Jet lag; No match for a twenty-four hour biathlon of sleep and consumption. As we crept from the small private room of our backstreet hostel, the sights and sounds of Paharganj seemed a little less daunting the second time around. This backpacker’s haven in Central Delhi is a neighbourhood full of affordable accommodations and restaurants, as well as innumerable shops aimed at domestic and international tourists. Chantal and I decided to opt for the hotel’s car service for our first day in Delhi, which turned out to be a terrific way to get our feet wet, and consequently a great way to keep them dry. Our friendly driver, Dwarka, gave us local insight and took us anywhere we pointed to on the map, where he waited until we were finished. Seven hours and an amazing lunch recommendation was well worth twenty-six Canadian dollars. Our very first stop after leaving our room, the Laxmi Narayan temple, or Birla Mandir.
As we walked up the steps and spotted a long-tailed macaque for the first time, Chantal’s eyes met mine; “We’re in India!” they said. Birla Mandir, a Hindu temple for Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity and Narayan, the preserver, was a fine introduction to Indian history and culture. Built in 1939, Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the temple and stipulated that members of all castes would be allowed entry.
After removing our shoes, storing our camera and phone in a locker and being given the key (no photos allowed), we entered the temple and slowly made our way through the hallways and balconies. Many, if not most of the inscriptions on the walls were replicated in english and gave us a real sense of the ideals behind Hinduism.
More than a religion and without a leader or prophet, Hinduism is a way of life that is identified by the belief in reincarnation, one infinite being of multiple manifestations, the law of cause and effect, following the path of righteousness, and the desire for liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The earliest Hindu scriptures date back to before 6500 BCE. Curiously, the word Hindu was invented by foreigners for the people of the Indus Valley. The term “Hinduism” never actually appears in Hindu scripture.
The lessons resonated strongly in Chantal and I both and wearing only my socks, I felt incredibly grounded in my own sense of self. We left Birla Mandir to continue our tour of New Delhi, but brought the energy we received there with us. Below are two pieces of scripture which compelled me to write them down while at the temple.
“The Spirit lodged within oneself is unperceived because of the perplexities of joy and grief and attachment to worldly objects.”
“He who desires to cross the painful ocean of worldly life, which is full of crocodiles of lust, anger, greed and infatuation should catch hold of the *Bhagavad Gita, which has the disciplines of action, devotion and wisdom as its oars. It will easily take him to the land of liberation (Nirvana).”
* Part of the Hindu epic Mahābhāratahe, the Bhagavad Gita is a 700 verse scripture written in Sanskrit.