We visited two major temples near Bangalore — a Hindu temple near the Nandi Hills that dates back to the 9th century and Shravanabelagola, a 10th century Jainist temple dominated by what’s said to be the world’s largest monolith (sculpture made from a single piece of stone).
What struck me about the temple at Nandi Hills was the tranquility — we were truly among worshipers (we were lucky to be there on an otherwise quiet Monday) who seemed to have decked themselves in their brightest and most exuberant saris for the occasion. I could stare at them all day long.
Another thing that struck me is that this is very much M.’s heritage as a Brahmin with a bloodline that can be traced back some 2,000 years (and then he marries little ol’ European peasant mutt ME and we ruin the whole damn thing ;).
Hinduism is similar to Judaism in that you simply are Hindu, whether you practice or not (M. won’t even call it a religion). It was surprising to see him walk up to an idol, touch his forehead to the floor, walk backwards to retreat — but it shouldn’t have been. It’s no different than spraying 10 drops of wine at the home of his Jewish "familia putativa" every Passover.
Everything is an undertaking in India and the trip to Shravanabelagola — which should have taken 2 hours but took twice that due to engine trouble — was certainly no different. (Could we really say we’ve been to India if we hadn’t been stranded by the side of the road at least once?)
The journey is the destination. The journey is the destination. I repeated to myself as we waited to find out if we’d ever get back on the road, and then, in socks or bare feet, as we climbed the 647 steps that lead to the statue. Perhaps because it was a Saturday there were far more (Indian) tourists, as well as worshipers — teens posing for pictures bowing their heads around a statue and then asking, again and again, to pose with us (not to brag but we’re kind of a big deal in India). Which I suppose is a reminder that we’re all the same everywhere. Or at least teens are.