Hindu Gods happily married at an ex-church
By Etan Doronne
16 Jan 2013
The first person I met after I left my clogs at the door and stepped into the hall was Reddy.
It was the wedding celebration of South Indian gods: Andal Kalyana Mahotsavams at then Ashta Lakshmi temple, North Hollywood. (California, USA)
His Old Navy sweatshirt flashed back the Tamil ancient technology wood ships that are still built and cruise the open Indian ocean between India and Arab peninsula.
Reddy was living all over the global as he represented Japanese electronic brands in emerging markets.
He also had business in Israel and told me this little story:
"Years back I cam to Israel for business. I didn't know it is the Passover holiday (he said it in Hebrew with an Indian accent, E.D), so I ended up spending the week traveling all over Israel instead. When it was time for me to leave on an Olympic flight to Greece, they gave me such a thorough search that they had to dellay the flight for 15 minutes. When I got to my business class seat eventually, it all came clear. My neighbour was the Greek high priest carrying the holly flame of Easter from Israel to Greek, because only the Greek and Russian church celebrate Easter one week later then all other."
I laughed and immediately recalled my Gujarati similar experience I described in this story: http://jpgmag.com/stories/15223 - "Wait till I tell you my story" I said, but we haven't got the chance since
But his first question as I entered with a Starbucks paper bag was:
"Is it possible it contain eggs?" he asked softly as I offered my Prasad (food gift for gods/guests).
"Maybe" I said about the Persian long bread and cranberries bagels.
"Food that may harm animals shouldn't be served" explained me Ramchandra later who came with his wife and daughter, "These days we can know that an egg is infertile so many do eat those at home"
At the beginning the godess was carried around the temple and brought in, as would be with a human Indian wedding when wife leaves her family home and arrives to the grooms native place.
Once the procession returned to the front door the footprint of the cross above could be clearly seen.
With Indian that's just fine, the building transformed into another prayer place but god is god and the essence is above symbols.
(In Hindu itself god is one with many faces (avatar ). Here, in this celebration, the specific avatars of male and female are getting married.)
Inside I was surprised to see women & men dance almost a couple dance, while carrying the Prasad (food gifts) to the Godess. They also both took part in decorating the gods on the stage. Also, the priests were involved in the kitchen preparations.
Travelers in India know sharpness & accuracy are hard to come by.
In business, friendship it just doesn't matter that much to get all fussy about. However, here in the temple, people do their very best and art all started from praising god.
The traditional dance, here south Indian, was a good example: a sharp and accurate sequence of freezing some body parts while moving others. Including eye pupils, fingers separately and ankles which give the rhythm by bell bangles.
The teacher of these dancers and her husband are the ones who invited me. They're also so kind every time I visit their south Indian grocery shop in Woodland Hills, CA.
After the marriage was completed all the children in the house gathered, or if too young were carried over and were showered with rice along with a blessing.
Before we all moved to the dining hall to eat the Prasad that was first offered to the gods, which was yummi as a homemade South Indian cuisine could be, I had a chat with Reddy, Ramchandra and another person whom I first met:
"So where are you from" he asked
And then I added, because of my long, wild beard "but I'm not religious".
"I don't look for the differences but for the unity", later driving back I thought, even that 'don't' I said is a differentiation. I'm always surprised at how Indian manage to make a point without those negative words.