Day 3 Up The Ganges……………
First visit of the Day was to the Hindu BirlaTemple which is dedicated to Lakshmi the goddess of wealth……….(yep, I could certainly do with some of that), we took off our shoes and socks, and no cameras were allowed. The inside of the temple contained some beautiful statues of various gods and goddesses including Shiva, Kali and the elephant god Ganesh. Ajay, our tour leader, explained aspects of Hinduism, and the ways of Hindu family life.
The highlight of my day was the visit to the Sikh temple, or Gurdwara, called the Bangla Sahib. On the path to the temple the first thing I became aware of, even before I saw the building was the sound of music, singing and chanting. Then, rounding a corner, I saw the beautiful white marble building with it's golden domes.
To the right of the main building is a huge pond, considered to contain holy water, known as Amrit, and there was a constant stream of people coming to the waters edge and splashing their heads, hands and faces.
All the time the singing, which seemed to be a constant repetition of devotional chanting, filled the background – it had a hypnotic resonance for me – you could feel the spiritual atmosphere.
The lines of people waiting to give in their shoes before entering the complex were mainly, but not restricted to, Sikhs. There were many turbans of different styles and colours, and everyone had to have their head covered before entering.
We sat in the main building and watched the priests and musician singing and chanting, all the while, a constant stream of devotees passed through to offer their prayers.
All work carried out at the temple is by Sikh volunteers, and it's a great honour to be chosen to provide services to all people's who visit the Gurdwara.
On the complex is a huge dining hall where the volunteers offer free food to any one who needs or wants it. We saw groups of people sitting cross legged waiting for their turn to file inside and sit in rows, there to be served by the volunteers. As they waited they chanted over, and over Sat Nam, Sat Nam, Sat Nam – a devotional chant to their one and only true God.
The kitchens where the food donations were turned into meals for thousands of people every day were incredible…………….the volunteers stirred huge pots of curries, other massive pots sat on fired stoves being heated up. People sat on small benches in groups carrying out various food prep jobs; rolling breads, making chupaties and nan breads. Patting the dough, rolling it out; before passing from hand to hand then, when it was the right size and shape, it was tossed onto the cooking grill where it was flipped over a couple of times with a metal rod until ready to be collected ready for serving.
As we walked round taking our shots I couldn't help but be struck again by the good naturedness of the people working there who didn't mind one little bit the group of western tourists snapping away with their cameras. The feeling of a connection with a stranger who engages with you, and smiles back is something I'll never forget – I'll always remember the sights, sounds and smells of that kitchen. And all the time, faintly now, the sound of the hypnotic, spiritual, devotional chanting still floating out of the main building.
Connecting with the goodness in people whose desire it is to help other human beings in such an unselfish and loving way reached somewhere deep inside me and when I got outside I felt really humbled, and so emotional – it brought tears to my eyes!
That night we left Delhi on the sleeper train for Haridwar and Rishikesh. I've had a fantastic visit to Delhi. When I first arrived I thought I'd landed on another planet! I've seen the best and the worst…….fantastic buildings, temples and monuments, and in contrast, abject poverty ………. endured by people who can still find it in their hearts to smile at you and say hello.
Footnote: it's Wednesday today and we're in Rishikesh. I'm hoping to find the time today to write about the “interesting” sleeper train journey (yes, the train was equipped with those luxurious squat toilets!!!)' and whacky and wonderful Rishikesh. It may be a couple of days before I can update my blog again.
I'm having a wonderful time and starting to relax now……..apart from this morning's calamatous tuk-tuk ride with a marijouana smoking driver! My cold is subsiding, and my gall bladder is coping admirably with the Indian food (low fat of course but delicious), had curry every day!
Our group leader Ajay, is excellent, and looking after us all very well – first class, nothing is too much trouble for him.
Our group are all very nice……a real good mix of people – of course, I'm the quiet one in the group ……yeah right!!
Off now to sit by the Ganges and meditate for a while – hope to upload soon. xxx to all