I’ve never been religious. I’ve personally hated going to crowded temples and waiting in long queue’s to pray to God, when the first thing I was taught when I was a child was “God is one and everywhere”. But, I still went to temples to please my grandparents. And then, as I grew up, I saw random bullshit happening around the world over “which God is better” et all. It drove me nuts. I stopped going to temples when I moved out of home. The only time I visited a temple since then, was for my wedding, that too since the venue itself was a temple.
And its been more than a decade, temple free. But, I realised I’ve been making up by visiting all these sacred places around the world in the name of traveling and forgotten they are houses of prayer. Did I go there for God? God no. I’m trying to remember why I went – Architecture maybe. Unesco World Heritage site I guess. History for sure. Wonder of the World, who knows? Either way, I never prayed when I went anywhere. But, looks like there is one God hanging around across all these places and that is the Travel God. He loves me, chases me and makes sure I find him in the next destination or he finds me in the next destination. I’m having this wild affair with him and no one seems to mind. It is for him that I climbed those ridiculously steep steps in the Guatemalan temples or walked through claustrophobic passages in Egyptian temples. It is for him that I kept silent in the serene cathedrals across Europe or danced with no inhibition on the streets of Salvador. And, the beauty of it is that we keep discovering each other all the time.
So, here are the memorable moments from across the world in sacred places, where I found the one God to love. He made me fall in love with him and he taught me a lesson or two.
At Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil – Where Travel God tested my patience with the crowds and the unbearable sun (not being favourable to my photography).
At the Cathedral in Cusco, Peru, just outside which my wallet got stolen. This was the first test of travel – Can a solo woman backpacker manage without money in a strange land. He was just putting me in a situation to see how tough I can be.
At the Bonfim Church in Salvador Brazil, on the day of Bonfim festival, the first house of prayer I went to after having beer and dancing. A strange new concept to me. But, he seemed to derive joy from the mad parade and I just went along.
At Westminster Abbey in London, where he showed me two sides of a coin. The place were union and separation exists under one roof. The place where so many people marry. The place where so many lay buried. I had goosebumps thinking about Grand Royal weddings. I felt more moved when I saw the graves of those Great poets, authors, scientists, nobles… The poets corner and so on.
At a beautiful Hindu temple in Bali, devoid of the loud chattering Pujaris that you often see in India or the crowds or the Aarti’s or the flowers or the fire. He showed me that religion is incidental. It doesn’t have to follow norms. The same Hindu temple in Bali was more Buddhist than anything else. Buddhism. Hinduism. Doesn’t matter. It was silent and beautiful.
At the Duomo in Florence, Italy where I found the Artist in him. The artistic cathedral itself. The artists outside the cathedral wanting to make portraits of you. The artist within.
At the Alhambra in Granada, Spain where he showed me that God is in the detail. The less said, the better.
At Chichen Itza in Mexico where I discovered that God doesn’t mind an evil side. All those skulls. All those demons. All those you see oh so often across the world. If we did not know what evil was, how are we supposed to identify what’s good.
At Abu Simbel in Egypt, where he taught me that nothing comes easy. Getting up at 2 30 am and taking a convoy to reach there to see the majestic idols at sunrise. What’s tougher. This whole temple was moved from one place to another and built piece by piece. Nothing comes easy, my dear.
At the monastery in Ladakh in India, where he showed me that God is as much in energy and restlessness as much as he is in calmness and patience. Check out the young monk and old monk and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
That’s the only spiritual discourse I have for the traveler’s soul. Tell you more when I meet him next.