An optional tour one evening in Jaipur, enjoyed by about half the SmarTours group, was to the Birla Hindu temple built a few years ago by a well-to-d0 family. Designed to show how Hinduism encompasses both Islam and Buddhism with their symbolic rooflines, the white marble structure is surrounded with a white plaza. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, Arvind told us the ceremony we would witness takes place after sundown. It usually takes about 10 minutes and includes a chant that is repeated several times. Arvind did warn us that the chanting could go on for a half hour or even longer, but it was a short ceremony after all.
He told us that symbolically he leaves his troubles outside on the steps leading up to the entrance, to be picked up again upon exiting. He told us that the chanting makes him feel very calm.
Arvind made sure we were positioned at the very front of the open room. People filed in behind us and what happened next was interesting. As soon as the curtains opened and the ceremony began, the crowd pushed forward, as if eager to be as close as possible.
The ceremony actually began when the curtains were still closed. The priests sounded a conch shell, and the tones reminded my of the shofar blown in a Jewish Temple at the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur. The curtains opened and before us were two statutes of Vishnu and Lakshmi, beautifully dressed in bright colors. The chanting began, one priest ringing some bells, as done in the Episcopal mass to draw attention to an important prayer, and the other priest slowly making a circular motion with a candelabra. Candles are lit in Christianity and Judaism as well.
In a few minutes, the chanting ended, the curtains remained open. The crowd circled around behind the curtained area to receive a blessing from the priests in the form of a spicy sweet mixture to eat, one more symbolic similarity to Christianity.
Once again, we are more alike than different. Love one another.