An 8-wife wedding & a foreigner. South Indian Hindu temple, N. Hollywood, California
By Etan Doronne
8 Apr 2012
A week ago I dropped into a corner shop at the nearby shopping center. Between a vegetable stand and long shelves of Indian food products I was surprised to find a Tamil culture enthusiast, Classical southern Indian dance teacher and a PHD of geography, all-in-one: the owner Nalini.
She invited me to this Saturdays function at the local South Indian temple, where her students would perform.
Today I drove up the 20 miles to it's North Hollywood location in the heavy late morning traffic of Passover/Easter goers.
I was the only foreigner (Non NRI) guest on the horizon and with the colorful attire, outdoor ceremonies, no marked seats and free choice of sitting or standing at anytime who wouldn't ease up.
The 'abroad' location of this temple came all the more obvious through various details such as plastic flower garlands, collapsible swimming pool as the water source for bathing deities and the structure, likely a retired church.
The function involved Carnatic music with drum and flute, then Agni Pooja (feeding the sacred fire with ghee while chanting). By the end of the day the bathed and beautifully 8 'Murti' (avatars) of goddess Lakshmi were lined up on the decorated stage, all ready to be wed to one god early on the next morning.
A lady that was happy to help me out with a cup of Chai I searched for later came and chatted me up to tell her about the difference between Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions and their origins. She's interested in all religions and was wondering if after visiting the Pyramids she could enter Israel and visit Jesus's Crucifixion site. She was also wondering how Romans who had executed Jesus later adopted Christianity as the formal religion.
One of the three young guys I had Prasad (free) dinner, named Murti, Prasad and Venkatesh, asked me: "Is it you Jews we need to thank for adding another day, Saturday, to form the long weekend we enjoy here in USA?"
Another asked if I celebrated the Passover last night, I said it's less about the ceremony for me and more about the social values, people/community & practices.
More stories of my experiences backpacking rural India for 2 years on http://jpgmag.com/people/etand/stories
An 8-wife wedding, Carnatic music, Tamil dance, Andhra community & a foreigner. North Hollywood Hindu temple, California. 2012
Ashta Lakshmi Sametha Sri Venkateshwara Temple North Hollywood California. www.ssvedacenter.org
Nalini Natarajan Poorna Dance center - South Indian Tamil / Andhra Pradesh traditional classic dance.