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temples and elephants

June 19, 2012

We have visited the temple, a huge structure that literally covers acres of land. Inside we are greeted by a very elderly elephant painted black and decorated with a white painted design of its truck. The poor beast has been trained to collect money in its trunk and then give a blessing to the pilgrim by putting the said truck on his or her head. Being a Hindu temple I declined the blessing, but was `volunteered` by Kerry to climb onto the beast and sit astride its neck for payment of a bundle of Rupees. I have never ridden a elephant before, so cannot contrast the experience. But my hunch is that this wasn ’t much of a ride!

In  another temple we were shown round by the guide (100 Rupees per visitor) who claimed that the temple was 3500 years old and was built on the site of the Mango tree where the Hindu gods got married. I may have missed it but the only Mango tree I saw was carved stylistically  in the stonework.

India is often called `spiritual`, by which it means that people are not afraid to express their faith as we are in the West. In addition to the temples, there are Sikh gudwarass, Muslim mosques, and churches af all descriptions from Pentecostal to Catholic and everything in between. We are of course being hosted by the Catholics who seem to have managed to sort out what needs to be done for developing people out of poverty. It is very moving to see how faith and action are practiced together, as two sides of the same coin. On Sunday Father Suresh offered to say a mass for us. There was no pressure put on anyone to join in, but nonetheless about half of the group though they would try it. I managed to remember some of the responses from my time as an Anglican, but for some of the young people this was the first time they had experienced organised religion. That simply could not happen in this part of India.

The previous week we had visited Auroville, the centre started to encourage `non religious` contemplation. On the massive site are four domes around a central dome where those who wish to contemplate can do so in the presence of the crystal. I couldn’t help thinking that this was no way the solve the worlds problems, no matter how long is spent in contemplation sooner or later the pilgrim has to return to a world that is still broken, riven with injustice and suffering.

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