Khajuraho: feeling the divine within
My tale of India continues... onto Khajuraho so see the temples. The group of temples in Khajuraho were built between 970-1030 CE. 85 temples were built and all but 20 were destroyed by Sultan Aibak's army. A Hindu man standing outside the only active temple told me that the armies desecrated the temples by slashing the faces off the statues and throwing cows blood into them - rendering the temples unfit for worship. These empty stone buildings now serve as just beautiful displays of architecture for tourists to see... and as a reminder of history.
The temples are undeniably exquisite in their structure. With elaborate decorations sprawling from their foundation to their highest peaks, and the dedication that went into meticulously carving every statue is obvious. The beauty of the structures impressed me greatly. However, the lack of energy or spiritual connectedness made my visit feel more like I walked through cold, empty tombs rather than lively places of worship.
There is only one active temple in the group and it has been continuously worshipped in since its creation over a thousand years ago. Dandapani coordinated with the priests of the temple to allow our group to participate in the ritual called abhishekam, or bathing the central representation of God with offerings. In this particular temple, the central representation of the Divine is a cylindrical stone called a Lingum in the center of the room. In other temples, the central stone may be a figure, a representation of a certain Sect of Hinduism, or nothing - a vacant room - which symbolizes that God is everywhere, formless, timeless, and space-less.
After appropriately greeting Ganesha at the foot of the temple, we climbed the stairs to find men and women chanting and praying in their own ways, and not at all the same mantras or tones. Their voices and individual melodies intermingled above us in the dome of the room. I watched from the floor below the platform where the worshippers bathed the Shiva Lingum in offerings. Life and Energy filled this temple, unlike the skeletons of temples I explored yesterday. The stone floor was cold on my feet but I could feel my skin tingle with warmth as the excitement built inside the room and inside of me. The lively energy was contagious.
In his traditional Priest robes, D climbed on a questionably "safe" ladder to the top of the Lingum and began the ceremony. We all chanted “Om Namah Shivaya, Shivaya Namah Om,” as D bathed the stone, the symbol of the Divine, with offerings of milk, yoghurt, oils, and flowers. Incense and our mantras swirled together into a frenzy. The mantra grew louder and more consistent. Our group of nearly 30 students plus the few priests and other worshippers filled the room with so much sound it vibrated off the walls, ceiling, and floor. I cannot explain why, I can only share and speculate, but as I stood there barefoot on the hard temple floor in a cool puddle of rain water, I looked up at the Lingum as D poured the milk over it. The contrast of white oozing down the sides of the dark stone sparked a feeling of anguish inside of me. Tears filled my eyes, I felt my face get hot and my stomach knotted... the thought that entered my awareness was my interpretation of the pain the people must have felt when their sacred temples, built with love and devotion, were destroyed and violently desecrated in such a hateful way. It felt like my heart was ripping apart. I stood their, chanting over and over again, crying. Not feeling sympathy but rather a direct connection to the people, their devotion, the worship, the Love, the Divine, the confusion, the destruction, the pain. All of it.
The emotions subsided as I continued observing both the ceremony and myself. I witnessed both interesting physical sensations along with emotions and thoughts. Joy, Bliss, Sadness, Excitement. Everything. I watched it all with curiosity - a student of my own experience.
During the ceremony, we chanted for over 90 minutes. We each offered to the temple, the Lingum, and were blessed by the priests. And we all walked out back into the sunlight in silence - totally absorbed in the experience. When you chant for that long, there will be a metaphysical change that is felt - your vibration in every cell of your body “tunes” to a higher frequency. I felt as thought the group melted into the same melty pot of connection... of oneness. I cannot speak for the others, but I certainly felt great when I walked out. It was like my head was screwed on straight or if my eyes un-fogged after a long nap.
Later in the day, during our lecture, some people shared their reactions, their questions, their insights about the ceremony. D said during the discussion, “The reason that you can experience the high energy, peace, Divinity, God or whatever at a ceremony like that is because it is already inside of you. And you can build it up by experiencing it over and over again.”
Already inside... think about that. How often do we seek God, Love, Peace, Nature, Divinity, Truth outside of ourselves? I know that my answer is, “a lot less now.” My hope is to continue on this path, to continually experience what is already inside of me, to feel connected to all beings, my soul, the Divine, the Truth... to realize I have everything I need within.