Field visit draft
Mirrors, we use them every day. It is when we look to these reflections we can better understand ourselves and everything around us. Anyone who’s ever drove knows that objects in the mirror are closer then they appear. The same can be said about religion, once we back up and see them for what they are, we can see that different religions are closer then they appear. In this light I entered the Shiva Vishnu Hindu Temple. With my friends in tow leading me to enlightenment, my catholic eyes were opened to a world that was the same yet different.
I attended a Hindu event known as Anglai. As a preface for the event I was instructed to fast the previous night. Anglai is the ritual in which Hindu’s break the fast they were keeping from the previous night. (Encyclopedia Britannica 2013). The first thing I noticed whilst entering the temple was the aura it gave off. As I expected, there were Hindu symbols and Indian inspired art everywhere I looked. The surprise came from the garb I noticed people wearing. Clothing options spanned from sundresses, polo and jeans, suit and tie to more ethic clothing such as kurtas and saris. Everything was colorful and bright; the vibe of the temple was very chipper and happy. Another visual worth mentioning was henna like markings called mendi that the priest placed on peoples foreheads. From what I have been told this paste was made of vermillion and sindoor. The building was quite unique. It was beautifully designed with architecture that was reminiscent of the famous Taj Mahal. The floors were of white marble and the entrance was drenched in an array of flowers. More specifically, one type of flower that was more common than the others is what is known as the “Buddha flower”. The walls were engraved with the Hindu Gods. The outside was similar in the fact that there were carvings of statuesque Gods surrounding the door. Back inside there were actual statues of Gods as well as the ohm symbol, which is like the cross or Star of David for their respective religions. It wasn’t long after the sun rose on that Saturday morning before the mass and festivities started. Like in Cristian churches, both male and female were welcome to sit together and the ceremony was filled with hymns and interaction. What was different however was the absence of pews and shoes. Everybody sat on a colorful rug and their shoes were placed in a cubby like system that rested near the front door. The priest or swamy/pundit set everything up and begun the mass by blowing a horn. The horn was reminiscent of conch shell and sounded similar as well. The horn symbolized the beginning of the Angali ceremony. He began with a mantra and other wise words. After which he sprinkled holy water with his hand onto the people in front of him. Soon after, everybody makes their way to the pundit where he stands in front of a fire. He brushed the fire with his hand and followed suit onto the people in front of him one by one. It was as if he was blessing people with fire. Immediately after the fire ritual, flowers are drawn from a basket and a prayer is initiated followed by yet another mantra. Finally it came time for what everyone was waiting for, time to eat and end the fast. Throughout the day we were served food various times and there was an obvious pattern in the choice of food. Stereotypically one would expect no beef to be at the Hindu temple, in reality it was completely vegetarian, void of any meats at all. A very large variety of fruits and vegetables were served, specifically a fruit known as “prasat” which is a Hindu blessed fruit (Associated Press 2013). As we feasted on the fruits, we were strongly encouraged to hold onto the flowers we previously obtained as they would promote good karma. Soon we were treated to an ethnically Indian show. For about 30 minutes we were entertained by little children dancing and acting out plays that had traditional relevance. It wasn’t long before both