Spiritual time in the Temple
by Vaman Acharya
On the special occasion of Venugopala Jayanti, Lord Venugopala temple was packed with the devotees. Those who did not get the entrance inside the temple were waiting outside for the darshan of the Lord. It was a challenging job for the temple authorities to manage without any untoward incidents. Volunteers were ready to help the devotees.
Vasu was one among the hundreds of devotees to present in the religious activities right from morning to evening. His purpose of visit was to spend better spiritual time (Satkalakshepa) in the temple. During his stay in the temple, he keenly observed the situation. The priest was busy in the puja. He was chanting Sanskrit mantras loudly in the sanctum and sanctorum. Some of the devotees were singing devotional songs melodiously with the help of musical instruments. Others were concentrating their devotion towards the Lord only. Some devotees were busy in making pradakshina and prostrate when they reach in front of Lord. The pathway made of the stone around the shrine is called pradakshina path.
The dress code in the temple for men was to wear dhoti with angavastra. For women wearing saree was essential. There was no dress code for kids. Elderly persons were sitting on the floor observing the puja. Young parents especially mothers were taking care of their little kids. Devotees were told to leave their footwear in the place earmarked for it. Those who were outside standing before the makeshift shops were buying puja materials, religious books and audio, video cassettes on devotional songs. The owners of these shops, whenever they find free time engage in conversation.
“This year there is good number of visitors to the temple.”
“Yes! When compared to last year the visitors are more this year.”
The temple management had arranged Rathostava (car seva) to the Lord being a special occasion. Religious rituals like chanting Sanskrit Veda ghosha, puja and mangalaruti was conducted by the priest in the sanctum sanctorum. All these activities were going on in a systematic manner as per the schedule. The Rathostava (car seva) outside the temple commenced soon after the puja. Large number of devotees came forward to pull the car. It took one hour to complete the seva. Thereafter the devotees were told to assemble in the dining hall for prasadam. Most of the devotees, who were interested to reserve their seats in the dining hall, skipped the car seva.
The dining hall had an accommodation for about one thousand people to sit on the floor at a time. Devotees were large in numbers and beyond the expectation of the temple management. Those who do not get the seat, wait for next batch. In this process of getting seat, there was a loud conversation between them. The funny thing prevailed there was to keep angavastra folded on the floor straight in such a way that maximum seats were reserved. The arguments between them were common.
Vasu had an opportunity to have darshan of the Lord along with his family members. There was a big notice board displayed, wherein the list of the sevas and amount mentioned. Vasu in consultation with the family members selected one seva and paid the amount. His daughter in law took strain to reserve seats in the dining hall. There was a small platform just opposite the seats reserved. She told Vasu to sit on the small platform and relax for sometime. One lady was already seated on the platform. Vasu sat just besides her leaving some place for others. An old lady known to her came and occupied the vacant place. Both the ladies were busy in talk for sometime. In the meantime, the old lady requested Vasu to take care of her bag as she wanted to go upstairs to have the darshan of Lord Venugopala.
Vasu said, “Madam, please don’t think of going to upstairs. You have to struggle hard to make way for you in the crowd. If something adverse happens, you have to suffer.”
She agreed to his advice and continued her talk with another lady.
Vasu had no choice except to pass time in the company of unknown persons. His family members were little away from the platform. About two hours passed; there was an announcement of distribution of prasadam shortly. Vasu left the platform and occupied on the seat meant for him. Banana leaf followed by some of the eatable items served on the top of the leaf to everybody. Splashing some water on the lower portion of the banana leaf to clean the dust was done by all other members of his family. Napkin was used to make the leaf dry.
A lady sat besides Vasu asked, “Don’t you know when the eatables are already served, you are not supposed to use the napkin for dry. You should not keep the napkin after the use in the bag.”
Vasu did not reply to her. He failed to notice the bigger side of the banana leaf on the upper side before serving the food. The volunteer helped him to keep it properly by making comment people do not know how to put the banana leaf in a proper manner. Another lady just besides his daughter in law, was expressing doubt on two women, who were sitting just opposite lane. Her doubt was these women do not belong to Brahmin community. One of them was singing devotional songs melodiously. The serving of food was in full swing. Again the conversation started between two persons.
“Did you observe one person who was serving main prasadam item getting terrible sweat (perspiration) from his body and the same is falling on the eatable? Is it not unhygienic?” said one person.
“Why do you minutely observe? In the mass feeding such things are common. If you don’t like leave it,” replied another person.
Somebody told Swamiji’s had come to the dining hall before serving the food and called the young people to become volunteers and allow senior citizens to have food in the first batch. There was another complaint from those who got the seat in the first batch that volunteers were not serving some of the eatable items to them. In a mass feeding, it was impossible to look in to the requirements of each individual.
Vasu was observing different types of people and their strange behaviors. He was of the opinion that in such a big religious occasion the purpose of visit to the temple would be to involve themselves actively in the devotional activities and not fight each other for getting seat for the purpose of food. Even if they get small quantity of prasadam, it would be fine. The purpose of visiting the temple is to spend spiritual time in the holy place.
Vasu had spent nice spiritual time in the company of his family members and the large number of devotees. ***