Tuesday, June 10, 2008

108 Temples

I'm missing India.

Mind travel is the quickest way to get back there, so let's go...

There is yet another special place (I know, I keep saying that) that remains engraved in my memory: The Temples of Eklingji.

On our trip in January, we took a lovely 30 minute drive north of Udaipur (which, in my humble opinion, deserves the designation given by some as India's most romantic city), through the rolling hillsides and quaint villages, passing goat and cow herders along the way. We arrived at the gate of the ancient temple complex, and as usual I could not resist pulling out my camera. However, this time, men standing guard gently told me not to take any photographs. These pictures you see in this post are from different websites.

Just outside the gates of the temple, we walked through a stone path lined with women in brightly colored saris sitting on the floor and stringing orange and yellow marigolds and other flowers into garlands for the Gods. "5 rupees" they softly sang and swayed in harmony as they displayed their flowers for sale.

We removed our shoes as we entered the temple complex.

These 108 temples, known for their exquisitely carved sandstone and marble, were originally built around AD 734 by Bappa Rawal in devotion to Lord Shiva. The Maharana of Udaipur (who we actually saw in his speedboat on Lake Pichola) visits weekly to pay his respects.

The cold stone under my bare feet was refreshing in the heat of the day, as I wandered around the intimate complex exploring the 108 temples ranging in size. Some were so small, and I took upon myself the challenge of trying to visit and count each of them, some of which seem to be hiding down different little pathways and up stone stairways. Where's Mahesh, my husband? Probably enjoying the coolness under the shade of the many old trees that surround the area making it like a cave.
As I wandered to my heart's content, I heard aartis (devotional songs) in the distance at one of the main temples where all the action seems to be at the moment. I strolled over to see what was going on. I tiptoed into the largest structure where I saw Hindu priests directing pujas and different Hindu rituals as worshippers and visitors watch with reverence.
Then all of a sudden a large bell was rung. It was so loud I had to step out of the temple. As I breathed in the air, I felt the age of the place and the history, and sensed a tangible spirit of peace and devotion in the air.
We drove a little further to the deserted village of Nagda. Here are the ruins of the Saas Bahu temple.

The ancient Vaishnavite twin structures (10th-century) is set against a bright green lake. No longer in use like Eklingji is, these temples still have a quiet reverence surrounding them. I felt like an archaeologist in discovery. Exploring between the two structures, we had the entire place to ourselves...until a gigantic tour bus came charging in like a mad elephant and many many people wearing khaki shorts and sneakers stepped out and ran towards the structures, cameras in tote. So much for our peace and quiet; it was nice while it lasted.


Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Missing India too - thanks for sharing, your so right about mind travelling though (I do it all the time)..:)

JC said...

Hi Shireena,
Did any ‘Hindu’ tell you the secret behind the figure 108?
As you have evinced interest in ‘India that is ‘Bharat’, you would first need the background of Yoga in very brief.

The thumb depicts essence of planet Mars housed at the basic root or the seat, called ‘mooladhar’. That’s the number one (‘1’). Now use it as a pointer and touch the tip of the little finger as (‘2’); next touch the gap between little and ring finger as (‘3’); then ring finger’s tip as (‘4’) …you would finally reach the tip of the index finger, the Guru or the highest pointer, representing the essence of Moon housed in the head, called ‘sahasrara’, as (‘8’)…

Now, look sideways to read ‘0’, between ‘1’ & ‘8’, to realize this particular ‘mudra’ or symbol as ‘108’!

When a Yogi sits down in ‘siddhasan’, he/she keeps the tips of the thumb and index finger touching… which also thus represents ‘0’ the formless Shiva (and also His Third Eye!) represented symbolically by a ‘Shivling’ a cylindrical form in stone… The sages used 108 beads of rudraksha seed in the rosary to remind them of Bhootnath Shiva, the formless creator! And, so on…One can even read OM the believable original sound energy, called Brahmnad, on one’s hand in this pose (M is made by the three fingers when palm is kept pointing earthwards, that is downwards…

Shireena said...

Hi HTE and more....
Thanks! I feel like I'm always missing India.

Hi JC,
I've been doing yoga for years and never really thought about the mudras and positions - what you say is very interesting and beautifully symbolic. Thanks for educating me!

Take care,

JC said...

Hi Shireena, You are welcome!
I am not sure if you know that ‘Yoga’, in fact, literally means the union or fusion of inert or dormant soul (energy contained in the essence of planet Saturn) with the active physical animal form that is believably made from the essences of selected eight members of the solar system, or ‘grahas’, where ‘graha’ means a planet as well as an alligator to indicate it symbolically as a locking device of energy/ information as seen in the said animal’s powerful jaws…Essence of each member of the solar system believably is located at different levels from tail-bone end to the head along the spinal column…

In brief, yogic exercises are primarily aimed at reaching zero thought for activating the dormant energy that believably normally remains coiled up like a serpent, which, only when activated, believably springs up like a King Cobra to make the total energy held up in different locks or bandhas, or chakras, reach one point in the head…and thus release higher or subtle knowledge into the brain…

JC said...

The basic concept of Hindu Philosophy is to enjoy life as it comes while updating ones knowledge of God and oneself as His image!

So please carry on!

Best wishes.

Mary Elizabeth Liberty said...

wow, there's some deep doctrine here,
you have some knowlegeable readers!
(my little sis leaves tomorrow for Chennai... can't wait to hear her tales)

paris parfait said...

Such beautiful photos of a very special time. Makes me want to get on a plane (I still haven't been to India). Thanks for your lovely comments on my blog. Sorry so long to respond, but I've been traveling, then trying to catch up! :)

JC said...

I am sorry if I am the cause apparent of your silence! I promise I wont leave any comments in future!

I am adddicted to black tea and enjoyed your masala tea also. Thanks!

Shireena said...

Hi JC,
Thanks for your comments - I've been so busy and out of town - but will post soon.
I'm glad you enjoyed the masala tea - it is such a time/place transporter for me.
Take care,

Madhumita Gopalan said...

Very nice! I love your idea of resorting to time travel when you miss something! I'll try it too!

And I so agree with you about the peace one feels in places of worship....It's such a powerful feeling!

Great post! There were lots of things in there that I never knew about!

Madhumita Gopalan said...

Did I just say time travel???
Oh God, sorry, I meant mind travel!

This is what happens when you watch too much sci-fi rubbish on TV! :D

Shireena said...

JC: what is your blog address? Would love to visit.