Thiruvannamallai - 3 hours from Chennai.
Its a full moon night, Poornima, and the moon beams its gentle rays down on earth and lights up small spot lights along Girivalam, a narrow but sacred road that leads around the main hill. Its that time of the month, when couple of lakhs of people throng the temple and this otherwise peaceful road to attain salvation of some sort, or at least gain a few brownie points with the Lord. Dad decided to join the crowd, while I sat back with a friend of mine and watched the world go by, quite literally!!
I reflected on how I had even made it in there. I had no idea, cars were not allowed, I had no idea that Poornima calls for a lakh people walking across your feet all in one evening... and worse still, trying to get my way through an army of policemen. To make matters worse, the two way lane had been made a one way with police barricades and highway traffic had been diverted elsewhere. I closed my eyes, wishing against all hope to be allowed without question.
While driving down along Ramanamaharshi's ashram, I figured, that this was going to be hell, yet I tugged at the accelerator. One reaching the entrance of Girivalam, I was stopped by three inspectors, all of whom said there was no way four wheelers would be allowed, and that I should park my car on some way-side road and join the masses walking. I had to meet my Guru, the man who had trusted me and shown me the way, I had to meet him. That was the reason given, that I had no plans of walking and I wished to take the car through the wall of people. But no, there was no chance, until the inspector saw my father... "Your father is old, and its good to see that he wants to go around the hill. We dont allow anyone, but we shall let you through madam. "
It was funny, dad got down and started to walk, while the inspector told me to take a side lane and get onto Girivalam. And so I did it, dissolving every ounce of sympathy the inspector showed towards my "aged" father who is quite actually fit as a fiddle, far more than me! Driving down a wall of people with no aim but to cross the massive hill that stands near us, was not a joke. Little did I want to call attention onto myself by pressing the horn, I slowly moved with the crowd. It was the slowest my car had ever done! When I reached, my Guru was amazed - How did they let your car in? They dont let any car in, not even VIPs, not even CMs!
With my baby parked on the side, and a cup of tea in my hand, I stared on, at the oil lamps that lit the temples, at the rising flames of fire as people dropped in their camphor in front of the various shrines, at the very shrines now bright as ever with tube lights, killing every shred of serenity and awe that would lure anyone to strange promises of enlightenment from dark chambers within these temple walls. The road was alive, with people selling anything from "Venga Saandhu"(the black paste used to put a dot on small children to ward off evil spirits ), to huge posters of the new light called the Art of Living! There was just about every marketing gimmick that sold faith out for a few bucks... It was business time, and all the small shrines minted money with collections taking place, for temple maintenance and God knows what else.
I looked up to my Guru, why has the Girivalam Trust put a light inside the Garbha Griha? Isn't that wrong? This was the only shrine left, and they had destroyed that too.. I saw deep sorrow in his eyes, and helplessness, he was speechless. I knew what had happened. Greed for money had made them light up the interiors of these once powerful temples, so that people come and dish out more money at the various shrines, they didnt care for the shrines anymore.. it was all Money... What could my Guru have done, but live with these atrocities while his immense knowledge just stayed back in his mind.
We laughed over small things, simple things in life, on and off taking Simran's trip... she made amazing tea. Yes small things, simple things.. while we watched the seriously big things getting destroyed silently.
It was a different Girivalam I saw that night, one that posed a world of problems, one that showed the collective hope of a million people as they walked by, scarcely caring for the slow silent destruction of the very shrines they worshipped...
I left at 10.30 that night, promising to come back the next day, as I waded through the river of people, slowly, till I finally managed to get to the hotel, right next to the main temple gate. I walked into the reception to see a bewildered old man, the hotel manager who stood gaping, and all he could say was, "How did you get here, they dont allow cars through to the temple gate this evening, in the history of this place, yours has been the first car I know of that managed to come through!"
The Lord works in strange ways to make His presence felt!