So much happens in so little time! Since my last blog post, I feel 1000x better, well-rested, not in such culture shock and am totally happy to be here, to be having this experience.
By Friday morning, I was starting to feel better and since the Bangalore Tour was only until 3pm, I figured I could muster up the energy to go – very good choice. We went to markets and lakes, as well as 3 religious centers (ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna Temple, St. Mary’s Basilica and Sri Guru Singh Sabha) and some delicious restaurants.
The Sikh Temple was probably my favorite place – they believe that no one should go hungry within 10 miles of their temples and offer meals every Sunday both breakfast/lunch and breakfast/lunch/dinner 1 Saturday a month. American soup kitchens have nothing on them – the pots they cook with are gargantuan, easily large enough for 8 or 9 people to stand up in, and require 2 people to lift them onto enormous burners. There’s a huge machine to make chapati’s (flat bread) as well that produces thousands in an hour. The people there were so nice and invited us to come back for Sunday meals.
ISKCON was bizarre – it’s a Hare Krishna temple so while it’s associated with Hinduism, it isn’t a direct correlation either. It was started by a super influential, charismatic (ahem, slightly cultish) leader who brought it all over the world with him in the 60’s and 70’s, spreading it to the newfound hippie generaiton – to Europe, South America, Canada, the States, etc. – he’s probably the sole reason why the phrase Hare Krishna (or Hinduism in general) has been heard in the West. It’s a hard experience to describe but relied largely on a mixture of Western commercialism and Eastern mythology. As soon as we got there, we had to pay 5 rupees each to take off our shoes and place them on racks, then move on to a foot washing station and up onto the main summit of the temple, built out of rock and gold and precious stones – truly a sight to behold, though one that you aren’t allowed to photograph. After rising to the top (countless steps later), we entered the main temple building, coated in gold, lit up with vegetable-dye paintings covering the ceiling, the Hare Krishna version of the Sistine Chapel, following the crowd past chanting men and women who were singing into microphones in front of a huge altar (it kind of looked like a giant bed), through the line until we got to where a priest/guru/religious man held a bowl of “kaupi”, which visitors were putting to their mouths, then splashing on their heads, similar to a Holy Communion. I proceeded, taking it from the man, to my mouth, to my head. As we gathered and waited for the others behind me, Jacob continued explaining (in his heavy Indian accent) about this kaupi, how it is Ayurvedic medicine and how we can buy it in small bottles on the way out of the temple (that’s right, there was an equally gigantic gift shop). Suddenly, I realized that “kaupi” is in fact “cow pee” which definitely explained why it was yellow and smelled so similar to the rest of India. That’s right folks, I drank (and cleansed my hair with) cow pee.