The second temple we went to was called the temple of death. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. We had been told a little bit about the place before we arrived, but were not expecting what it actually was. We knew it was a place where Hindus came to be cremated because they believe they will be reincarnated into a higher being in their next life. I knew there would be a spirit of death there, but didn’t realize how heavily it would cover the entire area.
Something I learned about myself while on the mission was that I am able to discern the spiritual atmosphere of a place, and one of the first times I realized this was when we went to this temple. Before I stepped foot inside the bounds of the temple I could feel the darkness in the form of immense tension in my chest, like a vice grip. The feeling did not let up, as the dark atmosphere of death was everywhere. We could smell the bodies burning long before we saw the flames.
We bought tickets at the visitor center and this began our time in the temple of death. A tour guide explained the importance of observing every ritual aspect perfectly down to the minutest detail. Before the bodies were burned, they were draped with wreaths of marigolds, bathed in the river running through the temple, and then walked several times around the pyre where the body was to be burned.
One of my favorite things that have happened here has been when we went to the “Monkey Temple”. It was the third or so week. We walked to catch a bus to the Monkey Temple. This bus ride was more like a roller coaster ride, but one that had no safety standards. Picture this: veering not into just other “lanes” (a lane is a loose term here), but entirely onto the side of oncoming traffic. It is absolute mayhem, exhilarating, and terrifying all at the same time. At one point there was only a gap of about a foot from a head on collision with another brightly painted bus.
We finally arrived and walked to the top of the temple. We went past booths of people selling colorful prayer beads and trinkets. The plan was to worship and see how God wanted to move. We explored a little bit, looking at the prayer flags fluttering in the wind, watching the monkeys clamber all around (it is called the monkey temple for good reason), and then settled at the place we chose to worship.