The other night, I walked around Arunachala, the mountain residence along with Mt. Kailash in Tibet of the Hindu god Lord Shiva. It was the full moon night, and as with every full moon, about 150,000 people walked barefoot the 15 kilometers around the mountain. I’ve done this walk a couple of times already but it never ceases to be an amazing experience and spectacle. It takes about 4-5 hours, what with stopping at various points along the way for chai, deep fried this and that, fresh diesel-pressed sugar cane, papaya, fires blazing in front of the 8 Shiva Lingam temples, vendors selling incense, free prasad (temple food offering) giveaway lines, and of course the large crowds gathering in front of the main temple in town.
It’s just one of those times when you can feel very alive being in the middle of so much activity. I love that it’s activity based upon devotion too. I joined in with the Mooji group (maybe 75 people) but most of the night I spent lagging behind since I was regularly stopping for photographs and various munchies.
While walking, a small boy came up to me and asked “pen, pen?” I told him “no, I’m sorry,” and he repeated his request. He was just a small boy and I told him that I was sorry but I won’t be giving him anything tonight. He quickly started walking away as I completed my sentence with, “but you can be my friend.” When he heard this, his 3′ 6” tall skinny body turned back towards me and he smiled a big toothy smile and winked at me. It was precious. Something about the wink.
Today, I paid 7 rupees for a glass of chai at the chai shop local to where I am staying, and immediately after the man who made the chai handed it to me, he touched his heart with his right hand and slightly bowed his head to me. It’s the kind of gesture I might expect from a priest giving a sacrament, but such a simple heartful gesture from a chai maker is reflective of much of the infused sweetness and spirituality which can be found here in India.
Here’s a few extra pics from the walk: