I was woken up by the sound of chanting coming from the temple. It was 5am. Living close to a temple may be auspicious, but it can affect your sleep. The next morning I again had the privilege of waking up in this lucky way. And the next day too...
I knew what was up. The temple is a Hanuman temple and Hanuman Jayanthi was just around the corner. I knew this because of the colourful banner that had been hung up in front of the temple informing (or warning?) the neighbourhood that Hanuman’s special day was on the 30th of November.
Hanuman is the popular and much-loved monkey-god. In the Ramayana, Hanuman flies off (yes, a flying monkey!) to (Sri) Lanka to save Sita from the evil Ravana and return her to Lord Rama. As a result, Rama and Hanuman are great friends and Rama Navami (Rama’s birthday) is also celebrated with much pomp (and noise!) at Hanuman temples.
On the evening of the 30th, the road in front of the temple was crowded with people. The temple and surrounding buildings were decorated with colourful garlands of lights. I was passing the temple on my way home when I saw the priests carrying the idol out of the sanctum. They perched it on a throne under a canopy made of flowers. A tractor then slowly pulled the idol in a procession down the street. Traffic had been blocked. The ceremonial drummers were there as usual, leading the way with their frenetic drumming. The procession stopped and the drumming got even more frenetic. The vibrations were so strong I could feel them bouncing off me. A few men started to dance wildly. Crowds of people were standing on the sidelines watching the scene.
There’s a picture I wanted to take but I missed it, so I’ll describe it here. The priest had handed the arati plate to a woman who took it to a group of women standing on the sidewalk. The women rushed forward to pass their hands over the flames and then over their heads, receiving the god’s blessing. The light of the fire cast a glow on their faces as they crowded around it. I wanted to catch this image but it happened so fast and then it was over. But I have it in my memory.