All in religion
By Sylvie Berthiaume
In Rajasthan, as in the rest of India, tradition rhymes with religion, and everyday life still occurs at the pace of the religious rites.
Hinduism – almost four thousand-year-old and imbued with mystery - is practiced by 80% of the population, while 13% is Muslim and 2% Sikh. The rest of the population is divided into different denominations such as Buddhism , Christianity, Judaism, etc. We will therefore talk here, very briefly, about Hinduism.
The 3 personalities of God
Brahma, the supreme God, is represented in three ways: itself as the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiva, the Destructor. Beyond these principal deities, Hinduism also considers humanity as divine.
Hindus has also as fundamental beliefs, the reincarnation after death, and the karma of each person which is somewhat its destiny, regarded as cause and consequence of its past, present and future actions, in its previous, present and future lives.
Everywhere we get to encounter saddhus, i.e. mystic men, dressed very lightly with orange color - in search of the inner light, by meditation and the renunciation of earthly things such as sexuality and material possessions.
Hindus mark their foreheads with points or lines of different colors and orientations, displaying their social and marital status.
Religion is practiced on a daily basis, within the family: Before sunrise, there are prayers and offerings to God before breakfast, and after, they practice bali, i.e. food distribution to the animals, such as dogs and cows walking outside.
At the temple and in public places
There is not a specific day every week meant to practice Hinduism. However, each month brings in its batch of special celebrations. And believers can go in any of the hundreds of temples, low-profile or monumental, at any time, individually or with family.
Generally, the temples have a statue of the main divinity, in a small protected shrine. There is often a narrow circular corridor to walk around the divinity, passing through different phases, in order to ensure transition between daily life and spiritual perfection. In some temples, believers ring a big bell to call for the divinity’s attention before laying on the floor to venerate, reciting mantras and asking for his or her help.
Otherwise, the main religious rites which punctuate the life are the ceremony of the name after the birth, the initiation of men for the transition to adult age, marriage and funeral.
The pilgrimages: Very cheerful
One crosses regularly, small groups of people wearing the sacred color - orange, which represents fire, therefore purification of the body and passions, synonymous of liberation, creativity and dynamism.
Often bare feet, they participate in a procession toward a temple, having on their shoulders the colorful and golden pilgrim sticks, at the ends of which hang a pot of water and a small pack of offerings such as fresh flowers.
This procession is most of the time accompanied by very joyful songs and incantations. Often, believers stand on or follow a big truck fully decorated and equipped with huge speakers playing out loud fast and dance music.
The spiritual bath
In Rajasthan, we visited two large temples which attract pilgrims in search of purification.
Pushkar, official city of the god Brahma, is one of the few places where a temple is built specifically to venerate Brahma. Elsewhere in India, there are only three others. On the banks of Pushkar Lake, there are 52 ghats - kinds of bleachers - from where one descends into the sacred waters.
Pushkar is also, since the 1970s, the place of predilection of hippies. Even today, at the market, in the streets and cafes, we hear psychedelic music, reggae, etc.
The second majestic bath is located at the Mount Galta Temple, near Jaipur. It is also called the Monkey Temple, because there are hundreds of monkeys. The whole mountain is beautiful to discover, both for the surrounding nature, the trails and steps, the baths of different dimensions. The ascent and descent are asking a little breath, but are not difficult.
Other temples are worth a short trip to visit
In Rajasthan temples are innumerable and very different. During our stay we also visited:
Near Jaipur, the Lakshmi Narayan, on a beautiful terrace, with a beautiful torana with carved arcs showing these two embracing spouses
Near Pushkar, at the entrance of the Thar Desert, and joined by a cablecar, the Savitri and Gayitri Temple, in honor of the two wives of Brahma.
Believer or not, you will not want to miss these places intimately part of indian life.
Indian people are very pleased to show the travellers how to practice their rituals.