Beggars or Divine Intermediaries?

It seems whenever India is mentioned, beggars are mentioned.  Did I see many beggars?  There is only one that I remember strongly-a man without legs who was on a little wooden board with wheels.  When we stopped to chat with some relatives in the market, he came around to everyone.  Nobody gave him money because he was a known alcoholic.

He is not what this post is about.

What would you think if you saw a man coming towards you leading a cow that had decorations on its horns and forehead?  He stops beside you and seems to be waiting for something.  You could ignore him or you could give him some coins and take blessings from the cow, symbol of faithfulness, gentleness and prosperity.  Is he a beggar?

We were watching a documentary about Israeli hippies in Goa and in the documentary, the above scene occurred.  What was the response of the Israelis?  To yell at the man to get away.  Satya explained the scene to me and said that the man was doing the Israelis a favor by approaching them.

Or women regularly come to your door carrying the goddess Yellamma (Yellamma is known for being a faithful and dutiful wife) on their heads.  If you are the wife of the household, then you worship Yellamma and give the women handfuls of rice for bringing blessings to your house.  Are the women beggars?

This happened when we were staying with family in a smaller town (described in one guidebook as the gateway to “deep rural Karnataka”).  I was a little nervous and stayed in the backround while the wife of Satya’s cousin bustled around finding rice to give them, taking blessings.  Satya later told me that the women were probably curious to see me, a new wife in the family, and wanted to welcome me.  Unfortunately, I stayed in the backround, unclear as to what exactly was happening. Later, I regretted not going to the door.

On my next visit, I hope to be less guarded and more open.

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