Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Indigo Blues - II

The Experience
We made our way past shops selling hot kattori-milk and flee contaminated oily samosas.

We found our way through roads congested by emaciated cows, potholes and dumps.

We walked past the abandoned town tank - larger than the temple premises, perhaps.

We twisted, turned and shooed our way through cacophonous street urchins – a mysterious nonchalance about their face.

There sure were no evergreen gardens, no murmuring brooks and whispering winds, no peacocks and milch-cows and, definitely no overflowing ghee pots. Though, at this point, let me avoid further description of the not-as-significant details of the town, its people and the mood, and get straight to the purpose of the visit.

As the temple at Mathura is very high on some Jihadi’s ‘Places to visit’ list, we had to leave half our belongings in the bus and undergo a thorough body check before we could get in. Once we were through, our guide, a local Brahmin, gathered us at the base of the temple - he sure looked the part with his ‘tikka’, accent and the Brahmin’s hair knot. As he started his monologue on the temple’s history and religious significance, I began to notice that the locale had a dark motley shade to it. A quick enquiry confirmed that it was the week of Holi and we had just missed the celebrations. Pilgrims, town-folk, shopkeepers and whoever else was around were all dabbed, slapped all over rather, in violent violets, bottle greens, Govinda pinks and mixtures of these in varying degrees to spectacular effect. I think that’s when I first thanked God.

The guide covered the bit about how Lord Krishna was born within the confines of the prison walls of King Kamsa and moved on to recent history of the temple. History had literally taken its toll on the temple at Mathura. It had witnessed, and withstood, for a large period in history, repeated attacks from the various foreign rulers of India. The structure that housed the main shrine, the sanctum sanctorum to say, had been renovated just a few years back by some corporate house of India Inc.

We did not proceed directly to the main temple. Rather, we visited some satellite shrines and made our way straight for the prison cell where the Lord was born. Now, I expected a deep-damp-dark and labyrinthine dungeon made of impenetrable stone walls and unbreakable iron bars – some place heavily guarded and, where I unconsciously believed, I wouldn’t be let in due to archaeological and religious reasons.

We experienced nothing of the sort.

We were led through some narrow corridors; straight into the room where it had all began many yugas back. A simple plastered and painted room, with a few idols to offer our prayers to, greeted us. As I turned to see where the way from the cell led to, I drew a blank. I literally faced a plain wall (and nothing on it said “Sorry for your inconvenience”), the wall of the structure adjoining the disputed Mathura temple.

Mathura temple is one of the top targets for perpetuating communal disharmony, not just because it is what Jerusalem is for the Christians to the Hindus, but because of the fact that it is a disputed territory. A part of the Mathura temple, part of the prison to be precise, actually falls inside the confines of a neighbouring mosque. The wall that I saw was that of the mosque. Let me not describe the history behind the same as that information is readily available. I was told Mathura, along with Ayodhya, was (is?) part of the saffron brigade’s hidden agenda.

We moved on.

As we entered the main temple we became part of a great commotion. Women in their late 40s were playing cymbals and drums, and dancing in a circle chanting praises of the cowherd Lord. And there was hardly any man participating in the fun. As I observed the spectacle, it became clear that they were playing Gopis - Gopis dancing to the tune of an imaginary flautist. That was probably their way of pleasing the Lord. It was something novel, something that made logical sense if one considered the Krishna’s tastes according to mythology and definitely something that the women who offered the prayer enjoyed.

As we came to the end of the Darshan our guide pointed to us the directions of Gokula, Mount Govardhana, Lake Kalindhi and other places related to Kisna. Then, as we had come to the end of our guided tour, he folded his hands and chanted a prayer for our health and well-being. Thereafter he proclaimed,

Anyone who wants to perform a good deed in this holy land, and thereby receive the direct blessings of Lord Krishna, can do so by providing free meal to the poor. All you have to do is to give me the desired sum - be it Rs. 50, 100 or 1000. I will see to it that the bhiksha is taken care of.

It was probably the blunt abruptness with which the attempt was made – quite contrary to someone who had been very matter of fact till that point. The group remained confused and suspect for a while, slowly realized the nature of the intention, turned their backs to the confused chap and started walking out of the temple.