Today on our lunch break, Caitlin, Sarah and I walked up to the temple on the hillside above our yoga school. We hike up the hill past dogs sleeping out the heat on the sidewalk and cows chilling out in the shade. The road ends and turns into a dirt path through mango trees lush with fruit. We hike up the hill then reach the temple where it is stair-master to reach the entrance. It is a tall structure with multiple, tiered levels painted in yellows and oranges. There are bells on each level that you ring as you go by and the resonating sound is like the resonating ‘om’ in our mantra chant. The sound seems to carry on through the hallways and stairs, out into the air over the river and mountains.
We go up and up until we reach the top and it is a breathtaking view of the city, river and surrounding mountains. We can also see Hardiwar which doesn’t seem that far away. Our journey took longer probably because we’re on the other side of the river where the suspension bridge is the main access point and the only road here is a one lane windy road though forested mountains.
After circling around and around, going up seemingly endless flights of stairs, we reach the top. At the top is a figure of an incarnation of Shiva, the god of destruction and change but in those things, also creativity. Our yoga teacher discussed with us that gods and goddesses are really personified energy. It is actually all one, a shared consciousness that Roshan referred to as a giant server that we all have stored our individual websites on. The gods and goddesses represent aspects of that energy that have become anthromorphicized because it is easier for people to understand and interact with. The priest is an older man dressed in a long white tunic and yellow robe. His English is limited but speaks the universal language of friendliness. I was expecting solemn and strict but rather he was like someone’s grandfather. He unlocks the shrine to Shiva for us and we enter and kneel on the rug beside the figure of Shiva. He gives us a spoonful of sacred water to drink, some white flowers made from sugar for us to drink, ties a red string around our right wrist and marks a third eye on our forehead with yellow pigment while blessing us in Hindi. We take in the breath-taking view and slowly descend, making counter clock-wise circles going down the flights of stairs, ringing the bells as we pass.