Right Place at the Right Time

(Dana) Sometimes on this adventure, we get lucky… lucky to be in the right place at the right time. March 2nd is the annual puja (ceremony), celebrating the wedding of Lord Shiva at the Jageshwar Temple in the Himalayan hills. Arriving in Jageshwar, a town of maybe a hundred families, we are quickly swept into the colorful crowd of residents and pilgrims, moving toward the 8th century temple. The road funnels tightly between rows of vendors selling food, bangle bracelets, elaborate gold jewelry and other mementos. Jalebi – fried dough – bubbling in pink-hued oil. A rainbow of saris – gold, orange, pink, magenta, purple, marigold, green, peacock blue. Greg and I giggle as Alex’s blond ponytail bobs in a sea of long black braids.

The temple is one of the 12 Jyoti Lingams — phallus of light temples – in India dedicated to Shiva, one of the Hindu triumvirate of primary gods. According to legend, the other two primary gods, Vishnu and Brahma, were fighting over who was stronger. When there was no clear winner, the earth split apart and a pillar of incandescent light emerged. Both wanting to find the source, Brahma took the form of an eagle and flew, and Vishnu went underground in the form of a boar. After 1000 cosmic years of futile searching, they gave up and Shiva appeared from the light, proving his superiority. Today, Shiva is the God most revered in this part of India.

After leaving our shoes, we dive into the crowd milling around the main temple. Several men offer blessings and anoint foreheads with yellow sandalwood and red vermillion for women (to keep our third eyes cool and calm). We are handed a small plastic cup of coconut milk. Inside, the crowd moves toward the garbh griha (inner sanctum). Bells clang. Incense burns. Finally, we push our way in and settle into a corner in front of the phallus, which is piled high with food offerings and flower garlands. Pilgrims pour their coconut milk onto the pile in offering to the snake, one of Shiva’s forms. One of the priests accepts our guide’s donation and provides the 6explorers with a private blessing. Chanting. Singing. I recognize our 6 names. We are blessed with long, healthy prosperous lives. Greg and I join hands holding a rhododendron and are blessed for a strong, long marriage. We are handed blessed bananas. I am mesmerized. Outside, a young novice ties red yarn around our wrists. Open-mouthed stares follow us as we wind our way out of the temple and back into the street. In fact, we are asked to pose for as many photos as we ask of the women in colorful saris.

Being in the right place at the right time occurs again a few days later. We happen to be at the Jankarshein Temple, well off the beaten track in the Himalaya foothills, just as a family prepares to sacrifice two goats for agricultural prosperity. Animal sacrifices still occur in the foothills, although not in most of India. Dressed in their finest, the family takes photos. The goats are adorned in garlands. One man sharpens a long, crescent knife. Next thing we know, the goats are beheaded. Blood spills. Unbelievable. I never thought that I would see this.

I don’t think that many foreign tourists get to see what we did this week. These are the kind of experiences I most cherish on this trip. How lucky.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook

7 Responses to “Right Place at the Right Time”

  1. Awww that poor goat. Wow thats so cool you were there that day. Miss you all alot.

    -Annie

  2. The colors of the saris in the photographs are amazing. It must have been beautiful to see it all swirling around you. How lucky indeed to experience a celebration unique to another culture; such a rich experience. Thanks for sharing the facts and feelings.

  3. p.s. Dana, where is your three inch nose ring?!?

  4. Hi guys!! We have been thinking of you and after a nutty 2 months I just sat down to catch myself up on your journey. There are no words to describe how amazing it is to experience it all through your words (and pictures!) What incredible experiences.
    We miss you and can’t wait to read more.
    Lots and lots of love,
    L, B, S and S

  5. Emily Sinclair 18. Mar, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Hey guys! My C.A.G. is researching India for World Culture week at DSMS and I was wondering if you would be able to get me some inside information. Thanks!

  6. Hey, guys! I just got back from India! You guys are so lucky! You’re traveling the world while we’re stuck taking MCAS! We all miss you here in Dover! Have a great rest of you’re journey!

  7. P.S. I LOVE Jalebi! You should also try gulab jamun and dosa!