Monday, February 7, 2011

A Little Slice of Heaven

Channelling my inner guru at the
Ranakpur temple (I'll work on my lotus
I left you in Pushkar, I think ... I'm now in Goa, but Wi-Fi at my hotel is a bit hit-and-miss so haven't been online much.  I'm too lazy to go find an internet place (plus I'm maybe just a little bit hungover and won't be going any further than breakfast before I have to go to airport).

After Pushkar (which I love, as it appealed to every hippie instinct I have -- and I have a lot), I headed to nearby Ranakpur for a night.  Well, "nearby" in the Indian sense, in that it was only a couple of hours' drive -- it's a big country, so that's practically next door (whereas in the UK that would be an expedition of epic proportions).

Ranakpur is known for its temples, and there's really not much else there but peace, serenity and wildlife that I didn't know lived in India (jackals or hyenas, anyone?  Or how about a leopard or two?).  My hotel was in the middle of greenery, not another building in sight and not much traffic on the road outside, so it was a welcome little respite from the constant, full-on bombardment of noise and smells and crowds that north India offers.

Jain temple at Ranakpur
The nearby Jain Temple is spectacular, reached by a bumpy jeep ride over torturously windering roads through the hills.  Your life is guaranteed to flash before your eyes at least once as your driver overtakes on blind curves and veers out of the way of opposing traffic with a millionth of a second's breathing room.  But the temple is worth the heart palpitations, as it's absolutely stunning -- intricate carvings embellish every inch of the ceiling, pillars and walls, and dark, exotic idols stare sternly out at you from the many recesses scattered throughout.  And there are elephants everywhere, which is always good (the stone kind, not real ones, though).

Jainism was one of those faiths that I knew nothing about before I came to India.  I still don't know much, but I think I've got the gist:  all living beings have a soul and is thus potentially divine, treat all living beings as you would yourself, limit possessions and lead a life that is useful to others.  This means practising non-violence, adhering to a vegan diet, and, if necessary, sweeping bugs out of your way as you walk so you don't kill another living beings.  Sounds like quite a healthy and grounded approach to life, really, although I don't think I'd extend the prohibition on non-violence towards living beings to mosquitoes -- some things deserve to be squished.

The only thing that marred it a little for me was being asked for money by the temple guy who let me go up on the shrine platform to take a picture of the ceiling (I learned afterward it's only supposed to be accessible to worshippers, not to camera-happy tourists, but I guess he was looking to make a quick buck).  Seriously, if he's a faithful Jainist (or whatever you call it), shouldn't he be above inconsquential things like money? 

The rest of the afternoon and evening back at the hotel was pleasantly lazy, just hanging out by the campfire and chatting.  (And, surprisingly sensibly, not having any Kingfisher beer or Indian rum.)  Oh, and at one point attempting to teach people the words to Hallelujah -- I'm not sure why, it seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Very peaceful, and a good breather before heading on to the madness of Mumbai.  I'll tell you about that (and the delightful night train journey there) in another post. 

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