Tonight, I am in the 70’s room. That’s what I am calling it. Floor to ceiling windows, wick furniture, mood setting lights, bright art and matching rugs. It’s an architectural/designer masterpiece. Murti’s brought me coffee, and (at uncle’s request as I am home alone), a beer.
I am reflecting on the temples. Mostly because I have never been inside a Hindu Temple until Srirangapatna. Even now, I’m not certain that I should have—not certain that I did not disturb some secret, ancestral rule of religious policy, not certain that I did not see some things that were not meant for eyes like mine. However, we were respectful, removing our shoes before the entrance, walking barefoot on the hot ground. We did bow before Krishna, brush the scented smoke from lit candles over our heads. We left our donation, and were quiet, respectful, and listening. But I’m still struck with the strangeness of it all.
I love world religions. I love the beauty of a religion like Hindu—the peacefulness of it all, the richness and the colors and tokens of prayer and well wishes. It’s a warm and welcoming religion. But (you know there must be a but coming), there was something about this temple.
By something, I mean perhaps that I was caught off guard by the dark and gloomy atmosphere. After all, these are ancient ruins. For reference, it is like being inside a Pyramid, or the entrance to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. It is not well lit, and is thoroughly protected from the elements—the thick stone walls make it feel cold. The people around us stare, because clearly we are not familiar faces to these gods—although I like to think that gods are gods are gods for every man and that ought to be enough. But Indians do have their national pride, as do we all. I’ve seen Americans do no different.
There is no way for me to explain what I saw in there—and I feel that a certain amount of traditions must be held sacred. I will not scrutinize them in a blog post, as they hold their values to the people they are meant to inspire. I was raised Christian and we eat the body of Christ and that’s probably pretty damned strange to a lot of people so I accept that ritual means what it needs to from one man to the next.
But this temple was dark. I don’t mean the lighting I mean a little of the energy. I didn’t feel the beauty of religion, hope, promise that I thought I would. I didn’t walk out feeling awed or inspired, and that’s unusual for me. As an extremely spiritual human being, it takes a mere flicker of a candle to make me feel the warmth of otherworldly things blossom in my chest. So why not here?
It was unusual. And perhaps there was something there that I had missed—or perhaps this was no place for me and that lesson made itself known. I’m not certain that I can explain it any further. But I know that I just felt a sort of creeping darkness in those damp walls—the kind that makes me glad for daylight. That makes me yearn to wash my body, so that the darkness clinging to the lining of my skin will not remain.
I have visited other temples since then, in which I didn’t feel the oddness I felt there. And I understand that for some, that temple is a place of pilgrimage. For some, it is holy ground—a once in a lifetime experience to hear the whispers of the gods that linger in long hallways. I just didn’t get that there. And that’s okay—you don’t always get it all. Part of travel, of culture and immersion, is just that you try.