Saturday, September 10, 2016

Photo please….ten rupees

On Friday we made the decision to move out of the guesthouse and into a hotel.  The Guesthouse was NOT comfortable and the thought of trying to relax there all weekend was too much to deal with!!

On Saturday, we had another fun day planned with Chalo Heritage & Nature Walks.  This time we were excited to be joined by Rashid’s wife, Jan who was born in Southern Ireland, but  fell in love with India (and Rashid)!!

We had given them the power to choose where we visited and they picked the Jejuri Temple, the main temple of Lord Khandoba, a form of the god, Vishnu. 

They picked us up at the hotel and we enjoyed a 45 minute drive thru the town of Saswad, arriving at the temple complex entrance.  We loved this ox cart driver talking on his cell phone…..IMG_8254

….such a dichotomy!!

Rashid found a parking place and was immediately blocked in by another car and an auto rickshaw.   We wondered if we would ever be able to get out again.

The street leading to the temple complex was lined with stores selling Turmeric powder ….

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…and other interesting accoutrements….

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Two boys asked us to take their photo and the group quickly grew from two to FIVE…..

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The first shrine that we saw gave a hint of things to come……

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….as did this powder encrusted pup…..

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We now began the long climb up the steps leading to the temple…..

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There were litters and litter bearers available to carry the less athletic up the stairs…..

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Although this lady did not look particularly comfortable with her descent….

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There were stalls and vendors all along the stairs…..

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…and we were bombarded with offers of goods and services.

This young man was hurling coconuts onto the steps to break them open….IMG_8295

Rashid told us that this is a symbolic gesture.   The coconut represents the head and breaking it breaks the ego and then it can be offered to the god…..or eaten as the case may be!!  Just after this one was broken open, another gentleman picked up two pieces and offered them to us.   We ate them…..IMG_8300

…repeating our mantra that “we have antibiotics” (for any potential stomach upsets)!!

We laughed watching the people come down the steps as they were covered with hand prints of turmeric…..

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Rashid and Jan had told us that two times each year (on new moon Mondays) the god was put on a horse and ridden down the steps and then dunked in a pool to be cleaned.  There is a special horse that carries the idol and we figured that he had the best job in the world….work two days and have 363 off!!!   The horse breed is called Mawari  and can be recognized by the ears that point inward.   There was no photography allowed of the holy horse, but here is a photo from the internet…..

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All along the stair route, worshipers were putting the yellow powder on their hands and arms.   One man put his forehead into the pile of Turmeric and came up with it covering his hair and forehead.

The stalls were all filled with interesting delights…..IMG_8311

We hadn’t walked far when I was approached by a man and his two sons, asking if I would take a photo with them…..

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A few minutes later, a woman stall keeper asked where I was from and asked to take a photo with myself and Jan…..

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As other people walked past, the woman said “she’s from America” and more photos were requested……IMG_8332

There were MANY such occurrences  through out the day!!  We talked later that, if we had charged 10 Rupees for each photo, we would have paid for our entire tour!!

We continued ever upward…..

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…passing small vignettes of life, including this little boy getting marked for worship…...

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We passed smaller shrines, each covered in bright yellow Turmeric powder…..IMG_8284

….some so encrusted that we couldn’t even tell what the statue was…..IMG_8345

At one point we had to remove our shoes and do the rest of the journey in bare feet.   As we stored them in a small room, we asked how much it cost.  Her answer was simple….”as you wish”!!

We entered the temple proper by stepping OVER the entry stones, continuing to wind our way up tall, deep steps.  We passed thru several metal detectors and each buzzed or dinged as we walked thru.  We asked the purpose of them, and Rashid said (tongue in cheek)  that it just makes sure that they were working.

Many people were selling flowers and other  items to be used in worship…..DSC08776

We were intrigued with this man in his Turmeric covered turban….

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It is customary for newly married couples to visit this temple to receive a blessing for a long, happy life together.  This woman was one of the people offering such a blessing…..

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There were bells all around the temple complex and I love that the lampstand has peacocks!!!

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This sweet family posed for a photo op……

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….and then later found us and asked for us to take one with them!!

This very nice couple did the same thing…..

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As we approached the main temple, there was a large bronze disc that had people sitting or laying in worship and others throwing the turmeric powder high into the air……

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The powder was raining down…..

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All of the powder flying in the air seemed to eclipse the beautiful design on the temple and I honestly never got a good photo of it…

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Rashid was telling us about a huge sword that was displayed in the complex, and one of the guides there asked if we wanted to see it.   We went into a side room and Rashid (on the right) and the two other men pulled it out of the safe…..

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….and then encouraged Michael to pick it up……

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The guy in the back (all in yellow) said that he would take us thru a private entrance if we wanted to see inside the temple (for a fee of course).  We didn’t really want to stand in the long line so agreed to his price.   

Now came the surreal part of the day…..

We walked thru a series of metal detectors and iron barred walkways (stepping on something gooey along the way but refusing to think about it)……DSC08801

…to reach the (very small) inner sanctum of the temple.   After crossing the threshold we could see a line of worshipers and a turmeric covered horse statue…..IMG_8422

We walked up to the god and were given a handful of powder to throw and at this point, all photography ceased as we tried valiantly to keep the cameras clean.   After we threw the turmeric, we were each handed a coconut.  We moved to the next station and were marked with the powder.   The guy was pretty nice to me…..

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….but he laid it on thick for Michael…..DSC08805 

After we left the temple we were told that we had to walk around the temple one time, stopping to throw powder at the front and then give away all of our coconuts on the way down.    We honestly started to wonder if they were making it up as they went, just to see exactly how far we would go….silly Americans!!!!

There was much laughter along the way…..

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We continued walking around the courtyard to begin our descent, passing a place that you could sit and have lunch…..

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….although Jan strongly suggested that we keep walking!!!

We passed thru a series of porticos that had wonderful quilt designs (maybe they will show up in my artwork at some later time)…..DSC08827

….and lots of families eating their lunches.   This smiling young man let me take his photo…..

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We slowly made our way down the steps, finally finding our shoes.  Rashid kept stopping to give away our coconuts to those in need…..

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…although one got loose and we watched the “holy” coconut careen down the steps!!

I loved this stall carrying bangles….

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We returned to the car and found it well and truly blocked in……

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….but by the time we had used Jan’s wet wipes to clean ourselves up…..IMG_8482

….the way was clear for us to leave.

We had one stop on the way home to eat lunch at Vithal Kamals, a chain restaurant  that is known for its cleanliness.  Michael and I both had a Dosa with curried potato stuffing…..DSC08872

It was so yummy!!

As we neared the hotel, I told Jan that my original thought had been “Not another temple!!”,  but this had proven to be a magnificent day in a fantastic place and like no other temple we had ever seen.  They told us that they only did this tour for “special” people, but we are pretty sure that the word they were looking for was really CRAZHY.  And, it seems that we DO fit that bill!!!

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