That thing where a temple won’t allow photography and to enforce this they look inside your bag, advise you to submit phones and cameras to the cloakroom along with your bag, put you through a metal detector then thoroughly frisk you and check inside all of your pockets. I’m not even shitting you. Unless you had a tiny camera implanted in your retina they will fucking find it and make you check it in. I forgot I had my spare batteries in my pocket and to be honest, even if I’d remembered I wouldn’t have thought it would have been a problem. They’re just batteries. But no, I had to go back to the cloakroom and add them to my bag.
Welcome to the Swaminarayan Akshardman Temple, people. A faith (*coughs*cult*coughs*) based on the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. I think it’s another branch of the ever complicated Hindu religion. This dude left home at the age of 11 to become a yogi and went on a 7 year barefoot pilgrimage around India until he finally settled as a full yogi at the age of 18. He’s meant to have performed all manner of miracles through his love and compassion, the stories of which are told in a 40 minute movie on the biggest fucking screen I’ve ever seen, through a series of freakishly sophisticated robotic statues that actually fucking blink, and in some parts of the Elephant Plinth which consists of 148 elephant sculptures which also depict fables from the Panchatantra.
The Elephant Plinth (Gajendra Peeth) is pretty cool actually. It includes tales of the elephant’s role in Hinduism, their relationship with man as well as the story of a 6 year old Bhagwan Swaminarayan who saved a mahout from death-by-nellie using only love, and not the sticky kind you need Kleenex for.
The temple sits on to of this epic plinth and as you would expect any temple to be, it’s shiny! And it’s covered in elaborate carvings. In fact, the whole bastard thing, inside and out, is one of those structures that you lay eyes on and go, “Woah.”
And and and! There’s even a boat ride which takes you through a brief history of India. Did you know chess was invented in India? Or that it was an Indian who explained that force that keeps my nipples inching closer to my kneecaps everyday, centuries before Newton ever sat under that apple tree? Or that it was an Indian mathematician that explained that thing with the triangles, way before Pythagoras?
Buuuut given that I wasn’t allowed to take photos, or even write anything down, I just bought the guide and took photos of the photos in that instead. You will not defeat me, big, shiny temple. I will have my pictures.
That afternoon I was going to meet Danielle and Marylin, two Belgian chicks I went rafting with in Rishikesh. They’re currently working in Delhi, leading a project with two Indians called the Indian Talent Revolution. We were to meet in Lodi Gardens where there is a particularly posh restaurant so I treated myself to an overpriced lunch and a beer before we caught up.
India Talent Revolution is a workshop designed to help you identify your talents (shit you’re good at) and shadow talents (shit you suck at) and use them to better yourself and your life. They don’t mean, like, painting or dancing. They mean life skills. Are you a community member? A Wordsmith? Do you think things through or can you make a decision on the spot? I learned quite a lot about myself that day. A couple of the guys were trying to work out what direction to take in life. I’m one of the lucky ones that has already found a field that I love to work in. Bar tending uses my talents, I love to be around people, and when you use your talents you feel energised and this is apparently why I can easily do 45 or 50 hour weeks, 7 day weeks, two or three doubles in a row and not collapse into a burnt out heap of misery and despair.
Also, Lodi Gardens? It’s like that tiny pool of sanity in the otherwise hectic world of Delhi. It’s green and peaceful and you can’t hear the traffic and it’s got Brighton-esque painted rubbish bins that people actually seem to use. Seriously. If Delhi has you about curl up in the nearest corner and cry into your expensive beer, retreat here.
Stayed at: Hotel Namaskar, Paharganj