Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nadi's Hindu Temple

27 September 2013                Happy Birthday to my Dad and my niece Hannah!!!

Today we went in to town (Nadi, the third largest city in Fiji) and walked around a bit, took care of business (you know, banking, topping up the internet, etc.), and had lunch.  Then I decided to go to the Hindu temple, and Richard went off to explore the side streets of town.

I spent some time looking at the clothing in the Indian stores - the festival of Ganesh was last week or so, and the festivals of Navrarti and then Diwali are coming up.  (And I apologize if I have misspelled those festival names.)  These are major Hindu festivals, and so the stores have absolutely gorgeous clothes in a variety of styles - in India, different regions have different traditional clothing.  I tried on something (which looked horrible on me - Indian people are of smaller builds than those of us who are of Russian/Polish/German descent and are built to carry buckets of milk across the frozen steppes and tundra), but mostly just looked, admired, chatted with the sales people, and learned a lot about how to wrap a sari and how to dress for a Hindu wedding.  (One saleslady was showing me several options, and pulled out something with all kinds of sequins and plastic gems and glitz - she looked at it, looked at me, and said, "Too much bling, hmmm?"  I laughed and agreed!  It was one of those funny cultural anachronisms.)

Then I walked down to the temple - this is the Sri Sivasubramaniya Swami Temple, the largest temple in Fiji.  (And no, I really don't know how to pronounce that correctly.  No idea which syllables to emphasize, nor how to make it flow off the tongue.)

It was gorgeous!  Sumptuous painted plaster for all the roofs and statues.  I have no idea if the plaster is made in molds, or carved, or what.  But all of the roofs, with all those statues, are hand-painted.  They have a workshop at the temple, and I could see workers replastering and painting a few figures.

I had to wear a sarong and shoulder wrap, since my knee-length and strappy sundress was just a little too bare for a temple.  Shoes left at the front.  I wandered in and slowly walked around the temple - passing three high school students who were quietly walking around the perimeter of the temple in a clockwise manner, circling three times.  (I asked the guide, this is a prayer ritual.  And he thought I was strange because I circled the temple in a counter-clockwise direction.  Hey, what do I know about Hindu temples, right?)

There were a variety of small temples within the temple grounds, to some of the various gods.  The main god featured seemed to be Ganesh, the god with the human body and head of an elephant.  (Ganesh, also known as Ganesha, often is accompanied by a mouse.  This is his pet.  Really.  This is what I was told by the guide.)  And since the festival of Ganesh had just passed, Ganesh seemed to be even more prominent.
There were amazing paintings on the ceiling inside, but people aren't allowed to photograph those.  It was similar to the way the Sistine Chapel shows the stories of the Bible - the temple ceiling shows the birth of Ganesh, his parents Shiva and Parvati, his brother Murugan, and a variety of legends and stories featuring these gods.  It was kind of confusing, and sometimes people were different colors (the green lady was born in the bush) - plus sometimes gods transformed into other gods.  

Different sides of the same roof - so different gods, or different incarnations of the same gods, or something like that.
Despite my confusion and not understanding the religious significance, I could still appreciate the beauty of the paintings and the sculpted plaster.  The temple definitely had that mystical, magical feeling that richly decorated places of worship create, no matter what the religion - there just seems to be an aura of peace, tranquility, and as if the stories could truly happen.

I had a wonderful time, and talked with the guide and then the lady at the front gate.  They are all of Indian descent but raised in Fiji, and of course are Hindu.  And they asked if there were Indians where we lived, and if there were Hindu temples.  So I told them about seeing the festival of Ganesh in St. Thomas, when Richard and I were watching the turtle nest and waiting for the hatchlings - a large gathering of Hindu people showed up and chanted for a while, then a few young men took a statue of Ganesh into the sea on a small surfboard - when they got out to shoulder-deep water, they took the statue and placed it on the bottom of the ocean.  Over the next few days, as we patrolled the area we found several statues of Ganesh placed along the beach.  This is part of the tradition, to place statues of Ganesh in the ocean or by the shore - these are special statues designed to disintegrate quickly and return to the earth.

All in all, I had a fabulous day!  And it was interesting learning more about one aspect of Fijian culture, since this is an incredibly multicultural society. 


  1. Sivasubramaniya pronounced: SHEE-vuh-soo BRA-mahn-ee-yuh
    gorgeous photos!!!

  2. which means it is a temple dedicated to the Swami (teacher and or holy man) who was a disciple of Lord Siva (or Shiva and had taken his name) and he was from the Brahman or upper caste. sss