India is a land of many mysteries, but its temples are the foremost of them. Some speculate that they might have been UFO landing sites; others say that they were simply places for religious rituals. I am not talking about temples that have been built recently, those brick and mortar sites that dot India’s landscapes and dominate foreign perception of India; No, I am talking about temples of days long gone by, the temples that are now UNESCO world heritage sites(most of them are, anyways). Whatever they were built for, one thing to me is clear; they were not places for rituals alone. As I have already mentioned in my earlier blogs, the Indians were a highly advanced civilization and it seems absurd that such a civilization would build innumerable temples merely for idol worship. I recently had embarked on a pilgrimage (Ashtavinayak or the eight Ganapatis).
An interesting fact about these temples is that all their doorways are really low. That was the Peshwa way of ensuring that everybody bowed before God when they came in and went out of the inner sanctum. The original carvings and wood have been preserved as they were when they were built by the Peshwas but the temples themselves aren’t in their prime; they have been repainted in gaudy colours, they have railings installed all over the place, innumerable tourists are scattered over the place pointing, laughing and taking pictures and in some places ancient structures have been modified to make way for air conditioners and fans.
But even all this does nothing to reduce the spiritualism and mysticism of the place. There is an energy that prevails in all the eight temples, an ancient energy that is all-encompassing and yet formless. It is this energy that calms and energizes, relaxes and invigorates all at the same time. My belief is that it was due to this energy that the ancient Indians visited the temples i.e. these temples were places for spiritualism, reinvigoration and socialization among society, not to worship.
Though not a part of the traditional Ashtavinayak pilgrimage, I also visited Jejuri, the city of the mythical god Malhar (popularly known as Khandoba), the Maharashtrian incarnation of Shiva the destroyer. There is a tradition that involves hurling turmeric in the air. As a result, the entire place is bathed in turmeric, which imparts a wonderful yellow-golden colour. If you were to come across a huge yellow temple in the middle of a city b
athed in turmeric would you feel that you have come to the right place? I sure did. The earth, the carved stone and the turmeric in some strange way fitted together perfectly. The humongous crowd, the long flights of stairs and the turmeric did not distract but instead contributed to the extraordinary beauty of the place. The atmosphere there is electric with energy, and you feel as if sparks are going to fly in the air any moment. You have to go there and experience it for yourself to believe it.