Saturday, January 14, 2006

Saturday night with the locals!

9 on a Saturday evening and I’m beat. It's been a phenomenal couple of days here. Though I took the laptop with me to Coorg I didn't even take it out of my bag. Before I get into the brilliant weekend I would like to document the incredible experience I had at the Ganesha Temple across the street from my flat.

Now, I sit puja every morning and evening and have for almost a year but I do it in my own way. I simply light a candle, do some chanting and meditate. For a while there I was using prasad but the cats kept on eating the rice so I gave up on that. Anyhow, after chats at the Green Leaf the Australians dropped me off at my flat and rather than go inside I walked across the street and finally decided to take the plunge and sit puja at the temple. I stood across the street for a while and then went over. I went across the road, took off my shoes, stood at the door of the temple, brought my hands together at my heart and bowed my head. Through the doorway Ganesha looked back at me. Usually he is a bright white but this evening, for the full moon, he was bright red, almost orange. There were two young priests in the temple taking the prasad and presenting it to Ganesh. A group of women and children were sitting around the doors of the temple and there were a few men standing or sitting off to the left of the door. I walked over towards the men and sat down trying my best to observe what was going on without looking like too much of a sore thumb. A few of the women seemed really pleased to see me there and actually motioned for me to move up in front of the doors and approach the anji and put a red dot on my head. I declined with a smile and sat there taking in all the chants.

What a wonderful scene, the children were all smiling at me and playing shy hiding behind their mother's saris. The lights, the flowers and the incense were so sublime and inviting. I sat there enjoying the energy for a long time and then decided that I should probably move along. I went to get up and leave when a man with a white shirt came quickly towards me from the back of the temple, took me by the shoulders and said, "no, no, you sit here" as he pulled me down and sat me next to another man. The chanting became more intense and when the bells were rung we all put our hands together in front of our hearts. This went on for a while and then an old priest came round and took money from certain people who wanted special puja done. He quickly gathered the information he needed, wrote their intent out on pink slips of paper and gave it to the devotees. After he had finished everyone stood up. I waked towards the front of the door to see inside the temple and was quickly grabbed by the white shirted man who put a rope in my hand. The rope was attached to a large bell above me and I was instructed to ring it. On the other side of the temple door a woman was ringing an identical bell. This was soo cool. Everyone was smiling at me. I must have had the biggest grin on my face as everyone was chanting and playing gongs.

The anji was lit inside the temple and as we stopped ringing the bells one of the young priests brought the anji and a bowl full of herbs and flowers out of the temple and into the crowd. Everyone threw a coin on the tray that had the anji on it and as they did they touched the flame and then brought their hand to their eyes or heart. They did this three times and then put their hand on the herbs and then took it to their foreheads. I did the same with everyone around me making sure that I did it and did it correctly. They all seemed completely thrilled that I had joined them. A group of men came over and started talking to me about where I lived and what I was doing in Mysore. I told them my story and they explained how good Ganesha was for my yoga. I agreed and told them I sat puja everyday in America. One round man named Bhabhu was so excited that he grabbed me and brought me around the back to the temple to the front of the prasad line! We went through the line together and I was given milk, flowers and rice. Though I was supposed to drink it I placed the milk on my heart (oops) and Bhabhu showed me that I was to put the flowers in my hair and eat the rice. The rice was warm and sweet. In a different situation I wouldn't of ate it but being welcomed by these people so completely I couldn't be rude and refuse the prasad.

So I stood there speaking with the men, Bhabhu and Sashi in particular, for a while. I was just beaming! What a great experience for someone who had dreamed of sitting a proper puja in India for ages. After a while I decided that I needed to get home and get ready for sleep. Which is actually what I intend to do right now. I've got practice at 5 am in the morning and need it. I'll write more about the trip to Coorg tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what a joyous experience!
John and I are so happy for you! What a fantastic welcoming!
- Love & Light,
Mira& John.