Sunday, August 02, 2015

India travelogue 9 - Priests & desire?

The senior priest who had been advising us earlier told my friend that the priests performing this special function (abhishekam) will say that this is worth Rs.1000 or 2000; he told to give only Rs.100 per person at the most. Ah, money again!
We stayed and watched; crowds thronged behind us to watch the ceremony. It was late in the night, about 9:30pm was my guess and still crowded.

The very young priests (who were probably just 18 or 20) assisting the seniors in the function were having some fun of their own while chanting. They tried to outdo one another’s voice and style; and this brought a smile on the faces of the senior priests - some internal competition I guess. There was a cot that was brought in during the function; it was taken inside the shrine from our side and for that we had to stand. As soon as the cot went in, the crowd tried to push us aside to take our positions but we resisted. I didn't know why in temples people felt that standing one feet closer would make a difference; if they had been polite I wouldn’t have cared - but when someone tries to rough you up to gain advantage, you will surely resist.

At the end of the function, the priest came with a lamp. We did the usual process and at that time the priest put a garland on my friend. I was behind him and caught the eye of the senior priest who gestured me to get out from the place. I slipped away and returned to our original place. On the way, one of the temple guys came with a bowl of sweets. He put some in my hand and then asked for money. I smiled and walked away. Money again; ah!

I was certain that since my friend hadn't returned, he was caught for money by the abhishekam priests. He joined me a few minutes later and the look on his face confirmed my suspicion.
The senior priest gave us another sweet and sacred ash and asked, "Are you happy? Are you content fully?"
"Good." And he gave us all a garland each and waited.
These awkward moments of silence means just one thing - money! Oh boy... when we left the temple one of the younger priests stopped us. For what else but hoping for money! Oh boy...

How much money is enough?

The first time when we were mobbed by the priests for money, I felt angry. But now as I left the temple I was laughing. I was happy that I didn't give in to every priest who asked for money but my laughter wasn't because of that victory.
My friend commented, "This is the first time I'm seeing priests asking for so much money. Minimum 100!"
"I have never seen anyone demand money inside a temple. They never force you like this."
"It's there in some places but not like this. No matter how much money we give they will not be happy.”

And that was the reason for my laughter. You have these priests who are living in a spiritual place; who have probably read more holy scriptures than many of us, who would have had teachers explain the scriptures to them, who recite and chant verses from the scriptures everyday.
I'm not saying it's wrong for them to ask for money but the manner of doing it; trying to force you into giving; it made it seem like they were desperate for the money. And what is money but yet another worldly desire; a desire like any other that will never be satisfied no matter how much you get. A desire that if you keep chasing you will probably lose yourself in the process; the scriptures talk about crossing the barrier of desire. Some say that the devil is nothing but desire - even in other religions it is said so. And isn't it an irony; when you see the very people who would be very knowledgeable in all this, craving for money? These people breathing majority of their life in a holy place were finding it hard; how much harder for others then? An insatiable fire.

We saw at least 4 teams of police cops on our way out; they were all stationed for the temple. We landed somewhere on the other side of the street; Hindi again helping us find the route out and the route back home. The roads were empty at this hour; it must have been around 10pm. We were the only ones barefoot on the main road.

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