[BBSR – Part I] Bhima and Manas: A Tale of Two Priests
A day spent in the legacy of the place called Bhubaneshwar, where the time seems to have paused.
|A glimpse of the 166 Nritya Mudras
at Bhubaneshwar Airport
it is 11:45 AM when the plane lands with a thud and we wake up to these knee length vegetation all around. As if descended into the wilderness, thinking that may be this is where we always belonged. The airport turns out to be better than the first disposition we had while landing. Interestingly Ola and Uber operate there and the maps take a while before they can recalibrate their compass – hail amazing internet connectivity. The driver walks us into how the coming days are going to be super crazy because of the Rath Yatra. And the rains have arrived early than they were supposed to be. He sounded like the lady of the house cribbing about the guests arriving early than told. He goes on to explain that it would have taken us more than an hour to reach our hotel from the airport considering the impending traffic and rains clubbed together. Thankfully we were there in 18 minutes!
We are received with a welcome drink and rose buds. Our luggage is left in room and we immediately rush to the restaurant to hog food. While I don’t have a sweet tooth, I don’t plan to miss on Chhena Gajja – which I have heard before that was a speciality there. I go to the reception to check for what all can be visited in the same day and if they could arrange a cab for this city tour. Immediately a man arrives from nowhere behind the reception, walks me briskly away from there and starts telling me the plans, amount he generally charges and discounted prices considering we were staying there. I did my rough calculation on what an Ola Rental would cost me and immediately settled for the driver.
|Shanti Stupa – atop the Dhauli hill
He takes us to Shanti Stupa – atop the Dhauli hill – the name contradictory to the very fact that the war of Kalinga was fought there on the banks of river Daya. We make a move and reach Raja-Rani temple which has an aisle between the parks (garden maybe) on the both sides and fallen on the floor were Motiya (Jasmine) flowers . The entire ambience looked rather shady and we hurried up our stroll. Now we were on our way to much anticipated Lingaraj Temple – The King of the Twelve Lingas as we were told. The temple is an aap-shambu (erecting from the earth on its own). The only temple to host Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva together.
We haven’t yet reached the temple when we enter smaller by-lane after by-lane. I in my thoughts am in much anticipation that now the driver will take a turn which will open my view to large open spaces and hinterland. The air will turn cool and the touch of the breeze will get gentler as soon as I approach the temple. None of that happened and the car stopped suddenly when I asked the driver what happened. “We reached”, said the driver. It was just some 100 steps before we could get our shoes off and then enter the temple.
We had just got our shoes off, taken the token when a man in his revealing attire came to us. He claimed to have known temple inside-out. H would show us the areas that we would miss on if we visit the temple on our own. Despite our repetitive denial, he charmed us into his sales pitch. He had identified his customer for the day. After walking a few steps I noticed Rudraksh mala hanging in his neck along with Janyaoon (the sacred thread). His silken smooth dhoti buzzed in the wind. A few steps more and we heard him reciting mantras. There were multiple temples inside the arena. Only when he entered the sanctum and started doing Pooja and offering ablutions – we could realise that he was a priest.
He took us to the main sanctum sanctorum of the temple and made us looked at the mast and three tier architecture of the temple. It was when I saw the Half Trishul and Half Dhanush, is when I stood amused. There are so many stories around us – some of them impinged in the history with monuments of such grandeur and how oblivion we are to so many of these. We offered our obeisance there and entered the temple to pray the main diety. There we met another man – wrapped in yellow dhoti with zari border standing just below the bells that we would ring. His body like that of a warrior – wearing a shining armour of gold. His fingers that did all the explaining were glistening with gold and precious jewels. It looked like that was the way priests defined their power and supremacy over the peers.
Now the dots seemed to connect. the junior priests will get the visitors from the entrance and hand them over to the senior priest who will do the more meaningful talk (than just acting as a guide) and shower the blessings on the sharanaarthi. He asked us our Gautra, the names of the family members, both mine and my wife’s which seemed very contemporary and appealing. Relevancy at its best. They asked us to discuss among ourselves one wish which we both would want to be fulfilled – an impromptu test of how good the wheels of the same chariot we were. All in an utmost professional manner.
Post that point both the priests walked together with us – took us to 2-3 other temples in the same vicinity and finally to the Nandi. “Lord Shiva might miss to hear you sometime but what goes into the ears of nandi, never gets a miss from Lord Shiva”, said one of them. We went ahead and murmured into the ears of Nandi bull. We were given prashad to take back home and share. I was about to move when I saw behind them that all the priests were standing in a pair of two. Probably that was how they teamed up for their task.
We had just started moving when I turned back and asked, what are your names? Bhima said the senior priest and Manas said the other. They waved off their hands at us suddenly making the palms face us in a gesture of showering blessings. Trapped between just another individuals and yet shying away in the role of the priests.
We came out puzzled, sweating yet happily – all set to visit The Sun Temple Konark the next day.