I had just landed in Pune, India. It was July 8th, 2011. The monsoon was beginning and I was somehow quickly falling in love with the rain outside my hotel window. I was terrified of India at first. It was my second time out of the States and I was traveling for quite some time, alone. I love to travel alone, I am quite at peace with myself and have no qualms venturing out into the unknown but at this point, I didn’t speak any Hindi and had not yet learned the alphabet.
I had a Marathi foreign language disc in my computer and after popping it in to realize the EBay seller had sold me a blank, I thought I would lose it. I finally ventured out of my hotel room, jet-lagged and airplane swollen to get some food for the first time in two days when I met the Pediatrician from Fiji.
She sat at my breakfast table, told me she had some magic cure all Indian potion that I could drink to solve my break out (I tried it much later and not only did it NOT work, it made my skin so much worse), and invited me to go with her on a city bus tour of Pune. I was bored, so why not. We loaded up in Deccan Gymkhana and headed out for five hours through the city. We visited Shanwarwada, Pune’s Red Fort, this museum, that museum, the military monument, Laxmi Road, MG Road, Ghandi’s Ashes at Aga Khan Palace, the zoo, the snake park and finally, Pavarti Hill.
Pavarti Hill is a Hindu temple dedicated to Pavarti, mother of Ganesh. I don’t know the whole story but after visiting various temples in India, Africa and Malaysia, I can tell you that Hindu followers love some pain to get to their altars. Pavarti Hill wasn’t too bad, it was only 190 steps to the top. The Batu Caves in Malaysia were a little bit more, I think around 235 and steep. Those steps were intense in the heat but the worst was the 658 steps we took in the ruins of some fort in Ellora, India.
Anyway, the man in this photo sits in a booth with some female neighbors selling prayer clothes, garlands, wreaths, sweets, etc to be blessed by Pavarti. I believe it’s proper after having the items blessed to leave them as a sacrificial offering. While I am Christian in belief, I am fascinated by religion. I visit temples, mosques, etc but always stay at a distance to not be disrespectful to their religious practices. I just love the overwhelming energy that is in a place of worship and seeing how different people pay the respect to their life. It’s almost like a visible history lesson in so many places of the world. In India, I sat in temples older than my country by hundreds of years. It simply took my breath away to look at the architecture, the details, the ornamentation and think of the age by American standards of technology of when these houses of worship were built.
At the start of our climb to Pavarti, I purchased a little bag with 10 pieces of Ladoo. I marched up the 190 steps with the Pediatrician, I watched her get blessed by her actual patron deity (she was Hindu), make her offering of Ladoo, Coconut and a pray mat, and we boarded back on the bus.
Later that night, I totally snacked on my bag of Ladoo (an Indian sweet, almost like super sugary cookie dough) without a shred of guilt. I suppose not everyone who goes through buys from the shop keepers for offerings…right? Since I came out of that trip alive, I’m assuming I didn’t anger any deity and that was the best Ladoo I had ever ate.