Bhubaneswar bills itself as the City of Temples. So my hosts took me on a brief tour of some well-known landmarks. As evening set in on that day, we stopped by temple atop a small hill. Rain spit, darkness crawled over us and the configuration of the temple made it hard to see up to the platform. My host stayed by the car as I took to the steps. As I passed through the metal gate, a monk/priest suddenly appeared, joyful to see me and gesturing that I remove my shoes. He whisked me to a shrine and shaped my hands into prayer gestures and proceeded to chant for me, stopping only to ask my name and family members. He filled my hands with flowers and wiped leaves across my forehead. After a few minutes, he then paused to say I could easily leave 5 or 10,000 rupees for my blessings and safety. I laughed, he looked serious. I left 10 rupees. He sort of laughed and said, ‘okay’ to then guide me to a side shrine of Durga to start again. This one was quicker, but ended the same way with an open ‘suggestion’ to offer some thousands of rupees for the goddess. I deposited 20. A second priest then took over and pointed out one other shrine, where he prayed over, for, by, next to, against me and gestured to the small pile of low denomination coins. He repeated the word America several times, noting my background and seeming to suggest I could offer more. I left 10 more rupees, as which time my driver was clicking his tongue in the background and shaking his head. Another temple assistant came by and started banging a cymbal, as a third chanted and offered flowers and the like to the statue. The priest kept gesturing for me to stay, the driver was indicting I should just leave. I waited a moment, but the music banged on. I bowed my apologies to the priest and wandered off with the driver, as darkness now enveloped the hilltop.
© Daniel A. Kelin II
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