Jul '12 - Jan '13
Traveling by foot, I searched for Laxmi Narayan, a Hindu temple in the heart of Delhi. With bad directions, and a pinch of luck, I stumbled onto another small Hindu temple. An old grey man, who insisted that I take the freshly sliced banana from his outstretched hands, greeted me at the bottom of the white marble stairs. I took my shoes off, the wet marble feeling pleasantly cold to the touch, and met the old man with open palms. I rang a bell overhead and proceeded to the shrine. Here, surrounding a small shrine decorated with leaves, fruit, flowers, and milk, I was greeted with open eyes and a slack jaw from the three women and young man who were mid offering. I motioned to the young man regarding the proper disposal of my fruity offering and he pointed to a shrine behind him, which already had many bananas lain at its base. I kindly nodded my head to the side in acceptance and understanding, then proceeded to offer some vitamin K to a marble woman with 4 arms.
I circled the temple once more, but before I could depart I was met again by the young man. He offered me water, although not to quench my tired throat, but rather the throat of the shrine. He motioned for a man with sandals to fill up the cup, as he was without shoes and could not step off the temple marble to fulfill such a task. The small round brass cup was filled with cold water, and given to me with a smile. I walked back to the shrine where the women were still in ceremony. I motioned a quick 'what the heck am I supposed to do' to the women and they walked me through the steps. I was to use my left hand to pour the water, delivering an equal amount to the five marble statues that lay in a pool of milk, water, and flowers. I synced with an old woman across from me as she poured milk from a plastic bag. I met her milk with equal amounts of water as we bathed all five statues. I kindly smiled, returned the cup, rang the bell once more, and proceeded to fix on my shoes. It was the most pleasant detour I had taken thus far.
I finally reached Laxmi Narayan, where I once again took off my shoes, although this time in the presence of a guard. I was directed to deposit my camera in a locker. The temple was divided into three shrines with multiple, less important shrines and paintings dispersed in-between. A man, who would later describe his occupation as a floor cleaner, insisted that he gave me a tour. I have learned that Indian’s possess a fair amount of confidence in their English, although more often than not their words are indistinguishable. We went from Shiva, to Brahma, to Vishnu, and Laxmi Narayan while he explained their soap opera-esque familial relations. He gave me sweetened popcorn candy, a small jasmine in which to smell, and a bindi so that I may be blessed. I then awkwardly suggested a donation to which he instructed me towards the nearest shrine.
An Indo Inquisition is a thirteen-week train expedition across India. The journey will document the influences of international modernism and British occupation, as well as compare the effects of wealth accumulation, culture, religion, and poverty with economic growth and their effect on the built environment.