Wednesday, August 13, 2008

journal entry: june 17, 2008

Today we were on somewhat of a pilgrimage.  Sort of.  We visited a Shiva temple in Gupta Kashi, which translates to the "hidden abode of Shiva".  Kashi itself is another name for the very holy city of Varanasi (called Benaras during the colonial era) where Columbia does his research.  I was quite disappointed today since Columbia is not feeling well and did not join us on the journey.  The temple was very interesting and significant since it is where the Ganga and the Yamuna Rivers meet.  Most of us participated in puja, which is the sacred ceremony performed at temples and other auspicious places.  

After our temple experience, we went into a village outside the town and had lunch with a community there.  We were invited to observe their own puja they were performing for bountiful rains and a successful growing season.  It was very interesting to observe the gender dynamics in this setting.  The women were seated on a hill somewhat above the sacrificial fire where the men performed the ceremony.  The children, both male and female, sat with the women.  While the women and children were highly intrigued by us, the men completely ignored us.  I felt strange observing them during the puja.  I usually feel this way when I feel like we're treating something like an attraction, since I've grown to dislike feeling like an attraction.  Yet, this was somewhat different than most other interactions since we had been invited to observe and encouraged to take pictures.  I suppose it balances out though since they did the same thing towards us as we attempted to eat Indian style on constructed banana leaf plates.  They coached us through the experience.  Apparently we're pretty bad at eating with our right hands correctly.  It was very fun actually.  Cultural boundaries and barriers seemed to melt away in our awkward attempts to scoop and shovel the rice and lentils into our mouthes.  


Upon returning to our guest house in Tilawar, we had the rest of the evening to relax, recooperate, and enjoy the facilities.  I went down to the water's edge again to think.  Not only is it significantly cooler down there, but the sound of the water is calming and drowns out all other noise pollution that has been pounding on my brain.  So many different thoughts running through my head right now.  I don't know where to begin, or where to go.  I wonder about how things will be when I get home.  I'll just have to wait and see.

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