Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Lord Krishna

Krishna is a re-incarnation of the protector god, Vishnu, and today is his birthday. On the way back from work this evening I bumped into my neighbour, Gita, who invited me to join her for the celebrations. First we went to our local temple which is dedicated to the monkey god, Hanuman. It's a modest affair with just enough room for the priest to get in alongside the statue of Hanuman. We took off our shoes and joined the small congregation standing in the street outside. Everyone was dressed up in their best saris and, amongst the gold and silk, I felt quite conspicuous by my drabness. There seemed to be an order of service – bells were rung and the priest, dressed in a faded orange sarong, waved a small, round candelabra in front of Hanuman who was swathed in garlands of flowers for the occasion. The candelabra was then passed amongst us and you waved your hand through the flames and then over your head in what I assume was a blessing. We were then given slices of banana and cubes of coconut and, having eaten them, it was all over and we proceeded down the road to the Krishna temple. Here you passed your offering – a basket or plastic bag of coconuts, bananas and other fruit – through a hatch in the wall where it was blessed by the priests and handed back. To be honest it was a bit of a scrum and my experience of fighting my way onto a Northern Line tube at rush-hour certainly came in handy. After that we hung around on a street corner chatting with Gita's friends and trying to stop the kids from throwing stones at the cows who by now had bedded down in the street for the night. It was a great evening which has certainly made me feel, if not an integral part of the local community, at least accepted by them.

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