Sunday, February 12, 2006

Juggernauts on the beach (almost)

We're back again among the graven images and the brazen calves (and that's not the ones lying asleep in the middle of the road!): Puri isn't just a destination because it's near the Sun Temple at Konarak, it has a very important temple of its own (but closed to non-Hindus), dedicated to Jagannath, Lord of the Universe (a form of Vishnu). Jagannath and his brother and sister are represented by black images with huge eyes - and once a year they go on an outing. Immense carts (the one for Jagannath is 14 metres high) with 16 wheels over 2 metres in diameter are constructed each year for the excursion. An image in each, three of these vehicles are pulled up the Grand Road to another temple where the images have a summer break. Altogether 4000 temple employees are needed to pull them the few hundred yards - and then, two weeks later, the carts are dragged back again - and broken up for firewood. The proper name for the monstrous vehicles is rathas but somewhere in the translation the name of the god and the name of the vehicle came together. And that, oh best beloved, is how the Juggernaut got its name.

(Still on images, etc.) I had a recollection the other day of an image or focus for a spiritual place that I could admire. At a modern temple near Pondicherry, the Matrimandir, the giant hollow sphere of the meditation hall has as its focal centre a giant crystal ball, 70 cms in diameter, apparently the largest in existence, full of a radiant glowing light whose origin is the rays of the sun reflected down from a solar-tracking concave mirror on the roof. Literally, it was awesome.


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