Just as exciting as I though it would be. Mary and Amanda proposed that we go to a Hindu Temple…we got off the taxicab, because you couldn’t take a rickshaw into the city. After several attempts to cross the street, or maybe the multiple intersections that seem to become a single street, there were stands and men calling to us pointing to our shoes…I did not know what to think of it, until… I glanced around me and look all the other people with no shoes forming a single line leading to the security entrance of the temple. It appears that you can pay for someone to watch your shoes until you come back out from the temple…. then we figured…we are just going to hold our shoes once we take them off …there is no guarantee we find them after we were told. As we made the single file line there were many stands right next to each other selling orange chrysanthemums with some other greenery plants, and small coconuts, all very tightly packed in a rectangular box that was carried all the way to the altar. There were many people holding offerings, so we decided to do the same as the locals. As we got closer to the security area, there were two lines, one for men and other one for women. Apparently, there is still sex segregation here in India; women only walk along other women and men are always together in groups, there is no holding hands or demonstration of affection in public between a man and a woman. Women are always taking care of their children, either taking them to school and picking them up from school, doing the laundry, preparing the meals, cleaning and up keeping of their home; that is, a totally men dominated society where women are told what to do, when and how to do it.
I learn that cameras are not allowed in government institutions and temples; as I was going through the security check at the temple, my camera was detected in the X-ray machine, and screaming from one of the guards made my head turned; he kept on shouting “no camera, no camera”!! And pointing to the exit sign…as I figured out, they were trying to tell me that there was a line on the side of the temple where I could leave my camera while I am inside the temple. I was hesitant to leave my camera and leave it in exchange for what it seemed as a round casino chip with a number printed on it, but all that matter at the moment was to get into the temple and be part of such an authentic experience.
It was now the time to take out our shoes off, we looked at each other, and we thought….”are we really doing this”? There was no choice, it was the norm and out of respect it was the right thing to do. We continued our walk towards the multiple entrances; we took off our shoes and walked in the wet, uneven, and cracked into a million tiny pieces of concrete where millions of devoting Hindus have walked before…. There were many lines forming on the gates to enter into the temple. Some lead to the altar, and some not. As we found out, the first time around we made the wrong line which only allowed us to look at the altar from the outside, so we decided to make the one that lead us into the altar…. that was one of the longest lines I have ever made…. with no shoes on.
Looking to my left there was Ganesha. He is worshipped as the lord of beginnings and as the lord of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences, and the god of intellect and wisdom. Hindu mythology presents many stories, which explain how Ganesha obtained his elephant or gaja head. Often, the origin of this particular attribute is to be found in the same anecdotes, which tell about his birth. The stories also reveal the origins of the enormous popularity of his cult. Devotees sometimes interpret his elephant head as indicating intelligence, discriminative power, fidelity, or other attributes thought to be had by elephants. The large elephant ears are said to denote wisdom and the ability to listen to people who seek help.
The most well-known story is probably the one taken from the Shiva Purana. Once, while his mother Parvati wanted to take a bath, there were no attendants around to guard her and stop anyone from accidentally entering the house. Hence she created an image of a boy out of turmetic paste, which she prepared to cleanse her body (turmeric was used for its antiseptic and cooling properties), and infused life into it, and thus Ganesha was born. Parvati ordered Ganesha not to allow anyone to enter the house, and Ganesha obediently followed his mother’s orders. After a while Shiva returned from outside, and as he tried to enter the house, Ganesha stopped him. Shiva was infuriated at this strange little boy who dared to challenge him. He told Ganesha that he was Parvati’s husband, and demanded that Ganesha let him go in. But Ganesha would not hear any person’s word other than his dear mother’s. Shiva lost his patience and had a fierce battle with Ganesha. At last he severed Ganesha’s head with his trishula. When Parvati came out and saw her son’s lifeless body, she was very angry and sad. She demanded that Shiva restore Ganesha’s life at once.
Unfortunately, Shiva’s trishula was so powerful that it had hurled Ganesha’s head very far off. All attempts to find the head were in vain. As a last resort, Shiva approached Brahma who suggested that he replace Ganesha’s head with the first living being that came his way which lay with its head facing north. Shiva then sent his celestial armies (Gana) to find and take the head of whatever creature they happened to find asleep with its head-facing north. They found a dying elephant which slept in this manner, and after its death took its head, attaching the elephant’s head to Ganesha’s body and bringing him back to life. From then on, he was called Ganapathi, head of the celestial armies, and was to be worshipped by everyone before beginning any activity.
As we got closer and closer to the altar where Ganesha was, the more the crowd pushed us towards it, and fervent devotees where lying in the ground adoring their God. There were three, baring chest men wrapped around their waists with something that seemed as a white Scottish skirt. They were received the offerings, let them touch the altar and returning them to their owners. We managed to exit the temple following the exit signs. There was a man giving out pieces of blessed coconut and everyone wanted a piece.