Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Monestary at Than

Such a quiet place.

I arrived at the Monestary, was met by an old man (who I later learned was the Chapati Captain), and given chai.

The monestary site is very old, and at some point, must have had many more people than it does now (6-7). While power lines follow the road to the monestary, something has happened (which I couldn't figure out), and so electricity no longer works here. The TV they have upstairs lies in a dusty corner (thankfully) unused.
Light is provided by ghee lamps (made from clarified butter).

There are two babas/saddhu's (holy men) living here. One is 65, with a large grey beard, and the other 28, much younger, and who appears to have taken over the majority of the religious tasks. This being a temple dedicated to the God Shiva, both of the holy men seem to spend a lot of their time smoking marijuana, out of a long clay pipe called a Chillum. This would probably at least partially explain the fact that they were both quite 'out there'....

In addition to the two holy men, there are a number of other guys living there. The Chappati Captain, the Water Captain, the Cow Captain, and another younger guy who seemed to help out with misc. tasks.

I don't think these guys spoke more than 3-4 words of english, but even so, their hospitality and kindness were amazing.

I joined them for the evening prayers, which consisted of rhythmic chanting (Boom Shiva Shankar), drumming, bell ringing and gong hitting. One of the drums was in a tiny Shiva shrine (low ceiling, not enough room to swing a cat), and so when the massive drum was played, the sound boomed throughout the room. Quite powerful.

In the evening, they shared their dinner with me (Chappatis, sabjee (vegetables), and katcheri (rice and mung beans))... afterwards, the younger saddhu and I went up onto the roof - where we attempted a Kutchi/English lesson using the moon and stars, and then I sang a few songs for him... He seemed to like them.

Before we went to bed, I pulled out my mp3 player, put on some salsa, and attempted to teach one of the chaps how to dance... He couldn't quite get the steps, but everyone else had a good laugh at us....


The morning came, and I was woken by the sounds of 5 guys coughing their lungs out. While the Saddhus are the only ones who smoke marijuana, the others seem to smoke bidis (crappy indian handrolled cigarettes) like its going out of style, and clearly, these take their toll. Everyone (apart from the guests) sleeps in one room, for heat, I suppose, as wellas security... However, the sound of them coughing was more than enough to carry upstairs, and so I woke too.

I went outside, and watched the cow captain milk a cow - a new experience for me, and then I went to attempt to befriend the baby-deer that they kept chained up outside their living/eating/sleeping room.

After a cup of hot chai, the younger chap took me for a walk to another temple.... Little did I know what was ahead of me.

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