Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gangama temple, Malleswaram

Today we visited a third temple in our favorite Bangalore neighborhood: the Gangama temple in Malleswaram. Gangama means "Mother Ganges" and the temple is dedicated to the goddess of this all-important river in India.

We were in luck today-- the first auto driver we approached (and the only waiting at the bus stand) agreed to take us. He wasn't entirely sure where the temple was, but he headed to Malleswaram and asked a couple of other auto drivers and got us there just fine. Often auto drivers, for their own inscrutable reasons, will say no when they learn where you want to go. The other day Liel, our friend Bitasta and I went shopping in Malleswaram and had at least half a dozen autos just shake their heads at us and keep going when they heard "Malleswaram". I'm not sure why-- they were all headed in that direction-- but perhaps they thought it was too close and wasn't a worthwhile trip.

Here is the Gangama temple. Isn't it beautiful??

The inside was gorgeous as well. Pictures aren't allowed in the main shrine, but the caretaker said that we could take pictures elsewhere, so we did.

That's Gangama behind Zion, and Ganesh in the cage to her left.

There was also a side room with an elaborate brass chariot containing another image of the goddess.

Outside the temple were two more chariots-- really big ones. At least one of them was advertising for an upcoming ceremony.

After our temple visit we stopped into the old market to buy some coconuts. We ended up buying a pineapple as well, with some haggling. After we'd agreed on a price they tried to put a different (smaller) pineapple in a bag for us to actually buy, and seemed mighty amused when I refused it and insisted on the one I'd been bargaining for. Hopefully I didn't buy a super crappy pineapple!

On the way home from the market we passed a hijra (also referred to as a person of the third gender) on the street. Liel and I were a little bit ahead of Robert and Zion at that point, and s/he blessed us and asked for money. I didn't have any, but pointed to Robert, so the hijra blessed them too, and Robert paid him/her (hijras, like transgendered people the world over, face extreme discrimination. They are usually un(der) educated, and that, in addition to the general prejudice they face, makes it very difficult for them to find regular employment. One way that they support themselves is through begging; another is through attending and performing at certain religious rituals, as they are understood to have the power to bestow both blessings and curses. So our encounter today encompassed parts of both of these roles).

I've known about hijras for some time, but this was my first actual encounter with one. I'm having a hard time describing the event without sounding like this person was some kind of circus attraction, so I'll just say that it was really interesting!

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