Diwali: (Hindu New Year) Intro to God/desses
My Barefoot Buddha (BB) look-a-like in-a-loincloth greeted me warmly and, after I told him about Thirty by Thirty, offered to give me a tour and explanation of the temple goings-on. His manner matched his jolly, pot-bellied look: friendly, sweet and funny. After seeing his attire and noticing several other shirtless men and several almost-shirtless women, my fears about the Very Sari melted away. I couldn’t do anything about being white, but at least the dress was OK and no one was laughing at me (that I know of).
Now, dear readers, if you have ever taken the time to consider what the inside of a Hindu temple might look like, perhaps you will understand my confusion when I noticed it was constructed of drywall and indoor/outdoor carpet.(I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised since the majority of new church building in the US are similarly constructed, but I did feel slightly…let down.) I was expecting stone! And more stone! Maybe even ruins!
Well. What the room lacked in stone it made up for in statues of gods and goddesses. BB instructed me to move only counter-clockwise around the perimeter and to take a lap to greet each god/goddess before continuing on to the next. “Greeting” includes a combination of possible rituals including bowing ( at the waist or prostrating on the floor), silent prayer, the offering of gifts (money, flowers, fruit). Prostration in the Very Sari was impossible and I didn’t have any gifts to bring, so I settled on a slight bow and silent prayer. So I greeted (nicely, I hope) each multi-breasted/handed/headed statue with as much reverence as I could muster. The process much reminded me of curtsying and crossing before a crucifix in the Catholic church, if said crucifix were to have multiple appendages and expressions, and be located behind a pane of glass, much like a very large jewelry display case. The glass is so the gods are not defiled by human touch, and there are so many because people need different representations to relate to the Divine. Now. That is something I can get behind. BB and I briefly discussed how the idea of a male-only god could get in the way of reaching the divine for someone who had say, been abused by a man.
[I really like the idea of a female half of God. Isn't there something terribly lacking about a patriarchal God who is oh-so-ready-to-smite you but is also the epitome of Love? Catholics partially remedy this with the idea of our Mother, the Virgin Mary. Throughout mystic history, it is not God the Father but rather the Divine Mother who often appears to distribute Love and Light to mortals. Much like the multiple renderings of Hindu gods,Catholics also utilize Saints for divine inspiration, a whole lot of them in fact. I vividly recall seeing (greeting?) relics of the Saints behind glass walls in the cathedrals of Europe: bones,parts of garments, chips of earthenware, they were all "greeted" by reverent Catholic pilgrims. Granted, no one prostrated fully. But more than one looked like they wanted to, with"crazy eyes" that seemed to say if I can only get close enough I could touch the divine. None of the Hindus looked particularly crazy, but the goal of their greeting devotion seemed clear:I come before you, offering myself and my gifts, that I might be blessed.Not much different than a Christian pre-tithe prayer, is it?]
I liked all of the god/desses (once I got used to their snaky arms and squat hips), but my absolute favorite was the Unknown Fountain. (I’m quite sure that wasn’t its name, but that is how I remember it.) As I mentioned, all the other god-shrines are behind glass…except this one. A little, closed room, it features a running fountain in the middle with just enough room around the outside to shuffle single-file around it. What’s this I inquire of BB. He smiles widely. This is our monument to the invisible God who cannot be seen, who is too vast to be contained.
This is a God I know.
So I follow the line around the fountain, carefully copying the actions of the people in front of me. Walk halfway around the fountain. Stop. Bow head. Pick up ladle. Dip into fountain. Pour water over top stone. Dip hand in fountain, touch water to forehead. Kiss hand. Exit.
Whatd’ya know…surprise!…Holy (Hindu) Water! And a monument to The God Who Cannot Be Seen.
“For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ ” Acts Chapter 17
To be continued…
Like this? You can find Thirty By Thirty on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Thirtybythirty or follow on Twitter at ThirtyByThirty@RebaRiley