Monday, July 13, 2009

Monkeys and Incense

Today we went to Sankot Mochan Mandir, a Hindu temple dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god who serves Vishnu.

Vishnu is the central god pictured in black and white with his wife Sita and his brother on his right. The three central Hindu gods are Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer.

Coincidentally, there were a hundred or more monkeys roaming the grounds around the temple, mostly behind a wire fence, grooming each other, playing, climbing the trees.

Their rear ends were bright red--inflamed? Some had tiny babies clinging to their undersides or their backs. In the temple itself, we had to watch our bags lest a monkey grab them for food and run off.

We watched gifts of flowers and sweets to Hanuman, accepted by priests tending elaborate shrines with statues and photos of the god. Women stood about in saris, men in loose long shirts (kurtas) or western clothes, chanting familiar prayers to him.

Nearby was another temple to Vishnu and Sita.

What I learned about women in India: some eagerly stand in line to offer gifts to this monkey god, who promises "Relief from Troubles." That is the name of the temple ("well-marketed", notes our guide Nita Kumar, whose friend is the managing priest of this temple).

We took no photos because cameras and electronics (cells, etc) were taken at the security check at the front gate. On March 7, 2006, there was a bombing at this temple and a simultaneous blast in the railway station in Varanasi; since then many places exercise extreme caution.


Footnote: all our temple tours are barefoot. We have to leave our shoes at the gate and wander the grounds barefoot, which is fine in the shade but challenging if the hot sun is bearing down on the tile or stone floors.

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