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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Kalinga Diaries – Part VI: Darshan and Offering

At 10.25 am, we stand in a multilane queue, waiting for entry into the Jagannath temple. Hearing what appears to be a one-sided conversation, I look to my left and notice that one guy – who seems to be a local – has a mobile phone and is talking on it. So much for rules and abiding by them!

It’s a nanosecond wait when compared to the light years wait for darshan at Tirupati. Even the audible expression of devotion seems more subdued – there are only a few occasional shouts of “Jay Jagannath” but then, it’s two words when compared to the single, easily-rolling-off-the-tongue “Govindaa.”

The lanes open, and everyone rushes pell-mell, only to be stuck on the few steps leading into the temple, where a gate has been closed. A few minutes later, that gate too opens, and we all rush into the main temple hall.

My sister has coached me well and so, instead of following the crowd that rushes to the right side after entering the temple, we make our way quickly to the left, and join the queue of locals who’re standing in a single file line. This line is going to pass the closest to the deity, so you’re guaranteed a clear darshan as compared to those who’ve rushed towards the right side.

As we near the darshan point though, there’s a sudden influx of too many people, all pushing forward. I realize that I’m not taking the steps ahead but just getting pushed by the crowd and being shorter than the average, I have a sensation of being crushed, and my vision is blocked. The only thing I can do is scream in my mind to Lord Jagannath to save me and at precisely that moment, I reach the darshan point, and am blessed by a straight line of vision to have the glorious, if hurried, darshan of the triad of deities – Jagannath with His brother Balabhadra and His sister Subhadra.

The triad of deities. Now installed in the pooja room at home
 5 seconds of contemplation even as I jostle to hold my ground. Then the crowd sweeps me further away. I struggle to place my offering in the pooja plate; one of the pandas there notices my efforts and pulls me back by the arm. It’s the currency in my hand that has worked in my favour, for all other devotees are being pushed ahead to ensure they don’t turn back and hold up the line.

Another panda thrusts a box at me saying, “Prasad” and I clutch at it, paying the amount he specifies.

My son has moved way ahead and hubby is somewhere behind, lost in the crowd. After a few minutes, we re-group and move out towards the temple courtyard. By now, it’s 11.00 am and the kid’s stomach has started grumbling at the enforced fast. He wants to move out, but hubby’s devotion is still running strong and yet again, I’m stuck in the middle, having to balance both extremes.

Hubby notices a shrine of Lord Narasimha at a high point in the temple building and insists we climb the narrow staircase to get there. Without realizing we must wait, we move into the place in front of the deity and the Panda who has been manning that spot and temporarily moved away, comes back and is angry to see us there.

Anyway, once the devotees who were near the deity move away, this Panda takes us ahead and before we realize what’s happening, he’s placed my hands on the feet of Lord Narasimha, covered my hands with those of my husband, instructed my son to hang back a little, and starts reciting some mantras and does a sankalpa on our behalf, prays for hubby’s business to prosper, loudly instructs us to repeat his words, and concludes by ordering us to offer Rs. 501/- at the Lord’s feet !

To say we’re shocked is an understatement. I wonder if he’s done this because he was angry at us earlier. My husband starts arguing with him, saying he should have told us first about the money and we’d have decided whether to do the sankalpa or not. At this, the Panda becomes more fiery than what Lord Narasimha Himself may have been towards Hiranyakashipu, and threatens us, saying, “Ssshhh…don’t invite the wrath of the Lord by refusing to make the offering after the sankalpa!!”

I’m just as shocked as my husband, but I respond quickly, trying to calm him down and avoid a fight in the Lord’s sannidhi. Maybe it’s the Lord’s will, so let’s not be petty, we decide and I hand over the amount. The Panda gives me a gold-plated coin with the Lakshmi yantra on one side and Lord Lakshminarasimha on the other and says we must place this in the pooja room at home, and the Lord’s blessings will be on our family and hubby’s business.

Coming out, my son, who has witnessed the entire episode, is irritated at the way things played out. With heavy irony, he asks me, “Did Appa need this? Couldn’t he have listened to me and left without going to this shrine?”

I sigh and stay silent. For once, I don’t have a quick comeback to his questions. It’s not about the amount of money – we have sometimes donated larger amounts. It’s the way in which the offering was enforced, with the threat of the Lord’s ill-will that has left a little bitterness in our hearts. 
The 'coin' to the viewer's right is the yantra we received at the Lord Narasimha shrine


  1. Very nicely written by a pure soul.....when reading the reader experiences all what you r saying....

    1. Oh...that's too much praise, Nayana. I'm happy I can give you that experience..


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