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Monday, 30 June 2014

Kanyakumari, India: the end is the beginning - Page 2

Written by Gaía Passarelli
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At 4PM the Devi temple revives, so I hike to the main door, removing my shoes and walking over hot dust. The Devi Kumari is one of the few feminine deity temples of India, established two thousand years ago or so, depending on who you ask – everything old in India lacks accurate recording. The important thing, anyway, is not when the temple was built, but the fact that it still holds. As with the man taking care of the Swami’s altar, it will continue to exist as long as people care for it. And this being India, there’s no shortage of people.


Near the entrance, a guard notices my backpack and points out that I must leave it on the pile of possessions at the main door. I leave all my stuff, including passport, cash and sole pair of shoes, before following the walkway inside the temple


Yellow lights and sweet aromas come from oil lamps hanging on black granite walls. As the line snakes within, people stop talking to each other and concentrate. Some are praying. It’s a ten minute walk, crossing different small halls until nearing the Devi. She's not as impressive as I imagined, but I’m not sure what I was expecting anyway. She is small, built in blue stone, ornamented with gold, gems, cloths, fruits and flowers. Most visitors carry gifts: money, scented oil or desserts. In the presence of her altar are two monks, receiving the offerings and giving puja, the offering.


Unsure of how to act, I move out of the line to stand alone and observe. The apparently infinite line is moving fast. Some people cry, some offer puja, some stand and say words. I feel bad for not knowing I should bring Devi a present. Maybe that’s why I’m not experiencing any spiritual revelation in the presence of the Goddess? I stay aside, a breathing piece of furniture, worthless among the divine atmosphere. Then, after ten minutes, one of the monks waves his hand, calling me. He paints my forehead with the temple’s paste of curcuma and oil. I appreciate and bow, murmuring “namaskar." He indicates the doorway.


Next minute I’m out of the temple, back into the permanent noise and heat of Kanyakumari. No spiritual epiphany for this westerner, I guess, finding contempt in localizing my backpack, intact under the mass of clothes, bags and wallets in front of the temple’s door. The next day I enter a train, heading north. The end of India being just the beginning.



©Gaía Passarelli


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Last modified on Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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