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A Place of Worship…Do you really need to go?

Come 2018 and as part of making that special beginning, going to the temple became one of the items on my “To do” list. Everything else on the list for the Christmas break had been accomplished. A visit to the Louvre – tick, visit to Ferrari world and the water park- tick, meet friends for Christmas – tick, tick, tick one for every get-together we attended, visit to the doctor- tick, write my last blog post for 2017- tick. The holidays had come to an end and the space for the temple tick was blank.

6th of January 2018, the last day of the holidays, I was finally standing in the Krishna Mandir (temple), with a hundred others. The doors to the inner sanctum in which the idol was kept was still closed. The idol of Krishna was being adorned with flowers and other finery as per the ritual. Despite the numbers, there was a peaceful silence. The soft sound of the sitar in the background was part of the silence. A hundred heads waited expectantly for the doors to open with their hands joined while their lips moved, some with prayers of gratitude for the year gone by and others with prayers of hope for the year ahead. Some with a wish they wanted to be fulfilled and some with many wishes not because they were greedy but because they were needy.

The mixed smell of incense and fresh flowers wafted through the air. Standing there, it was hard not to feel the calm. It felt as though God was listening  I hadn’t felt that way the last time I had come, which was almost a year ago. Neither am I proud of not having visited nor am I ashamed of it. I had felt a disconnect and had preferred to pray at home rather than visit the temple. Not going had nothing to do with faith. I had become critical of the practice. The temple was too small, too crowded, too busy and going there had felt more like a ritual that needed to be done. I had even made myself believe that while prayer is important, going to a place of worship is not. “One could pray anywhere, anytime!”. I totally believed in it. and that belief removed all sense of remorse or guilt. While I still believe there is nothing wrong in not visiting a place of worship I now know that being part of something bigger in the form of a group prayer is immensely uplifting.

Today as I stood there, in the very same place, I was a different person. I felt peace. The room reverberated with a hundred silent prayers. The faith, the hope, the belief of the people there created an unseen energy, pure, positive and energizing.

What was different between last year and this year? There seemed to be no change in the place or the number of people there. I had changed! Maybe my circumstances had changed…

The paucity of space, the dilapidated state of the old temple building, the steps leading to it held up by iron rods that looked like they would give way anytime, under the weight of thousands of feet that climbed up and down every day which had been a source of frustration earlier did not matter anymore. I had chosen to find faults then. I had chosen not to be part of this madness that required one to wait in a queue for hours together on days of religious significance before one could enter and when one finally  did manage to step in to the prayer room, one would be asked to move out as quickly as possible to make way for the others. It seemed crazy. Going there made no sense. Not to me!

All that somehow did not matter now.

I felt different. All the little inconveniences seemed insignificant and everything that had previously seemed distressful, now seemed to have a purpose and a place of their own. The pain points seemed to disappear into oblivion. My brain seemed to be looking at the positives, not the irritants, over which I had no control over. My brain chose to be amazed by the belief of  thousands who thronged on a daily basis here, no matter the queue, the long waiting and the absence of space inside.

I stepped out of the temple into the open. Feeling content. I made my way to where I had left my footwear. There in front of the shoe racks,  under a tree, benches had been arranged for people to sit on. People sat there to wear their shoes or to eat the prasad (food that was offered to God and then distributed amongst those who visited).

temple4

In front of the temple is a mosque. It’s a wonder how people of both religions make their way to their respective places of worship in harmony and there has never been a dispute on this foreign land in the last forty years or more. One can hear the temple bells and the prayers from the mosque at the same time. On the steps of the mosque or on the benches in front of the temple, Hindus sit along with Muslims. Even the biggest critic would find it hard not to appreciate this.

There are in reality two temples in the same complex, one relatively new devoted to Lord Krishna, the same Lord Krishna of the  “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna” fame and the other, much older one for all the other forms of Gods. The older temple is behind the Krishna temple. The entrance, is through a narrow lane lined with shops selling fresh flowers- jasmines, yellow and orange marigolds and some pink ones, whose name I’m not aware of. The aroma of flowers and sandalwood fills the air outside. I make my way to one of the shops to buy flowers for the altar at home. Colorful pictures of Gods and Goddesses line the walls of the shops which also sell other paraphernalia related to Hinduism. The shop owners are simply men of trade; not necessarily Hindus or even Indians; many here are Iranians or Indian Muslims.

temple-bazaar-shops

Since the older temple houses many more Gods and since there are as many religious festivals and practices as there are Gods, this temple is generally crowded. Behind the temple is an open area overlooking the creek. With space enough to accommodate not more than fifty people at any point in time, during festivals, one needs to wait in a queue for hours before one can enter the temple. Thankfully, people are made to queue at the back of the temple. In the winter months, it’s a pleasant wait for you can see the dhows making their way across the creek carrying tourists and passengers across, pigeons feeding on grains generously spread by shopkeepers and gulls gliding over the waters, making for amazing photography and providing the much needed past-time for those who wait in line.

Flowers in hand, deeply satisfied, I returned. It wasn’t just a tick anymore on my “To Do” list. It was much more than that. I had made up my mind to visit more regularly not because religion expected me to do it (which it does not) but because there is something about praying together that is powerful .

What do you think? Do you believe that man gets disconnected when he is happy and gets closer to God when he is besot with troubles? Would love to know your opinions on the subject.

 

 

21 Comments »

  1. I believe to each his or her own. To believe or not to believe is a personal choice. So I can’t answer for man in general, but I can answer for me. I don’t usually, go to temple to pray. I pray anywhere and everywhere. To me praying is talking to him/her(there are many goddesses in India). To talk to a friend who is everywhere, I don’t need to go to a place, I can do that anywhere. And one needs friends both in good times and bad. So I don’t forget him/her in either of those times.
    But I do visit the temple when the inner voice tells me to. Otherwise, I am always on the go.
    I have asked the God for his/her whatsapp number, but that is still pending. Maybe one day 😉😉

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  2. That’s nice when people share happy moments with God too. Would love to read the other post. Do share it. Thank you for reading my post and sharing your opinion. I’ve learnt so much just through people’s comments on the post❤

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  3. Smitha, I too strongly believe in need to visit temple. It gives lots of peace & positive energy. Yes it’s true that we look towards God in times of troubles but of late I think people have realized the need to share their happy moments too. I do come across people who celebrate their Wedding Anniversary or child’s birthday at the temple. I had another post regarding the need to visit temples will hunt that & post it here.

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  4. It was just this morning that I was telling a friend about a visit to the temple which has not happened this New Year. As far as faith is concerned, I am somewhere in between. At first, like you, I was enamored by two faiths standing next to one another in absolute harmony. It was a ritual for us to visit the temple on New Year’s day and the week before we took off on vacation, but I must admit that the crowd and the lack of parking spaces convinced me that it was better to pray at home. But there have been times when I have felt the connect, an inexplicable sense of peace and a feeling of bliss as I stood in that crowded temple offering my respects to the deity.

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    • Really! :). Imagine us passing by each other as perfect strangers or standing behind each other in queue grumbling about it and then discussing it here. 🙂
      It’s easy to stop following the ritual or discipline in this part of the world given the inconvenience associated with it, to an extent it seems rather unfair as well. I guess, between the anger and the helplessness, we then tell ourselves, it’s better to pray at home. Your comment exactly explains how I’ve felt through these stages Pranitha and then there is peace at times that comes only from visiting places of worship. I’m happy I’m not the only one who’s gone through these feelings. Thanks for sharing it 🙂

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  5. As a pagan, there are no churches, but nature is my place of worship. But I still find churches and temples to be holy places, where you can feel the power of prayer – in my view all gods are ultimately one god – just different aspects of the same power, so it’s possible to feel uplifted at any place of worship. I very much enjoyed reading about yours and paying a visit to the temple through your eyes – though I don’t know that I’d have the patience to wait for hours!

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    • I agree with you totally Andrea about feeling uplifted in any place of worship because of the positive energy and peace in those places. In India people actually stand in a queue for hours to visit some very special temples but I too lack the patience and faith that standing in a queue is going to appease God. So we went a week after New Years when we could enter without the wait 🙂

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  6. Hi friend ☺️ this was such a deep and meaningful post. I mean in a time when more and more people are diverting from the worshipping world towards other forms of spirituality to nothing, I feel wonderful to see a post that talks in so much depth of the feeling that can comes a lot of times from purity of feelings. Thank you for such a beautiful post, I so look forward to each of your posts now☺️

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  7. I think that people definitely turn more to God when they are in need, Smitha, than when they are not. I do not necessarily attend a Church any more. I have found that the Church is all about human created ideals and traditions and less to do with worship. Everyone is expected to be bound by these man-made restrictions which I don’t believe in. The Church has its place in my life as a good way to give to the less fortunate and to participate in its charity work.

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    • I guess it’s natural to turn to God when one is desperate. That’s when people are looking for some solution and God provides the hope that one finds difficult to find within. Like you, I’m more and more disillusioned by rituals in the name of religion. It makes more sense when you’re able to touch people’s lives and make a difference by doing your bit. Thanks Robbie for sharing how you feel on this topic.

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  8. A place “of” worship is a place “for” worship. It’s upto the person how to go about it and if in that process gets inner peace and tranquility the purpose is served. Observing rituals and practices makes one feel contended. Worship in whatever way your your inner self directs.

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    • I so agree. It’s a place to attain inner peace. And if it’s achieved then the purpose is complete or else it’s a mere ritual. Thank you so much for sharing your belief.

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  9. As a Christian, I believe firmly in the need for community, for a place to worship with others who believe. Addressing your last question, I do notice that many people turn to God when they are unhappy or in a bad place more so than when they are happy. But for me, when I am in a tough place I cry out to God for help and when I am happy I still cry out to God but in thanks and gratitude.

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