Sometimes I curse my curiosity. It’s too easy to lounge alongside Russians clothed in ugly harem pants and embrace blissful ignorance. Western food and alcohol goodness are within reach. Whittling away time on Baga Beach as touts hawk bracelets, manicures or ice cream is like sinking into quicksand. Slow and surprising.
I had other things in mind on March 2. It was Mahashivratri, and I was going to temple.
Practiced in Goa for centuries, Mahashivratri signifies a day of rituals and fasting in worship of the Lord Shiva. On this momentous day, Shiva plunges his lightening bolt of a blue arm to grant moksha, the release from samsara and perpetual reincarnation to get your karma on track.
I could use some release. As much as I’ve grown on this journey there are sober moments of envy or anger that surprise me. Buddhists call this a ‘restless mind’.
Maybe this is my pale version of Eating, Praying, Loving Thyself, but onwards towards enlightenment, right?
I purchased my offering of coconut, bananas, flower garland and incense guessing that Shiva is one hungry deity. That set me back 40 rupees.
The tourist bubble bursted as I stepped away from the hedonistic pleasures of Baga towards the temple a few feet away. The buttery yellow of the temple beckoned me, intensified by the cache of Christmass lights decorating it’s exterior. Worship just turned Vegas.
Each worshipper sounded the bell. Shoeless and reverent, I did the same following my friends lead. I definitely didn’t understand everything, but what I could conclude was a Hindu priest acted as the conduit between you and Shiva.
He grabbed my offerings, emptying the contents to place them in front of a Shiva statue. His only piece of clothing was an orange sarong. His skinny frame and sunken chest made me think of starving holy men meditating on misty mountaintops waiting for god to fill them.
He came back, handing me one banana to place at the altar situated outside. An attendant poured milk in my hand meant for me to drink and douse my head with. I wondered if I had been christened somehow.
The next step was taking several sticks of incense, lighting them, and skewering a banana with them. A sickly sweet odor engulfed my nostrils. I tried to breathe in connection.
This was our cue to go outside and kneel before a gated altar of garlands and smoking bananas.
“What do I do?” I asked my friend.
“Whatever you feel. Usually you kneel, ask for blessings.”
So, I did. My knees grated against the dusty concrete, where I also placed my forehead. I shut my eyes.
I felt nothing. Nada. The concept of dessert at Brittos popped in my head.
It was then I knew faith left me long ago. And that really bothers me. Maybe I’ve seen too much, too early in my life. Could be I have the attention span of a gnat. One thing that is clear is how to gain it back?
We left the temple and crossed the doorway into karaoke and mocktails.
My Spiritual Mission
India is the perfect place to flex my religious muscles. My mission is to head to Rishikesh and meditate to death or sip from natural springs. I’m reticent on what I will find. Could be lightness and purity. Or strong hash towards The Path. Peace out.
Know any decent gurus for me to check out? Any hint towards faith is welcome. Whatever happens, I’ll be sure to report my findings.