I have gone to Simhachalam (which is a temple on the hill in Visakhapatnam) twice since I’ve been here, but have not blogged about it yet.
We go to temples here all the time because temples are everywhere. Don’t get me wrong – they’re super cool – but sometimes we grow a teensy bit weary of them. But, Meghan McGrath had the genius idea to play Temple Bingo. Now, I usually hate games, but I like Temple Bingo. I even learn more from temple trips playing bingo than I normally do. It helps me focus on the experience, as well as recognize all the awesome quirks of India. Win-win! Here are some things to search for in India temples:
- someone’s sari is adjusted, either with permission or coercion by an old lady (so, women are constantly fixing our saris here. If it isn’t wrapped perfectly (which it never is, because sari wrapping is near impossible), a random woman will grab you and pull you aside and completely re-wrap you.)
- rat tail hair
- ladoo (an Indian sweet you sometimes receive after worshipping)
- woman who is ambiguously old
- bindi obscured, due to pouring of un-drunk water ( so, the priest puts water in your hands as part of the pooja (aka worship) and you are supposed to drink it out of your hands, and then pour the excess water over your head. Well, most of us never drink the water because that’s sketch, and so we pretend-drink and then sometimes tons of water ends up running down your head or face, thus messing up the bindi. Ps, bindi is the read dot that is put on your forehead any time you visit a temple. Lest you think I’m being a poser by wearing the dot – Trevor.)
- crusty Prasad (Prasad is food you get after pooja. Sometimes it's rice or sweet, and sometimes it’s crusty. Enough said.)
- jovial, bulbous-bellied priest
- Viraju takes a picture (a man who is working for the program. He’s super awesome, but he got put in charge of photographically documenting our trips. Not annoying at all. Funny story about him: the other day my friend Dan was sitting in a room with Viraju. Viraju is a very gentle, soft-spoken person, and Dan noticed that Viraju was shivering. Dan was shocked (because it's steamy hot here), and said, "Are you cold?!" And chattering-teeth Viraju just said, "The fan. I will be okay." And that had nothing to do with temples...)
- Small children that belong to apparently no one (children are always running loose)
- Anthropomorphized monkey sculpture (aka Hanuman, Indian deity who is like a monkey God)
Anyway, that gives you a taste of Indian temples.
Simhachalam is an especially awesome temple. We have some good connections, so one time we were able to go deep into the temple and actually see the deity there, which was rare. (The deity was actually covered with sandalwood paste, and is uncovered only once a year.) At another point in the temple, you do this pooja where you hug a pillar and make a wish. If your wish comes true, then you are supposed to return to worship at the temple to thank the deity.
At this temple, they also have this huge room where everyone is getting their heads shaved. You can make a vow with a God that if he does something for you, you will shave your head in return. Many people have their prayers granted, and return to Simhachalam to have their heads shaved as a token of gratitude to the deity.
Oh, and there is also a sacred spring people wash in. And, parts of the temple were under construction, so sorry the pictures of the temple aren’t that great.
And - eating my first ladoo (i.e. of a prasad):