huge chandelier. Massive gold dieties in the front. And to the back three musicians playing a tabla, a sarod and a singer doing the Hari Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare song.

We were told to follow the path that led to the right of the gold shrine. There is a little desk there that you can see i this photo.  A priest was waiting there to give us a personal blessing over some flowers. And then again we were guided in front of the people sitting up to right in front of the shrine. Luckily a few Indian women were ahead of us through this whole process so we knew what to do.

The main shrine had images of Krishna and Rada, plus some other dieties that we did not recognize. This was the image in  the main shrine.

After sitting on the grass mats and watching the priest ring the bell (in Hindu temples the bell is not to summon the gods but to help the worshipers to get clarity to worship).  Then they had the plate with the smoke as in most Hindu temples and you could pull the smoke to your face.  We then were ushered out of the main area and to the back behind the shrine. Here there were people waiting at table and chairs to talk with you about the sect and to encourage you to make a donation. We walked past those tables. Then we were led back out into the main worship area.  To exit that area you walked through a bookstall where we were allowed to chose two pieces of literature for free. Mom choose a book called “Coming Back: The Science of Reincarnation” and I chose “Bhagavad Gita for Beginners”   As we left one of the priests said, “Hare Krishna! You say, too, say, “Hare Krishna!!”

The place wasn’t threatening really other than that table in the back of the shrine where they wanted you to sit down and talk. Also in one of the gift areas there was this interesting little box of a room that reminded me of a Catholic confessional where you could go in and ask any question for free. Sample questions on the wall included “What happens after we die? How do I link my life to God?” and so on.

Then we were led through a maze of gift shops that went on and on and on. But like the Shiva temple last week, we found some really interesting and low cost souvenirs. Then we followed the path outside. And that was it! I had expected to see more of the campus. From the website I can tell that they have a goshala (place for holy cows) and a fancy fountain and an ashram and such things. But the campus was not available to the public like it was at the Art of Living and at the Buddhist monastery in Bylakuppe.

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A really, really big Shiva

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When we got up for our adventure this morning, Kaden said, “Promise me you are not going to add anything extra on to this trip!” I do have a habit of doing ‘just one more thing.’ She’s on to me. I’ll only agree to the original plan!” So we stuck to the plan today—see the six-story high Shiva, look for art supplies and have a nice lunch.

I was stir crazy and ready for an outing. Yesterday was Ugadi—the New Year celebration in the Deccan region of India—south Central India. The traditional calendar of this region starts the new year at the beginning of spring. All schools were closed. People headed out of town. The driver took the day off. We were stuck at home. Not so terrible except the day before I was home all day as well with a head cold. For 48 hours, I had hoped to be lazy. But the television as usual had nothing on it. I read three books, emptied my email inbox, and took a nap each day. I was ready to get out of the house.

So off we went to find the six foot tall Shiva. This temple was not an ancient, historical relic like others that we had visited. Rather, this was like an amusement park holy site. The place seemed brand new. To enter you had to wander through several craft stores (which much to my delight had incredibly cheap prices).

We then reached a ticket booth where they advised us to buy the six in one ticket so that we saved money. Sounded like a racket, so we said no.  Ahead of us was indeed a six story Shiva, all done up in bright colors and plastic perhaps, with a fountain streaming out of the back of his head.

Shiva is the creator and destroyer and we learned that day that you pray to Shiva to control your anger.

  

To get to Shiva, we had to navigate a series of activities. Pay 60 rupees to put 108 coins in successive bowls while chanting the manta, “Om namaya shiva.” We skipped that.

Buy Prasad as an offering to the Gods. We did that and saw the woman smash the coconut for us and give it back to us. We walked up some steps.

Then they told us to buy a ticket to get down to Shiva, but it was through what seemed like a Haunted House. It was a dark cave in which we crowded a foot bridge, took little twisty turns, and walked up and down steps. Kaden chose to skip that part. I took Carson. The focal point was a stalagmite made out of ice that you were to touch for good luck (like an upside down icicle). The ice felt nice and cool on a hot day. Imagine my surprise when I told my mom about what we found and she told me that the ice was to represent the linga of Shiva. As in, please touch this phallic projection of the God. What????!!??  Turns out that often Shiva is only presented as a linga and not as a full God.

The kids then asked to throw a coin in the fountain for good luck. The sign said to chant “Om Namah Shivaya” seven times before chatting the coin. Carson did so and threw in his coin. Kaden threw her coin and it missed. She wanted to go get it and try again. But since the coin was offered to the God, my mom worried there would be quite an issue if Kaden went crawling for the coin. So she found her another one.

The temple had several other activities, such as pouring milk, going into another cave.

Everything was written on English placards. The Temple seemed more like a “how to” set of Hindu activities than an actual place to worship. Plus, you could take photos if you paid another fee.  True temples do not allow photos.  But, the kids had fun. And the shopping was good.

We then made a stop at MG road to an Art Supply store to get Kaden some supplies for her Science Fair Project. This shop was our third try. Kaden wanted a tri-fold board to display her project.  After trying the Office Depot in the mall, the Reliance store and now the oldest book store and art supply store in town, it is clear that trifold displays do not exist in Bangalore. So she bought a couple of thin boards of canvas and we hope we can keep them together.

Then we headed off to lunch. Kaden insisted that we had to eat at the restaurant where Uncle Kinjal walked into the glass wall. I was less than excited about this plan since I had just eaten there a few days ago. In fact, we had caused a bit of a scene again there during our last visit. My parents and I had limited time to eat there since we had to rush back to the kids’ school for Kaden’s soccer game. There was a huge IT conference happening at the hotel.

 

I had forgotten my phone at home, and our fabulous new driver was unable to park at the hotel. He didn’t know I was missing my phone and was awaiting my call around the corner. We couldn’t find him. He wondered why we weren’t calling. My mom got in such a state that she asked the hotel to hire us a car. I finally wandered out of the hotel gates and found Shiva. Meanwhile, the air conditioning had since broken and he had called another van to come to bring us home.  We had to transfer our packages and the new driver said, “Please buckle up. I will get you to that football match!”

So fast forward to our most recent visit. The doorman recognized us from a few days ago and said welcome back. We walk into the restaurant and make a big fuss about wanting a table by the window. Carson is starving. He starts toward the buffet and heaps a big pile of rice on his plate. Kaden bursts into tears. This wasn’t the restaurant she had thought. She had confused this restaurant with the Taj West End where they had the best ice cream in town. She didn’t want to be here at all. She didn’t even like the French fries here. We had to leave.  With her grandmother present, we did indeed leave. Carson left his plate of rice sitting on the buffet. And we slunk back to our car.

The meal at the Taj West End was delightful though. Carson got his favorite Pasta Bolognese. Kaden ate rolls, French fries and ice cream to her hearts content. And we chatted with a couple from Mendocino at the next table.

Somnathpur and water

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On the way back home from our safari, I made the call to stop in Somnathpur at a very famous temple called Keshava temple. My driver was very grumpy about the idea and so were the kids. They all wanted to go home. But this temple is one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture in all of India. The temple was built in the 1200s out of soapstone and has intricate carvings. It took 500 people 50 years to coplate it. Since the Moguls plundered it twice it is no longer an active place of worship, which was great for us because meant we could take all the photos we wished.

The Hoysalas were “a mighty martial race who ruled large parts of present day Karnataka between 1100 and 1320 AD.” This stone tablet inside the temple main gate contain inscriptions in ancient Kannada script (the local language of the region) containing details of about the construction of the temple as well as details of ongoing archeological work.

It stands on middle of a walled compound encircled by a verandah with 64 cells ( almost all the cells are empty now ).

    

The Temple is built up on a raised platform, star shaped .The outer walls are divided into different layers the lower layer contains the scenes of daily life like people riding elephants etc while the middle ones contains exquisitely curved gods and goddesses

Inside the temple are three incaranations of Krishna

We finally found a guide who could speak good English and he showed us all the details of the carvings—the names of the Hindu gods and goddesses. The outside walls of the main temple is covered with intricately curved out figures in stone, scenes from Ramayanas, Krishnas life (like Krishna killing the poisonous serpent of Kaliya) , Vishnu, scenes of daily life people riding on elephant .There are 194 images in all and around 40 of them have been curved by master sculptor Mallitamma.

Below are images of Ganesha the elephant and of a swan feeding its babies.

   

Kaden loves anything of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, light, wisdom, courage, and good fortune (above).

I love Sarashwathi, goddess of knowledge, music, arts and sciences.

The temple also had mythical creatures, such as this “rhinosaurous” It combines the best features of six animals. Lion feet, crocodile mouth, cow ears, monkey eyes, and so on. Carson loved that.

  The temple even had some, ahem, kama sutra carvings.

My driver was grumpy for the rest of the trip, but it was worth it. I came home very happy indeed. The place is considered a national treasure and I can see why. Such artistry preserved over generations. Todd came home happy too because on the way through Mysore we stopped so that he could visit the palace and market that the kids and I visited during our last trip there. The kids were asleep in the car, and I sat with them and worked on an article while Todd hopped out to do some touring. So in one day, Todd was on a safari, saw a maharaja’s temple, toured an old market, and saw one of the most historic temples in India. My job is done!

On our trip this weekend, here are some kiddos who waved to us on our way:

   

We also saw lots of rural villagers bringing water back to their houses. Some have to walk a mile or more to bring fresh  water to their homes.

  

These little girls below touched my heart. The didn’t look older than Kaden and they were carrying really heavy water jugs to their homes.

Here’s where their homes are–tarps in a field.

We also saw a cemetery during our travels. Rare since cremation is the preferred method in India. Can you imagine if all Indians wanted to be buried in a cemetery? With so many people it would be quite a space crunch.