Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The juggernaut

There was some noise on my TL yesterday about an Italian Odissi dancer getting beaten by two servitors in Puri for getting on the chariot. I learnt a few things from the article and I thought that I will share with you:

  • Indian culture is appreciated more elsewhere than here, the TL that went orgasmic over Exotic (not seen that yet) never seemed to react to this
  • There exists a word called servitors which the dictionary tells me is an old word for servant, the article failed to mention servant of whom
  •  You can pay your way up even the juggernaut. The temple car procession has provided a word to the English language juggernaut, phonetically it comes from the name of the presiding deity but goes to mean “something very powerful, usually with a bad effect”.

If you have been to Puri, you will be amazed that the town or at least a great part of the town is controlled by the priestly clan who monitor your movements’ right from the train and they are deeply suspicious of outsiders. I remember my only trip nearly two decades ago when we were watched from the time we left the train to our guest house. On the way our rickshaw was frequently stopped by men who wanted to know about us. Fortunately we had a rickshaw puller who was not from the clan and who was more accommodative of tourists’ especially non Hindu tourists, he managed to deflect the queries and took us to the guest house. He briefed us that the priests were not friendly to those from the south and the temple was off limits to non-Hindus.

The only two claims to fame of Puri back then was the temple and the beach and though beautiful, coming from the land of the Marina the beach was not the reason we took a break in our journey from Calcutta (it was not Kolkota then) to Madras. Dad is fluent in Bengali and can speak Odiya so he decided to speak for us and we were instructed to only speak English and ensure that we did not use any Tamizh in our conversations. Next we were to use our middle names only due to our roots my brother and I had an acceptable Indian name and mum was always mum so like some comedy movies we started calling each other by names we seldom used so at times we used to react a little later than usual.

We visited the temple and with the precautions we took we visited the sanctum sanctorum and saw the deity, the Lord Jagannath and his consort(s).  As with most temples in our country this temple also suffered from litter and generally poor upkeep which was sad even so many years ago. Right through the visit there were queries from various men and we breathed easy only after we left the temple.

So coming back to the start of this post, an Italian being permitted to move up a temple car is not only strange but seems to be driven by money which was not given.  I would not be surprised if this happens in other places of worship also where people buy their way to their God.

Every time I read about the juggernaut I remember my visit with a smile.

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