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