Thoughts on “Nine Lives”

Yesterday I finished reading Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple.  I highly recommend this book.  It is readable and insightful.  Even though all the people Dalrymple profiles are extreme he does humanize them and makes them understandable.  He has a wide geographical range-from Sindh in Pakistan, to Bengal, to Karnataka, to Tibet, to Kerala, and a wide range of religions (although some may argue they are all aspects of Hinduism) Jains, Buddhists, Sufis, and various sects of Hinduism.

The first chapter is about a Jain nun in Karnataka who is slowly starving herself to death.  I was not looking forward to reading this chapter at all.  Jainism had always sounded so bleak to me and pointless.  It is a testament to Dalrymple and the remarkable nun he interviewed that the chapter turned out to be beautiful.  Her decision to leave her family while a teenager and to undergo extreme privations (like having her hair pulled out strand by strand) made sense.  The description of the tightly controlled ritual starvation also seemed beautiful-the person undergoing the ritual is never left alone-people are there to recite religious texts and to provide company.  If the person wants to stop the ritual at any point, they have that choice.  Her decision made sense because it was what she had prepared for her whole life and because she looked on death as an eagerly awaited adventure.

The third chapter was most troubling.  I didn’t think it contained much beauty at all.  Instead it seemed pathetic and hopeless. In the past, people dedicated to Yellamma had high positions in society-they were educated, wealthy, etc.  Now they are like common prostitutes except they wear silk sarees, and sometimes are invited to important rituals to give blessings.  The woman in the chapter was dedicated as a child against her will to pay off her family’s debts, but ended up also forcing her daughters into the same thing (her daughters ended up dying as teens from AIDS).  The woman hoped to save up enough money to get out of prostitution, but that is highly unlikely as it is revealed that the woman herself is infected.  The Indian government is trying to stop the practice, but Dalrymple writes that their efforts and the efforts of earlier British reformers has worsened the situation by driving it more underground and by marginalizing the position of those dedicated to Yellamma.

Some of the chapters focused on people whose way of worship may disappear soon because of the modernizing of Indian society-the man from the Rajasthani desert who with his wife and family performs epic poems, the man who creates idols, the man who embodies the gods when he dances.  Others represent traditions that are in danger due to politics and violence-the monk from Tibet, the woman from the Sufi site in Sindh.  I asked Satya what his view of this was, and he said that nothing in India truly dies, it just changes.  People still are interested in the age old traditions.  I’m not so sure.  He gives the example of the wealthy middle-aged bankers whose hobby is Yakshagana.

The importance of marriage and family in Indian culture was reinforced for me.  The chapter about the epic singer of Rajasthan wasn’t just about him.  Dalrymple writes about how one cannot be an epic singer without a wife who is equally talented as a singer.  At the end of the chapter, Dalrymple describes a performance where even the four year old grandson of the singer was included-he danced alongside his father and grandparents.  That was a very beautiful passage as well.  Even the chapter about the Tantra practicioners focused on how important family is.  Despite the view in the West of Tantrics being wild “anything goes” types, in reality the Tantrics need to get married to have a partner with whom to do the rites. Again, Dalrymple was able to go beyond stereotypes.

Overall, the book was enjoyable and fascinating.  I very much recommend the book.  I don’t think it helped much wiht clarifying how everyday Indians experience Hinduism or what they believe.  If you have any suggestions for a book about that, I’m open to suggestions.

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Lingayat Practical Philosophy

This past weekend, Satya, myself, and his parents went to the temple together.  This gave me the opportunity to learn more about their beliefs and how they practice their religion. 

 

Here are some of their observations and mine:

 

“Any nice day is a good one to go to the temple,” This was said by my mother in law.  One of the hardest things for me to understand is that there is nothing like the Sabbath or Sunday to them.  People go to the temple whenever they feel the need or desire to do so. 

 

“Too much ritual, not enough devotions,”  This was said by my father in law.  The central god of the temple we attended was Venkateswara*.   There was a ceremony taking place there in addition to the usual ceremony with the aarti, the hat put on people’s heads for a few moments (Shiva temples don’t do this, but this was a Vishnu temple), the coconut drink, and the prasad.  This ceremony involved bathing the idol with milk, showing the god the offerings, etc.  The priests chanted in Sanskrit.  Satya was able to translate a little of this…prayers for peace, prayers for the cars of the believers, prayers for North America, etc.  After hearing the chant for peace, Satya and his dad were ready to leave, but then the ritual began again.  Also, at one point the priests came out and led a procession around Venkateswara.  The people carried their offerings (lots of milk, coconuts, and bananas) behind the priests.

 

Lingayats are a bit like Protestants or Quakers believing in simplicity. 

 

*A note about Lingayats and Venkateswara…according to Lingayat lore, Venkateswara stole money from one of the Lingayat gods.  To this day, Venkateswara is known as a rich god and at some temples there will be Lingayats chanting for the return of the money.  Despite these things, Satya’s mother was sitting right in the midst of the crowd during the ritual in intense contemplation.  Satya, his father, and I were sitting more off to the side.

 

“Do your best and whatever happens, happens for the best,”  and “Do your best, and leave the result to God,” common sayings by members of Satya’s family, including himself.  This covers things large and small.  For example, when Satya was in high school and was taking the tests that determined which school he was eligible to attend, his English score got messed up (he spoke English from the age of 2 and went to English medium schools, so I believe him that the score was a mix up.)  Anyway, that meant his cumulative score was one point shy of qualifying.  Was he bitter?  Nope.

 

“What do you do?” and its close relatives, “What can I do?”  and “What to do?”  This follows the above.  Some might call this resignation or a bit of cynicism, but usually signifies a recognition that not everything is in one’s control.  I hear a version of this everyday.

 

“Take the prasad, it is very important and carries blessings,” said by his parents.  Many believers will bring milk, cocunuts, or bananas to the temple.  These will be taken by the priests to be blessed.  Then, some will be returned to the giver.  Some will be offered to temple visitors.  Satya was hesitating about taking these, but his mother took a banana and split it into four parts for all of us.  I’ve heard that at some temples in India, free meals are given to visitors.

 

Learning about Lingayatism in particular and Hinduism in general is an ongoing process for me.  I learn tidbits here and there.

Celebrating Shivaratri

Today, Monday is Shivaratri. Satya and I went to the temple Saturday to commemorate the festival and it was very crowded! I’d never seen it so crowded before. On the way back and forth I peppered Satya with questions about the festival. Here is what I discovered:

Why:

He said that Shivaratri commemorates a man named Kanappa (literally Mr. Eyes). Kanappa was hunting one night and sitting in a tree. On the ground below unbeknownst to him was a linga, Shiva’s sacred symbol. All night Kanappa was dropping leaves on the ground and many fell on the linga. Shiva was so happy about this that he appeared before Kanappa. Kanappa shrugged off the meeting initially and just continued on with his life. As he told the story to others, they told him, “You met Shiva! You are so lucky!”. Kanappa then wanted to see Shiva again so he performed many devotions to Shiva and even decided to sacrifice his eyes to Shiva if only he could see Shiva again. He poked out one eye and was preparing to poke out the next when Shiva appeared again to him. Shiva told him not to poke out his eye and even restored the other eye to Kanappa. Thereafter, Kanappa became a loyal follower of Shiva.

Satya says that this story demonstrates how easily pleased Shiva is and how generous he is. Satya and his family emphasize that Shiva is a simple, generous god. Before I met Satya all I knew was that Shiva was the destroyer-that was it, only that one dimensional view. Satya also says that Shiva even has worshippers among the demons, something I can’t quite understand yet. From my observations so far, Eastern thinking does seem to hold more complexity/shades of grey than Western.

At the temple:

We arrived 10 minutes before the temple was supposed to close for the night, but everything was still happening. In one area, the priests had placed a linga on the back of the Nandi and were leading it around. The priests were also doing the usual ceremony with the fire, blessing hat, and blessed liquid (forget what the liquid is). I still have to improve my sipping abilities-I can’t drink the liquid from my hand gracefully yet as it still goes onto the floor and on my wrist and chin. Little girls wore their most colorful outfits as did some of the women. Satya was a little confused with one group because they were chanting “Narayana Narayana” near Shiva. This confused him because that is one of the names of Vishnu, not Shiva. I guess we will have to ask his parents about that one. Satya also made sure to ring the bell near Shiva area. This was a little difficult because there were so many people there and a lot of people wanted to do the same. A lot of parents would also hold their toddlers in their arms so that the toddlers could ring the bell too. I tried to stay close to Satya, but there were so many people that sometimes we got separated as we made our circuit to the altars of various deities. This time, I did not get the peaceful, holy feeling at the temple but I think that is because we rushed to get there, had to deal with the crowds, and after all that only stayed for 20 minutes.

Last year we went to a small, North Indian temple for this festival. It was a lot different there. There, people poured milk over the linga and then in the main room people were chanting. Satya had no idea what they were chanting, but Saturday at the South Indian one he didn’t know either exactly all that was happening. Last year on Shivaratri was the first time I’d ever been to a Hindu temple and the first time we’d gone together.

Celebrating at home:

Satya called his parents and sister and told them we were going to the temple for the festival. His sister mentioned he was supposed to fast for the day. He sort of followed this because after our usual breakfast of oatmeal we didn’t eat a full meal until the evening. We also made sure we took showers right before we left because being clean is so important for Hindu celebrations. Satya mentioned wanting to bathe the idols we have in the house, but we didn’t get to that this time. In India, his parents had some family members over at their house. All in all, Shivaratri seems to be a smaller, quieter festival compared to some of the other festivals although Wikipedia mentions people staying awake all night in prayer, listening to musicians and watching dancers.

Conclusion:

There is a lot about Hinduism/Lingayatism I do not understand yet. I still feel awkward going to the temple, but that is ok. There is a lot that Satya doesn’t know as well. We do what we can. We both think it is important to worship together and to support each other’s festivals and traditions.

On “The Story of India” and Family History

Last night we watched the final episode of “The Story of India”.  The fifth episode was all about the Muslim invasions and the mingling of Muslim and Hindu culture.  The sixth episode was about the British and the Independence struggle.  For both episodes, Michael Wood glossed over many of the atrocities.  He did not say much or anything about temples being defaced by Muslims or about how Hindus tried to bury some of their temples in sand to protect the temples from destruction.  He didn’t mention how the British impoverished India and even in some cases changed the culture for the worse-creating more landless peasants or putting more of an emphasis on the birth of boys because they would not recognize female rulers.  The series was beautifully photographed. In its defense, how could you compress 6,000+ years of history into 6 hours? Sometimes Michael Wood made huge leaps and he seemed much more comfortable in Pakistan and Northern India than anywhere else.  Overall, we rated the series a 6/10. 

 

The series did make us reflect on his family’s history.  Both sides of Satya’s family have been shaped by the Muslims and the British.  His dad’s family comes from far Northern Karnataka.  It used to be part of the Nizam state of Hyderabad.  His grandfather spoke both Urdu and Kannada and in fact was an Urdu teacher and farmer.  In his spare time he used to write Urdu poetry on cigarette wrappers.  On the outside he represented a nice mingling of Muslim and Hindu culture.  On the other hand, why did he do these things?  Survival.  He had to blend in as much with the Muslims as possible in order to avoid being killed.  He did not wear the linga, had a goatee, and basically dressed like a Muslim farmer.  After Hyderabad became part of India, there were massacres of Muslims too so that whole region suffered a lot of violence in the not so far past.  To this day, his father’s village is very poor.  Poverty meant his father had to leave his home village at the age of 12 taking his younger brother with him to further his education.

 

His family on his mother’s side has a different story.  They were middle-class farmers.  Unlike his father’s family, his mother’s family has a man who has memorized their family’s history and who keeps their written family history for them.   He visits every so often to update the family history and Satya says that the family history is written on copper plates.  His grandfather on this side of the family was able to go to a university.  He was a dreamer who loved theater and Shakespeare.  He loved to put on plays and discuss them with his friends.  For all that, he did have a very tough choice during the Freedom Struggle.  He was offered a job with the British civil service but turned it down.  He did have friends who were very active in the Freedom Struggle, but he seems to have tried to stay neutral. 

The most surprising thing to me is his family’s lack of bitterness.  Satya has prayed in mosques a few times with his father.  Satya speaks proudly of a tomb of a Sufi saint that is near his home in India.  His father firmly believes that religion is on the inside of a person and should be left up to the individual.  Satya did not undergo a Lingayat initiation and says that his dad’s family doesn’t know many of the traditions because they couldn’t safely practice many of them.  In some ways, you could say that the persecution his dad’s family suffered made his family more open.  The cost was high, though.

There also have been many posts in the blogosphere about Indian identity.  What makes India special?  What do Indians have in common with each other if not religion, or language?  We’ve also spoken with each other about this.  The best we can come up with is what others have said before…it is the ability to absorb the best from other cultures and make it their own and to look forward to the future while remembering the past.  What do you think being Indian means?

Our MultiCultural Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! 

 

A while back some people asked me to blog about how Satya and I will be celebrating Christmas this year.  This year will be a bit different because we aren’t celebrating it in Minnesota with my family.

 

My aunt seems a little worried that I’ll turn my back on my Catholic upbringing.  For my birthday this year she gave me: cloth Christmas placemats and napkins, an Advent wreath, and some homemade soap from a monastery (smells like Christmas soap), and a batch of her special 7 Step Bars (one of my favorite sweets). 

 

Advent wreaths count down the weeks until Christmas.  The first Sunday of Advent one candle is lit.  This past weekend was the fourth Sunday so all candles were lit.  The third Sunday of Advent always has a pink candle.  The other candles are all either purple or blue-the colors of advent. Each Sunday has a name and a special theme.  For example, the third Sunday is called “Gaudete” which means “Rejoice” because soon Christmas will arrive.  The Advent wreath also came with prayers to say while lighting the candles.  Each week has a different prayer.  When I was a kid, we would make Advent wreaths in Wednesday night religion class and be sent home with prayers to say. 

 

Each Christmas season sometime after Thanksgiving my mom’s family would start baking.  They’d make fudge, gingerbread, spritz cookies, lemon bars, plantation bars, 7 Step Bars (graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut and more), and more.  On the weekends when we’d come to my grandparent’s house for Sunday Supper we’d play games and watch movies and eat lots of sweets.  The sweets would be stored in empty Blue Bunny ice cream buckets and put in “the cold room”-the coldest room of the upstairs near the attic where there was no heat.  This year, since we aren’t making it back, my aunt sent me my favorite kind.  Someday I’m sure I will make 7 Step bars with my own kids.  Luckily, Satya likes them too.

 

We did get a Christmas tree.  We got ours about two weeks ago.  It was a journey!  First we went to Home Depot because we heard they had $30 trees.  We didn’t like any of their trees.  Then, we went to Lowe’s.  Their trees weren’t much better, but they were on sale and we found a cute round one.  It was also bitterly cold outside-the wind was blowing hard.  We asked Lowe’s for a tree stand, but they sold out.  We went back to Home Depot but they also had sold out.  2 weeks before Christmas!!  Then we tried Target.  At Target we found some cute ornaments and some great multi-colored lights, but no tree stand. We even got so desperate as to go to Whole Foods because they had a lot of Christmas trees for sale.  They too were sold out of tree stands.  After Whole Foods, we got so sick of the whole thing we decided to go across the river to New Jersey.  We raced back to our apartment, put the tree in a mixing bowl in the tub so it wouldn’t dry out too much and then continued our search.  We had to drive almost an hour, but the first place we tried did have a tree stand. They sold out of their metal tree stands, but still had plenty of the plastic kind. 

 

Then, we decided to eat at one of our favorite South Indian restaurants, but it was packed so we walked down to an Italian one.  We returned home, put the tree in the stand and then decorated it.  When we were finished at roughly 12:30 am, Satya got on Skype and showed his parents our tree.  It was our first tree as a couple and Satya’s first Christmas tree period. 

 

Ornaments:  We got our ornaments at Pier 1, Target and A.C. Moore.  Pier 1 has some gorgeous ornaments.  We found a simple angel holding a harp go at the top of the tree. At Pier 1 I found a red bird ornament complete with green glitter to outline the wings and bright red tail feathers.  My grandmother had Christmas ornaments from her family going back to the ’20s and ’30s.  Some of my favorites were the delicate bird ornaments.  She even had little nests to go with the birds!  We also found the obligatory “Merry Christmas 2008” ornament to commemorate our first Christmas tree and first Christmas married.  Satya’s ornament taste runs more to the rustic.  He loves cabins for some reason.  One of his picks was a little house painted dark red with a tin roof.  Maybe some day we will have a little red cabin…We did try to find a star to go on top the tree. Stars and angels are the most popular choices for tree toppers.  Also, stars are more multicultural for us than angels since Hindu representations of angels don’t look like Christian representations of angels.  Stars are basically stars though and stars are also very important for Deepauli.  Once we find one we like we’ll replace the angel.  Other ornaments are a red reindeer, sled, white owl, and a beaded reindeer.  We have about 12 ornaments.  I figure that as the years go by we will slowly gather more. 

 

Tonight we plan on traveling to be with the family of my sister-in-law.  Her family is from Argentina so we will be having a very multicultural celebration.  We will be doing a simple gift exchange and eating lots of food.  Satya mentioned going to midnight Mass, but I don’t think anybody else is Catholic besides me.  We might try to find one, or may not.  Going to church does make Christmas seem more real-my favorite time of year for churchgoing was always Advent and the Christmas Season.

South Indian Temple Cafeteria and Gift Shop

After we finished praying, Satya and I decided to explore the lower levels of the temple.  We found that there was a small cafeteria that offered vegetarian South Indian food (uttapam, dosa, vada, etc.) at very affordable prices.  We tried the uttapam (kind of like a pancake made out of a batter of fermented rice and beans).  Mine was with onions and Satya’s had onions and chilis.  His was so spicy he got teary!  There were some chutneys and sambar (spicy soup) to go with them.  The meal was delicious! We both agreed that the uttapam was better than any we had at restaurants and better than our own efforts at home.  The cafeteria makes a lot of sense because people come from long distances to go to the temple.  Also, traditionally, temples do offer food.  The cafeteria was staffed by volunteers and in itself is very bare bones-seating is on plastic picnic benches, paper plates, Styrofoam cups for tea, etc.  We saw many families and even another mixed couple although we didn’t visit with anyone.  I think we will definitely be eating at the temple cafeteria again because of the affordable prices and delicious food. 

 

The gift shop was interesting too.  The gift shop had an extensive cd collection ranging from morning Hindu prayers in Sanskrit, to cds for a healthy pregnancy and baby, to yoga cds.  There was also a selection of Tamil and Telegu cds.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any Kannada cds.  What else?  There was a selection of books on spiritual topics and some very introductory Hinduism books.  One thing that surprises me is how pragmatic Hinduism is.  For example, Hinduism places a large emphasis on health-both physical and mental and what they say actually works (for me, anyway).   I don’t recall Catholicism having anything to say about stress relief, although many Catholics were and are very involved in healthcare.  Another way it is pragmatic is how it embraces a lot from other religions.  It seems like it tries to embrace whatever is good or makes sense from other religions.  For example, there was a series of books on the usual spiritual topics like “love”, “death”, “inner peace”.  Those books have chapters written by people from a variety of religions-the love one included Muslim and Catholic writers. 

 

There was a small selection of idols and some idols that can even be put in the car (Satya decided against those because he was afraid that the idol would become unstuck, fall to the car floor and thus be an insult to the god).  Those aren’t really so different from the statues or amulets that Catholics sometimes have in their cars.  Satya was happy to discover that the gift shop also had the same comic books that he read as a child.  The comic books are about different gods, goddesses, and Hindu myths.  We bought three.  Those comic books will be a later blog post. 

 

Overall, I thought the temple was a fascinating place.  I think it merges the spiritual with the practical very well.  I like how modern life is incorporated-for example, you can go to the temple and get a “car puja”.  I liked the peace of the temple.  I don’t know yet how much Hinduism I will incorporate into my own beliefs.

My first visit to a South Indian Temple

Yesterday we went to a large South Indian temple.  It was the first time I’d been to a South Indian temple.  The first thing that sticks out most in my mind is that the temple did have the feeling of the holy and the sacred.  I wasn’t sure I’d feel that as my grasp of Hinduism is tenuous at the moment and because not all churches even give me that feeling.  My second reaction is admiration of how well-run it is, how people are pleasant, and how beautiful it is.

 

Below is a more detailed account:

 

We arrived in the rear of the temple.  The parking spaces closest to the door are reserved for handicapped people and for temple volunteers.  There are many volunteers.  As we approached the door, there were signs reminding people that the walkway is not a play area.  The first thing I worried about was my shoes.  I was searching for a place to take them off as wearing shoes is a taboo in the house, especially in front of home altars, and even more so for temples.  There was a smiling priest near the entrance who gestured for us to continue inside to find a place to take off our shoes.  We walked around the lower level of the temple passing the gift shop and went around to where we could take our coats off.  Then, we walked some more and found the room to take off our shoes.  Most people also took off their socks too which surprised me a little. 

 

Next, we saw the washing station.  It is two low faucets that are motion activated.  There is a sign reminding people to wash their hands and feet.  Then we left that room and climbed the stairs to the holy part of the temple.  Right at the entrance to the that part is a place where people can purchase the things they need (like flowers, for example) to do their pujas.

 

Finally, we entered the prayer area.  This was a large area with small altars to many different gods.  Each god or goddess was lovingly dressed.  Even the linga which is Shiva was dressed with cloth wrapped around it.  Lingas are stones in the shape of cylinders, they are not in human shape so it surprised me that had cloth wrapped around it. Satya says that every day before the temple is opened that they are washed and dressed.  Each altar is based on a design from a temple in India.  Satya liked to point out which aspects were from Karnataka.  Each altar is labeled with the name(s) of the god(s) or goddess(es).   Around the room were religious sayings carved into the wall stones.  The sayings were written first in Hindi or Sanskrit and below had an English translation.  Each altar had a large box beside it labeled “Hundi”.  People can put their monetary offerings into the boxes.  Some of the altars had plates with red powder.  People can anoint their foreheads or necks with the powder.

 

We walked around to each altar and said a short prayer at each.  Some of the gods and goddesses were familiar to me like Ganesha, Shiva and some were unfamiliar like Ambika or the 9 that represent different parts of the day (some of the 9 are benevolent and you pray for their help and some are not, so you pray that they leave you alone).

 

Then, we stood in line for a blessing from the priests.  In the middle of the room is a much larger altar with a very large god inside.  The god is covered in flowers and dressed.  There is a priest who stands inside chanting.  Outside, people stand.  People join in the crowd at any time, it isn’t necessary to be present for the whole ritual.  It reminded me of a Greek Orthodox service in that way-people come and go, but towards the end many people are there.  At the end, one priest walks in the middle holding the plate with the lamp.  People hold their hands over the flame and then bring their hands to their forehead.  Some also bring their hands to their forehead and then over their heads as if they are washing themselves.  People can leave monetary offerings on the plate. 

 

Next, two more priests come around.  One holds a hat-shaped object.  To get this blessing, you bow your head and the priest will put it on your head for a second or two.  There is also a priest who will put a juice or oil (coconut, I think) into your hand.  For this, Satya told me to hold my hands like for Catholic communion-cupped with the right hand over the left.  The priest will put the juice or oil into the right palm.  Then, you are to drink it.  Anything leftover you put into your hair instead of rubbing into the left hand or rubbing it off on your clothes.  Finally, a priest came around with a spoon and put a spoonful of raisins into everyone’s hand.  Satya was disappointed that none of the priests offered us flowers.  He said that sometimes the priests will gather the flowers that fall from the gods or goddesses and give them to the waiting people.  After the raisins, the ceremony was over and everyone dispersed.

 

We sat on the floor for a while praying and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.  Satya told me that in some old temples in India there are checker or chessboards carved into the floors.  Temples used to be community gathering places where people would relax with their friends and play games in addition to praying.  There were others sitting on the floor too.  At the back there were a few folding chairs. 

 

I enjoyed looking at the people.  The little girls were very cute.  Small baby girls wear little anklets with bells on them.  Older girls wear long, brightly colored dresses and tops or tunics and leggings like salwar kameezes.  Most young girls don’t wear sarees. One young girl had white flowers strung into her ponytail.  It is very traditional in South India for girls and women to have white flowers, usually jasmine, in their hair. Boys do not wear traditional clothing.  Some women wore sarees or tunics but many also wore regular sweaters and jeans.  The priests wore traditional clothing, but the men did not.

 

Some families performed special pujas.  One family we saw sat on the ground on a narrow red rug.  It looked like there were parents, grandparents, and small kids.  A priest sat in front of them chanting prayers.  Near another altar was an area where people could smash coconuts.  Coconuts are often used in South Indian ceremonies.

 

I liked the atmosphere of the temple and how relaxed it was.  Everyone was intent on their own prayers-some walking around and praying.  Others sitting on the ground and praying or quietly chatting with friends and family.  Some prostrated themselves in front of a particular altar. 

 

I enjoyed seeing the families together.  Grandparents would show their grandchildren what to do.  I like how participatory many rituals are.  Kids can help break coconuts and put flowers on the altars. 

 

We hope to visit more.  Satya hadn’t been there for three or four years.  We hope to go once or twice a month.  It is a long drive for us-over an hour each way, but we thought that it was worth the drive.  

 

My next entry will be about the temple cafeteria and gift shop.

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