After having got my Visa, I am now at my Patti's place. There is a temple for Lord Balaji at a place called Chilkur, a half hour drive from Hyderabad. I was told that this temple was very famous among students going to the USA and many of them come here and do 108 Pradhakshanams after getting their Visas. (Actually, it seems that it is customary to do 11 before you appear for your Visa, and then come and do 108). I had to get up at 5:30 AM on a cold rainy day to get ready and ended up waiting for more than 45 minutes before my Patti's driver to come. It was about 7 when I reached the temple at Chilkur and I was a little amazed see the crowd that was already busy doing the Pradhakshanams.
It was as though the entire city had descended on this small town, you could find all sorts of people-young, old; slim, fat; dark, white; fit, unfit....and the Praharam was used for diverse purposes like running, jogging and sitting apart from doing the Pradhakshanams of course. Only then did I realize that the devotees who came to the temple were not confined to just the US goers and their kin. The rush at the temple for doing the Pradhakshanams was akin to our own Ranganathan Street during Deepavali times and I swear on GOD, this is not an exaggeration. The ground was a little slippery and hence I took care to land safely more so after I heard a thud when a girl slipped and fell quite miserably.(mind you I was clad in a dhothi!!) The Pradhakshanams were small no doubt, but the milling crowd made it impossible to move even remotely close to being free. It seemed as though I was surrounded by a barricade with a fat, slow moving woman in the front, a thin, brisk, young man looking for a 'gap' to get past me, a very vocal Bhaktha on my left, chanting Govindaaa Govindaaa GHOvindaa and a newly wed (not so sure!) couple to my right. It took me ages and some meticulous planning to break past this cavalcade, but my 'freedom' was short lived as I got myself into another of those formations!!
After a point of time, I couldn't continue to keep track of the number of Pradhakshanams, but just couldn't be done with it as I was under the watchful eyes of my Paatti. I saw a board in the temple which read-"Concentrate on GOD, not the numbers" and this gave my (count)enance a huge relief !! After doing a couple of rounds more, I just couldn't go on and as I moved to the place my Paatti was sitting, and as I neared the place, I could her in conversation with somebody on her cell phone. Just as I was about to tell her that only 10 more Pradhakshanams remained (when I had hardly done 30), I heard her tell my mother, who was on the line, that I could have completed only 50 by this time!!! I managed to convince her that I had finished 73 (the fact that its prime makes it a little more authentic, doesn't it??)!!!
This meant, I had to spend atleast another half an hour doing the Pradhakshanams but this time I made sure I did not get entangled in any 'Vyuhams', so to speak. I saw a guy sporting a bright red shirt and the reason it caught my attention, apart from the fact that it was bright, was the fact that it had something written on it. It read 'FCKU' and I started exploring the contents of what was written. Even if the missplet word was intended, it 'spelt Gulti' all over it as the 4 letter word hadn't been used even in 1 proper sense, let alone sentence and it brought back memories of the "Gultis at NITT" t-shirt!!
The crowd didn't thin even a bit and it was getting unmanageable now, atleast for me. Everyone around was chanting Govinda and it was only today that I knew that the chants could be variegated in meter and tune -a pleasant sweet sounding one(full of Bhakthi and josh), the one said with gritted teeth(this was when I bombarded into an old (not so) gentleman), the one that managed to come out in between laughter(a guy was sharing a joke with his son)!
Though I managed to miss the count for the number of Pradhakshanams I did, I did keep track of another count:-
Number of people who barged into me (knowingly or unknowingly) = 356
Number of people I dashed into unknowingly =479
Number of people who were caught unawares, when
I threw my weight around =173
After reading this blog, please don't dismiss me off as JUST ANOTHER atheist (pun not intended)!!
If you still mistake me for an atheist, 356, 479 and 173 add up to 1008 (now don't be so skeptical)-thats divine isn't it? OM NAMO NARAYANAYA!! ellam avan seyal.....
P.S I just came to know that the temple has an alias - 'VISA' BALAJI TEMPLE, CHILKUR !!!