Friday, November 26, 2010


Once inside the gates of this temple complex (no camera) and past the long winding footpath (no shoes), I'm greeted not by the standard religious somberness but instead an atmosphere akin to a music festival in full swing. The picture painted of Krishna followers is postcard perfect. For starters, the children are happy to be here, no-one is attending or being dragged along against their will. Laughter is abound and no restraints are being made to combat this, thankfully.

A mass of people, young and old, sit enamored by a religious re-enactment. Like a stage play, priests and holy men, not professional actors, play their parts with colourful costumes amidst the frantic frenzy that engulfs the majority of these temple grounds. Children run freely, jubilant and joyful, while their parents watch on proudly. I'm asked for my name and country of origin countless times, by people who are all too happy to share their culture, religion or a pint of chai.

 A friendly local offers to show me his favorite temple within the complex, a marble hall with many paintings on the ceiling. I'm told they are close to their 2000th birthday, and not only depict events in the life of Krishna, but were around long before Michelangelo's more famous Sistine Chapel. The paintings here, and indeed the whole atmosphere of the place, feel far more authentic without all that fetid fanfare. Once again, India proves itself to be a raw destination. For those of you who are sick of what's been done before, or to death, give the subcontinent a go and get off the beaten track. You'll feel like an explorer, rather than just a plain old tourist.

Also worth checking out is the actual birthplace of Lord Krishna. Once a prison cell, this dark room with barren walls houses a bare slab of concrete - on which the enigmatic blue baby was born. The King at the time had imprisoned Krishna's parents and promised to kill each of their children, due to this, Krishna was given up for adoption. He is one of the most popular figures in Hindu mythology, adored by countless pilgrims all over the country. He is famous for being a bachelor with many girlfriends, a warrior sent to Earth to fight evil, playing pranks on many people and having an affair with a married woman.

In India, there are many many Gods and from them are many reincarnations who have sprung up throughout the ages. What I like most about Hinduism is the reverence these figures are given, yet they are almost always humanized and capable of making mistakes. For instance, Lord Shiva is known as the supreme being, but he also famously made the mistake of beheading his own son - Ganesh. While I usually don't make a point of encouraging fathers out there to maim and injure their children, it's refreshing to see a God who makes errors in judgement - just like the rest of us :)

A fine place to try 'ladoo,' a famous Indian sweet, is Mathura. A delicious treat made primarily with rosewater and hard work, flour is added too. Candied pumpkin or 'petha' is more of an acquired taste but well worth a try. It's perhaps due to the religious significance of the site, but there are few rip-off merchants abound. Exquisitely made souvenirs, like framed pictures of Krishna are only 5 rupees each, making bargaining a non-issue. I was very happy to hear an Indian quoted the same price as me, something of a rarity in these parts!

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