Jaipur Rajasthan 11:11 p.m.
Yesterday morning, finally, we made a pilgrimage to Sri Govind devji temple, in the heart of the Pink City. I love, love, love this place. That simple hour of temple immersion is, so far, the pinnacle of this year’s time in India.
Govind devji has some of the earmarks of a scene I would generally consider avoiding—especially, very large crowds of people. I guess it is “the” town temple of Jaipur—certainly it is the Jaipur royal family’s personal worship ground, located as it is directly within the extended palace complex, nearby the amazing several-acre Jantar Mantar astronomical observation site. I asked my candle wala yesterday, does he ever go to have darshan (sacred view) at Govind devji? He smiled at me with that soft twinkle dancing in his eyes, and replied simply, “Of course—all of Jaipur goes to Govind devji.”
Despite the crowds, it is an ecstatic bubble in space and time. In fact, because of the crowds, its sacred nature blooms. A large covered area, it can hold maybe one or two thousand people comfortably, and hold them it does. We arrived yesterday to the sweet chants of hundreds of devotees, voices rising in a gentle cacophony in grateful praise of the source of their devotion. There are women and men in their 20s in western dress, some holding aloft their tiny children, and middle aged folks of all stripes. But mostly it seems the crowd swells with the ancient, shrinking bodies of old devotees. Gnarled old men with thick glasses that may never have been in their prescription, feet deeply cracked from a lifetime of dusty barefoot ambulation, bright eyes and beaming smiles; tiny radiant grandmothers in all manner of colorful saris, skin patterned with a living map of weathered cracks, all engaged in the dance of giving and receiving the nectar of the moment. Prasad, sacred offerings of blessed food, sweets or holy sacraments of tulsi leaves mixed in sandal paste, are given by the temple attendants and quickly re-offered to one’s fellow pilgrims in an instinctive, gratitude-soaked ritual of generosity and receiving. Each little gesture seems to effortlessly be brought into the heart simply and completely, social tiers apparently obliterated in the commonality of the shared appreciation of what it means to be alive, and alive together in one human community.
I don’t know, it’s a lot of words. In essence, what I love best about India is present here: genuine kindness and a sense of common human inspiration, a heartfelt feeling of instant acceptance and welcoming, a deep resonance and transcending of our feelings of separation and a merging into oneness that evokes a vibrant feeling of spontaneous and unorthodox love and devotion. It may sound a little woo-woo for some, but sitting in the presence of the Govind devji temple community, it all feels just very down to earth and impossible to resist. I don’t want to resist, in the least. I feel profoundly grateful, and deeply moved, to feel so invited and welcomed here. A warm and abiding thanks to my friend and soul-brother Raju for being my conduit to this holy place.
I turned around at one point and walking toward me with a huge beaming smile was a half-toothless ancient old devotee I recognized from the last year or two of my visits here. He hadn’t seen me here in almost a year, and we never shared any spoken language (except maybe a “Radhe Radhe!” here and there), but he came over and just gave me the warmest, most intimate and delicious welcome back smile and just showered me with love. I felt so happy and so, I don’t know, home.
I love Govind devji temple, and all the lovely people who congregate in love there. May it always be so.