Yatra dispatch: Ashtanga, temple visits and getting close to Siva

By the accounts of those who have been on previous Namarupa yatras, this one has been intense.

We hit the ground running — literally. Among our first stops was the Chariot Festival at Chidambaram. It came after the extremity of Tiruvannamalai. Between the two, we experienced the pounding presence and power of Siva. He does not fool around.

We’re in Mumbai now; some already have left, and many others are leaving in the coming hours. And so there has been some reflection. One conclusion is we were fortunate we didn’t start up north with Ganesha temples because we would have been opened up and the Siva temples of the south would have wrecked havoc.

As it happened, we still had a foot solidly in our Western lives. You can read that as skepticism, irony or ignorance. Whatever it was, it acted as a little safeguard, as protection.

Last night, closing out our temple visits, we went to the Babulnath Siva Temple. And, continuing our run of luck, they were about to perform arati. I still can’t describe it — that will come, hopefully. It was entirely different from those in the South: drums, bells, collective chanting, clapping, heavy incense. But still the same Siva power, which I’ve only thus far been able to describe as like a black hole.

There was some havoc, I think. But many of us had another form of protection — perhaps in the form of immersion: our Ashtanga practices. The daily fire, the six-day-a-week internal agni we go through, I think, acts both as a ward against unraveling into nothing — that Indian syndrome we posted about a couple months back — and as a doorway into the experience, the intense devotional experience, of these temples, of India, of the darshan. It allows us to get, perhaps, a little close to it, too.

Close enough at the temple last night to lay out hands on the Siva linga.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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