About rollercoasters

Jan 30, 2008 in

When you hear about Hindu temples I guess you have certain images in mind. Fine and exotic artworks, unique architecture and the mystic, solemn atmosphere of thousand years. Perhaps you even think Indiana Jones and forgotten temples in the jungle. I don’t want to destroy all your illusions about exotic India. Those places definitely exist, including forgotten temples.1
However, my experiences are, that Hindu temples that are still used as places of pilgrimage don’t have this air at all. They feel more like an attraction on a fair and the pilgrims look like families on a weekend trip (and they not only look like that, they are).

I went to the Kalika Mata temple in Chittorgarh (near Udaipur) with Esther. Before reaching the temple, you go past hundreds of stalls where one can buy popcorn, coconuts and other sweets to offer to the gods. Occasionally you go past stalls that sell souvenirs like those Hindu posters. You hear children scream and shout, TVs showing religious movies which you can buy there, radios bawling with Hindi devotional music. Near the temple, the path to it looks exactly like a queue for a rollercoaster. Several policemen armed with AK74s order the masses, preventing violence and bloodshed. ;)2 The orange metal railings continue even inside the temple. The inside of the temple is painted in the happy colorful tones red, turquoise, blue and orange. The floor is covered with leftovers from the offerings which adds to the dirty fair atmosphere. Following the queue enforced by the railings, you are guided through different rituals in the temple. One involves knotting a red handkerchief onto a metal grid, another one to throw sweets or money at the idols of the god. After putting a red dot on the wall, a brutal man grabs your coconut, smashes it open and gives you the pieces while the other pilgrims impatiently push you forward as if they’d fear to not be able to board the rolleroaster anymore… Or perhaps to get over with these rituals as soon as possible. At the end, you get a red spot on your third eye and that’s it. You are out. No rollercoaster. :(
As a pilgrim, you may hope that you completed all the rituals on the way through for the maximum amount of being blessed. Most pilgrims don’t even know what these rituals are good for, they just do it because it has done before so it can’t be bad. :D

1 Indians don’t seem to care to keep something in a good condition. Many ruins or old buildings you find look much older than they really are. They are literally forgotten because nobody cares. I figure there are many many of those forgotten temples.

2 But this is standard in India. Either the policemen just have bamboo sticks or an AK74. There is nothing in between. In front of nearly every bank or jewelry here, there is a man with a rifle. In front of upper-class shops and restaurants like McDonalds, Reebok or any supermarkets, there is a security man (without a gun) whose only task seems to be to open you the doors.

Entrance to the Maha Kali temple
On the way to the temple
Stall that sells goods for offering
Necklaces, bangles,…
A shrine
Another shrine