Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Visit to Another World

After reading about my fascination with Kurti, Bollywood, and Indian food, I'm sure you can guess where we headed this weekend.

It was an opportunity too good to pass up.

Bernie rather stood out as being different than other visitors.

We explored the shady courtyards, taking in a view to the pavilions on the grounds.

The tall figure to the right of the lake was to be set a-flamed after a celebrations performance of a play (I think that figure is the demon...); the storyline had something to do with Lord Krishna overcoming a demon forget. Remembering demons names: Not for me.

Enormous koi finned around the warm looking pond and made a line toward me as I approached the edge. I suspect that they are conditioned to equate approach with feeding time.

Around the temple was an animal collection. A gorgeous parrot was as interested in seeing me as I was him.

I kept my fingers to myself, but Bernie dared to hold his finger to the bird. The parrot wrapped foot around the finger and pulled.

I missed the shot of my husband holding hands with a parrot!

Llamas had their own barn.

There were llama tethered to a tree in front of the temple too.

The temple cows seemed pretty content with their lives. A huge hump was seen on their withers; I was curious as to why that particular cow was chosen for temple duty. I was informed that cows are never eaten, but rather esteemed for their milk which fed many. I didn't notice an udder though, or bull bits either, so I'm not sure how it all worked but didn't want to ask.

Bernie didn't tell me to look up; he said later that the was an entire flock of regular peacocks roosting on the hay next to the llama barn.

The birds are in molt; no tail fans displayed to catch. I would have liked to see a white peacock tail feathers in display

I once asked my Hindu co-worker, a highly educated man, why his god was blue.
His reply?
"He is blue because he is God."
Well, I couldn't think of another question to ask about it, so the conversation kind of ended there.
I'm still looking for an answer.
Just so you's a bit of background on this guy, if you don't care, skip ahead!

The Vishnu Sahasranama declares Vishnu as Paramatma (supreme soul) and Parameshwara (supreme God). It describes Vishnu as the All-Pervading essence of all beings, the master of—and beyond—the past, present and future, the creator and destroyer of all existences, one who supports, sustains and governs the Universe and originates and develops all elements within.

In the Puranas, Vishnu is described as having the divine colour of water filled clouds, four-armed, holding a lotus, mace, conch and chakra (wheel). Vishnu is also described in the Bhagavad Gita as having a 'Universal Form' (Vishvarupa) which is beyond the ordinary limits of human perception.

The Purana also describe each of the Dasavatara of Vishnu. Among these ten principal avatara described, nine have occurred in the past and one will take place in the future, at the end of Kali Yuga. In the commentary of creator Brahma in Vishnu Sahasranamam, he refers to Vishnu as "Sahasrakoti Yuga Dharine", which means that these incarnations take place in all Yugas in cosmic scales. The Bhagavad Gita mentions their purpose as being to rejuvenate Dharma and vanquish negative forces as also to display His divine pastimes in front of the conditioned/fallen souls. In almost all Hindu denominations, Vishnu is either worshiped directly or in the form of his ten avatara, such as Rama and Krishna.

(At this particular temple, Vishu was being worshipped as Krishna by the way. Oddly, I didn't see any of the airport orange robed people during our visit.)

The Trimurti (English: ‘three forms’; Sanskrit: trimÅ«rti) is a concept in Hinduism "in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer."

These three deities have been called "the Hindu triad" or the "Great Trinity".

Of the three members of the Trimurti, the Bhagavata Purana, which espouses the Vaishnavite viewpoint, explains that the greatest benefit can be had from Vishnu. (From Wikipedia)

The women next to him is Shiva. They are melded in some variation of Hinduism into a combo character.

I've never really tried to understand Hinduism; occasionally I have read some of the stories that are central to the religious system and think they are really cool as folk stories, but for the life of me, I can not understand how anyone would feel inclined, as a modern educated person, to worship the story characters, even as symbolic images.

The upside of Hindu-ism: They are not too happy about the goal of Islam, after being beat up by Islamic crusades in the past.

The down-side: As a Christian, I know those who worship the Hindu gods are lost souls.

Here was an absolutely beautiful structure dedicated to false gods, (or demons as Bernie said), while we worship our Creator and Savior in a converted warehouse. I understand the concept of worship being in one's heart, and not dependent upon a building, but still...well, I've written about this before so I won't repeat myself.

The tethered llama seemed pretty proud of his decorations.

The temple's upper courtyard's gazebo like structures were gorgeous against the blue sky, while hot winds ruffled our hair and blew the sweat off our brows.

The detail work! I've been to the Scottish Roslyn Chapel; it was much more detailed than this building, with carving to illustrate many scriptural details, while this simply had repeated botanical and geometric patterns.

The cathedral doors of Europe also impressed me more.

I took off my shoes, and entered the building, leaving Bernie behind.
He took one quick look around inside, and didn't want to go any farther.
He is far more sensitive to spiritual atmosphere than I am; he felt total oppression inside.
We both noticed that people would not make eye contact with us, or greet us.
It was almost like they shrank from our presence.

Upstairs was the Temple Room.

I didn't learn who this was. The orange robes: Perhaps a founder of the Krishna movement or sect? The garland over his pictures tell me he is 1. Dead 2. A modern era personality.
(If you haven't guessed by now, we had no guide to whom we could make enquiry.)

Who or what was this curious alter designed to honor?

The ceiling was adorned with peacock motif, which I understand has something to do with love, marital bliss and shows up in the blue god and his consort's pictures a lot.

There were panels depicting the couple on each side of the ceiling inset.

The central alter.

I recall when I lived in Houston there was tours given for the opening of the new Hindu temple. I didn't go see, but the newspaper carried an article describing what a visitor would see. The part that had me furrowing my brow was the part about that the "life sized" Hindu god would be on display for certain hours for worship and adoration, then they would "retire' behind drawn curtains, only to reappear later in new costumes. Food would be offered to them a few times a day, for them to bless, and then temple visitors could eat the food that was "blessed", quite a desirable quality added to the dishes.

This Krishna temple was planning on serving "blessed" food later in the day. Knowing this, and loving Indian food, I had to consult the Holy Bible, in the New Testament about what it said again about eating food offered to gods. I never gave that passage much thought before; such foods are not routinely advertised in my neck of the woods.

The scripture basically says if it doesn't bother you to eat the food, dig in, but if it does, then don't as it would be unhealthy for you. Bernie took a quick peek in the kitchen; he didn't want to eat the food prepared there, regardless of whether it had been blessed by Krishna or not!

(I had to suppress a giggle when I overheard a conversation about when the pizza guy was scheduled to arrive...would that be offered to Krishna too? Did Krishna like pizza???? Does he wish he was Italian, like, say, the Pope?)

Another smaller alter off the side had a different collection of figures, who apparently liked personal sized watermelon and apples I wondered how long the food has to stay on the alter being "blessed" before it could be hauled off for regular non-deities to enjoy.

I think the side girls are called Avatars. Not sure about that...not sure if they are like daughters to Krishna or are sexual consorts or ???

Lest you think I am being too flippant about this: I have also taken a tour of a Greek Orthodox church where the priest pointed out the icon of a man next to the opening to the alter. He explained to me that I could always know what the specific name of the Greek Orthodox church I was visiting by looking for the icon to the left of the opening. The saint depicted would be that saint the church was named after.

I didn't have the heart to tell the priest that for me, it would be easier to read the sign outside the church than to memorize the artistic images of all the possible Greek Orthodox saints.

Another altar. Again, not sure if this is a personality, or a concept being portrayed.

This peacock feather fan hung next to the alter. Is it used during ceremonies, or more practically to cool worshippers and chase flies away? (I did notice a considerable amount of peacock and llama and cow dung about the temple grounds.)

A most dramatic scene inside a glass display case. Wonder what is happening?

(And once again, why I think Word is more powerful than Image, and why my God prohibits graven images as part of worship. Images are can be interpreted so erroneously!)

It is a beautiful room. It will be filled with worshippers later....I chose not to be there for the ceremonies.

The bell on the side: a call to worship I suppose. The golden face? Don't have a clue.

Back downstairs a sari clad woman reads next to a case with the Elephant-headed god.

I wonder what my co-worker Predeep would have said if I had asked him why his god had an elephant's head.

The first floor of the temple held a restaurant and a gift shop. The reader had moved to the shop and was engaging in conversation with the woman at the counter when I entered. I asked if I could take her picture; she said yes.

I decided to ask her a few questions about herself. Was she from India?


How did she come to be in America?

She was accepted at the University of Oklahoma to obtain her MBA.

Why did she chose to come here, to Utah?

To meet Krishna. (??? I wish I had asked why she thought she'd have a better chance of meeting Krishna here than back in India.)

She then confessed she didn't want to go back to India and took the opportunity to come here in Utah, where other Indian people lived.

Does she get to go home often?

Yes, about once a year. And if I would like, she would be happy to shop for me when she goes.

(This service was offered after seeing me trying to squeeze my hand into one of the bangle bracelets for sale. India goods are designed to fit Indian people; in other words, petite type bodies. I told her that it would be good to carry larger sizes since so many women are bigger these days than in past days, my daughter is taller than me, and I am taller than my mother. I asked if she was taller then her mother, she laughed and said, yes, very much so.)

So what was the shopping like?

Oh to be a six six, or eight, or even size ten!
Can you believe this outfit, which included a top, pants and a matching seven foot long scarf was selling for $25?

All the clothing had 1 1/2 inch seam allowances; it took a bit but I finally found one sulwar kameez suit that would fit me with a bit of letting out, and a matching bracelet. Score!

Yes, it was a very interesting way to visit India.

The views from the four corners of the upper courtyard were spectacular.

How stunning the place must look lit up a night.
Bernie noticed the people had small bags on their wrists in which they inserted their hands as they went about their business. I think they might have been reciting their prayers using the 108 beaded circle that I recently read about in Eat Pray Love. Those beads were the inspiration for the Catholic rosary according to that book's author.

Makes sense to me. Sometimes when am trying to pray, it takes quite awhile for my "monkey" brain to stop swinging around through my thought jungle. Would it be useful to begin a prayer time by reciting 108 short prayers before starting in on my our dialogue, and meditation time to hear God's response to me?

Just mulling the idea here....

The photo ops here were amazing. I imagine at night even more so, or how about in the snow?

Bernie text messaged me to take as long as I wanted to explore and shop; he would be found back in our car when I was ready to leave.

The Mendi table was being set up; he had jokingly said a few days ago that he would love to get a bicep tribal mendi inked to flash at his next business meeting.

By the time I walked back to the car to find him, my stomach was feeling a bit queasy. It was nearly three, and we had not eaten since breakfast. The scent of incense and perhaps just a spiritual oppression combined on my empty stomach unfavorably.

I was completely ready to go. As I climbed in the car I noticed that the sole of my Croc sandals were stuck thickly with bull head thorns; they are wickedly sharp and each seedhead consisted of three prongs strong enough to puncture tires. To remove them required great care that the non-embedded thorn did not pierce one's finger while about the task.

"This place..." Bernie observed, trying to pull a splintered thorn from his finger, "even the ground is cursed with thorns!"

I asked if he had spent his time waiting for me in prayer for the Krishna followers. He had, and then also read our hiking and fishing guide.

He would pass on the Mendi work; we both were hungry and ready to go.

We both agreed that we had visited the Temple before IndiaFest got into full swing. (The temple is located 1 hr and 15 minutes south of where we live; the Temple had been founded by a SLC native who had traveled the world before being converted by the Krishnas and returning to his home town. There was quite a bit of educational material pointing out how compatable LDS scriptures and Hindi scriptures were!)

Before us the hills glowed...

As we drove through Spanish Fork, the small town where just beyond the city limits a Krishna temple sits across the road from the Jehovah Witness Kingdom hall.
It is such a quaint little place; founded in the late 1800's by a cohort of Joseph Smith, Parley Pratt, who was sent down south of SLC by Brigham Young. Bernie hinted that he thought that was BY's way of distancing Smith's influence through Pratt from his own leadership. Just one man's opinion.

The menu had lots of delicious sounding combo; I went with Indian Taco.

Indian: Feather, not dot, as my daughter says.

The learning curve never stops around in my world: Here, to order, you lift the phone and tell the cook what you want. They call back, you go pay and pick your food up at the counter.

Flash back to the '50s.
With shrines to the gods of rock and roll.
The five old geezers drank coffee and chatted the whole time we were there. One of the guys seemed to be holding court; he firmly voiced his thoughts on many subjects, punctuating his sentences with liberal sprinkles of profanity. I was tempted to go over and recommend he get with the program: Saying "Mohammedammit" is a politically and local religion friendly alternative to what he was constantly saying.
I admired the sidewalk planting all along the main street; wondered how the city could afford that bit of charm in these trying times.
Now I suppose you are wondering how I managed to get Bernie to agree to this expedition.

Oh, it isn't really all that hard to do.

A warm late summer drive south...with fall colors splashed about the mountainsides...

And a Cabela's on the way! With a Cabela's gift certificate in his hot little hand, we hit the store just in time to see that autumn had arrived there too!

And look! Frolicing moose too!!! A couple of hours of shopping later, I had a new pair of zip off legged hiking pants and a flannel top, he had a sweater, fishing stuff, and ammo. I usually don't get into shopping there as the pricing on women's clothing is just crazy high. And for some reason, the women's pants don't fit. Bernie had brought hiking pants home to me before, and was amazed to see my size pants gaping a good six inches from my waist. I dragged him into a dressing room so he could see for himself how crazy women's pant sizing could be. One pair gapped four inches in the back yet could not be snapped in front. Another pair was tight in the hips yet bagged at the waist. I finally threw up my hands in disgust. I wasn't going to pay $60-90 dollars for pants that didn't fit!

Then I remembered something: One time I had "borrowed" a pair of B.'s hiking pants, and while they were a tad big, overall they conformed to my shape. I moseyed over to the men's clothing and a few minutes later I was sporting a pair of pants that matched my curves perfectly. The same brand of pants that for women were $75, for men sold for $50. Hmmph. I know I have a feminine hour glass type what if men's pants fit better than womens! I'm saving money!

Well, this has been an epic post.
India stories always seem to be epic though.
Here's the salwar (pants) kameez (top) suit with dupati (scarf) and bracelet that I bought at IndiaFest.
I hadn't let it out yet so it was a little tight.
$29 for the set.
Not bad!
Bernie egged me into this shot.

I had seen modern Indian models with their dupati twisted up to make a turban.

How those Indian girls go about with the scarves over their heads is a mystery to me. The silk chiffon fabric slips off the hair!

The pants are drawstring "genie" or harem style. Oddly, I had just read an article in a woman's fitness magazine about what pants are best for various athletic bodies. The harem or dropped crotch style was touted as being perfect for many athletic types! A picture showed a very toned young woman with pants with the crotch just about midway between her crotch and her knees.

Will this style be the pendulum swing back from the skin tight butt crack "camel toe" reveiling skinny jeans of late?

I'm sold on the style. Totally comfortable, and the pants even look great with a white tailored blouse with the dupati slung over the shoulders like a shawl.

At such a price, I may be investing in more of these kinds of suits. If they make a comeback in the athletic types, so much the better. Just call me Jock Jill!

(Whew!!! You really read this entire post? Good for you! So...any thought about Hindu faith, witnessing, fashion, or ????)


Lovella ♥ said...

OH Jill,
I'd have been in the car with Bernie or else hiding behind you.
You just make me laugh. . I chuckled several times and did notice that the length of your post did have similarities to your movies of late.
You are my most fascinating friend, hands down. .and I'm glad I have you.

A Lady said...

Yes, Cessa and I read the post together. She says that the blue matches her eyes purrfectly and that you are welcome to come over in it any time. And she is glad to have godess treats any time.
Glad you two had fun!

Vicki said...

I was thinking the same thing as Lovella...I'd prefer to wait with Bernie in the car. :) Except that, I'd want to be shopping with you for a darling outfit, too! The one you chose is perfect! The color is great, too.

Cabela's!! You don't know how badly Doc wanted to find time to go to Cabela's! Next time!!

Sara said...

Whew is right! You sure covered a lot of topics, but it was all interesting reading....though I skipped some of the Indian god stuff.

Lovely blue on your new outfit.

Vanessa said...

Wonderful post!! Made it through and was great to join in on your visit to another world!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

An epic...for sure! Shrines to strange gods...and shrines to rock and roll...but the beauty of the hills in all their fall splendour point to the true God. Creation calls us to worship!

You did well...and your Indian outfit suits you just fine.

I recognize that Cabela's. I have a few things in my closet from that same store!

Vee said...

No, not quite, but most... Just so I don't get full credit. Love your outfit; it looks really nice on you. As for the field trip...always interesting.

Just a little something from Judy said...

Well my friend, you certainly added a touch of culture to my day today. What an education you provided for me in this step into the lifestyle and customs of India. I do think you look so nice in the color blue. Very interesting post!

Kathy said...

I always think that you and Bernie have such fascinating outings. Lando and I had better get to planning!

I'm sensitive also to spiritual climates. Still, what an interesting opportunity. Too bad you didn't have a guide - but then you could have kept them busy for hours.

Thoughts on witnessing? If you have friends in other religions - ask questions, listen, and tell your story. Our stories are really something beyond us! I forget sometimes because I live it every day.