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For most hindu’s, daily life revolves around the local temple. My auntie goes every morning, not specifically to worship, but just to say hello to everyone as they do their daily rituals.
Because I am an early riser (well at least in Indian time), I have been going with her each morning for the 15 minute visit to the temple. Just to be clear, I am not religious, and I do not partake in any worshiping or blessings. However, I do enjoy observing what the community is up to each day.
The temple is close to home, only about 400 metres. Everyone who worships there lives close by, it’s a tight-knit community. As she wanders across the courtyard, my auntie greets everyone she meets, she is clearly well known here.
The first stop is to say hello to the women who are preparing the garlands made of fresh flowers. These will be offered to the deities, and placed on their picture or statue. To create these garlands is no easy task, fresh flowers are fickle, can damage easily and the heat can make them temperamental. Yet patiently these ladies sit here each day, chat to each other and prepare the garlands.
The next stop is in the actual temple. There are only a few people praying early in the morning, but by evening the room is full and it is standing room only from outside. We walk in and inspect the mandir. Each day the decoration around this structure is changed. Yesterday it was made of dried fruit and nuts that had been painstakingly sewn into a detailed pattern on cotton. Today it is decorated with peacock feathers, in brilliant hues of blue and green.
Then we go to the side of the temple, and down a dark, narrow staircase. We are not able to do this everyday, as the stairs are steep and my auntie is now frail, but today we go down. In the dark room, on the concrete floor, are 5 women who are chopping and peeling vegetables. These will then be cooked into curries and offered to the deities. Once they are blessed, then members of the community can take this food (now called Prasad) and eat it.
After wishing everyone farewell, we then get back in the car ready to go home. Today we are delayed by another who has parked their brand new car at the front of the temple. They wait patiently for the priest to come down and bless their car. This will ensure that the do not have any accidents in the vehicle.
During our short visit, I see everyone from the community here. Young, old, married, single… daily life revolves around this structure.
Whilst I may not be religious, I do see that there would be a lot of comfort to know that this was always there. Whether you believe in the objects of worship or not, there is a lot to be said for the security of a close-knit community. It seems in the western world, this doesn’t exist in quite the same way. Whilst there are some close communities, through churches and other religious and social organisations, it is not something that everyone participates in. In India, every street corner has temple, and in it their own community.