India’s Ritualistic Radiance

“Passionate grave thought, belief enhanced, ritual returned and magic.” (Hilda Doolittle)

As many blog readers know from my past writings, I express a great fondness for living in the present. So in this upcoming blog series, I’ve turned to my 1000+ photos/daily travel logs from our recent South Indian tour to reconstruct honestly some key moments of both “inner” struggle and nourishment along the way of this sixteen day journey. In my first entry below, you might notice that sometimes you might need to “shake up” your customary routines at home to gain the full benefits of International travel. Enter the world of the “Dancing Shiva.”

I’d been relatively at ease folding hands in Namaste greeting, accepting a red dot on my forehead, and eating with my hands, heavily spiced cuisine in the first few days of our South Indian tour. But a daylong tour of Thanjavur and nearby areas of south central Tamil Nadu clearly overloaded my cultural “comfort zone.” For those religious rituals that I observed then indeed proved shocking to my Western culture way of life. But to Hindu followers who we observed at our designated stops at Lord Brihadeeswarar Temple along the the Kaveri River, such seemingly odd behavior observed that day were considered perfectly normal expressions of Hindu spiritual beliefs. In fact, I found that many locals encouraged me to join in with their sacred rituals although I had little understanding about why I was actually doing them. I am curious then how you might react to such South Indian cultural practices as presented in the following photographs?

Consider the sacred cow who must be fed bananas and other fruits by Hindu followers to obtain God’s protection.

Ponder how Hindus use a flip of a cow’s tail to one’s forehead to offer hope of achieving reincarnation in one’s next life?

Visualize being blessed by a 50 year old elephant as he lowers his heavy trunk to meet the shoulders of those on our tour.

Imagine a celebration of eternal life for a past loved one involving a flower filled picnic and aromatic spices along a dirt filled, public path.

Picture an elderly man wading into the polluted river to scatter the cremated remains of a deceased family member as others enter the water nearby to swim, bathe, or wash clothes.

Notice how piles of Indian rupees are counted and shared for all in open gatherings on the floor of the temple.

Observe a homeless child innocently searching for a new home by himself amidst a crowded sea of strangers.

8 thoughts on “India’s Ritualistic Radiance

  1. Wow, James. So much here. Thank you. I appreciate the rituals. They seem grounded in deep meaning. That these take place in surroundings which are unlike what we are comfortable with in this country, a pause for reflection on a number of things seems necessary and timely. Added to the multiple changes we are currently adjusting to, the opportunities are endless. Thank you again. 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

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