Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Extortion at the Altar

Hanuman Pt. II

Vijay dropped us at the base of Hanuman Hill.  There were already other people making their way up the cobblestone path to the top of the hill.  There were also lots of animals — mainly monkeys and goats. A man who looked like Shiva, dressed entirely in red, was feeding the animals from a packet of biscuits. He handed the packet to us and gestured that we should take it and also feed the animals - which we did. He asked for nothing in return. 

The air was fresh, and the walk was stunningly beautiful,  with many breathtaking views of Jaipur nestled in a valley between a couple of mountain ranges. 

As promised, there were many monkeys all the way up the hill.  They are both adorable and menacing; we tried to keep our distance. One of them attacked a child who was in front of us and got too close. He screamed, and  his father scooped him up and carried him. 

The monkeys really have human qualities (or is it that we humans have monkey qualities?). Their wizened faces express emotions; plus  we saw them grooming each other, fighting, playing, begging for food and — best of all - swimming in the water holy tank next to a Shiva temple. An older one sat on the platform above, dunking their heads under water as they swam by.  

At the top of the hill we came to a temple dedicated to Surya, the sun, and his wife, Renuka (Hanuman worships Lord Ram, who is said to be the king of the solar race). A woman ushered us inside, and told us about the temple and how her family lives there and tends it. After darshan, she gave us holy water and marked our foreheads with a Tilak. Then we each placed 10 rupee notes on the altar. But she shook her head and told us it wasn’t enough and that we should each leave 100 because many people come and only leave 10 rupees. Not wanting to cause trouble (or be cursed by a Brahmin), we did so. 

The cobblestone path then turned downward. We were ushered into a temple for Lord Shiva (some say Hanuman is an incarnation of Shiva).  After darshan we were each given a vessel of water to pour over the deities (this is sometimes called abishek) while the priest (and I) chanted the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra and “Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu...” (there was also a murthi of Dattatreya, who represents Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva).  He tied a string on our wrists and ushered us into a second room with an even more sacred linga. Then he motioned to the offering plate. Again what we left wasn’t enough and we felt obliged to up the ante. On the way out there was a man dressed in traditional Rajasathani white with a red turban, sitting in front of some puja items (a priest?). He also placed a tilak on us and we each left a 100 note on his plate.

Finally we were ushered into a Hanuman temple, where we were shown the deity and given holy water. Then the priest (?) placed  Vaishnavite markings on our forehead (similar to Hari Krishna tilak) and showed us an eternal flame that has been going nonstop for 500 years. Then he ushered us into a smaller, more special temple, where he wanted to do another puja. No thank you, we said. It felt a little eerie. He motioned to the offering plate. We each put down 500. But it wasn’t enough. He wanted 1000 each and kept repeating “puja, puja!” And violently waving a sacred feather brush  over our heads.  We kept retreating. “Puja puja!” He kept repeating, waving harder and closer to our heads. Somehow we got away with 1500 for the both of us.

We got out of the temple as quickly as we could, emerging into the hot sun, and made our way to the exit.

But our rickshaw driver was nowhere to be found.

To be continued.....

1 comment:

  1. So how many rupees total did you have to shell out? I remember just leaving a few coins! lol. India's gotten more expensive like everywhere I guess...