June 16, 2007

Tirupati - The God of the Poor

This is essentially an old post. For some reason I had never been able to upload it. One fine morning I had woken up to see a smiling Abhi-Ash performing some rituals at the temple sanctum; while thousands of devotees waited outside for their turn to have a glimpse at the deity. The media cried foul, some columnist said that Gods were for the rich.

With my unfailing faith in the power of Indian perseverance, I knew this would be soon forgotten. For even though Gods closed their door to the poor at times; it was the poor who gave Gods their divine existence.

There was a time when pilgrimage meant a lot of sacrifice. It meant travelling great distances, facing greater odds and perhaps giving rise to the belief that only those who have been chosen can travel the distance. Hindu Mythology did not allow even the great Pandavas to reach their destination alive. The story of Sravana is known to every child in India where respect for parents and the Indian fascination for the last journey form the building blocks of the story.

All my life I have been lucky to be up, close and personal with the species that we term as Indians in the broad sense of the word. Outside the busy life of the metros; where it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between the challenges of everyday life faced by Wall Street or Dalal Street; there exists an India which even today is traditional to the core.

My visit to Tirupati during the last stage of my life @ IIMB brought me once again face to face with this reality. Things have changed when pilgrims took the journey up to the steep hills on bare feet. Today, we have buses taking us almost to the doorsteps, but not quite. Even Gods have brokers today in the form of travel agent. He who has the necessary ‘setting’ will know how to push his group of pilgrims into the line. For the rest of humanity who could not afford a conducted tour leave alone give the temple authorities their weights in gold like some of our people in power, there was always the Rs. 50/- gateway.

In Tirupati, everyone followed their own practice. My parents, brought up with their traditional rituals refused to even drink a drop of water before they could come face to face with God Almighty. However, the rest of the pilgrims were happily tucking in their dosas and vadas at a highly overpriced roadside hotel to which the tour operator had brought us.

Anyone who has visited Tirupati will know the serpentine lines, the heated temple stones scorching your feet and yet there was a tremendous peace. Everyone was waiting for that ultimate moment. At some point in time, the distinction between lines of the privileged and the not so privileged became one. The last lap before the final round made everyone equal. As we neared the main temple, chants of Govinda filled the air. It was unbelievable. There was somehow a rhythmic motion that ensured that the tranquillity of the place was never disturbed. It was the same chant that the stones had heard for ages beyond our imagination. The actual viewing lasted for minutes, maybe even seconds, but the faces showed a peace of a lifetime. Once again, I felt humbled.

You hear how Tirupati is perhaps the richest temple in the world. Yet, to me it’ll remain a temple of the poor. As I waited, I heard stories all around, learnt why people had come to this place again and again. I heard that no one ever came to Tirupati once. If they had come once, they would have to make the journey back again. Maybe I day I would.

1 comment:

Tirupati Hotels said...

Wow, Its really very interesting. Yes, It is richest temple in the world. Very nice trip. Thanks for sharing nice information. Awesome post.