Our final full day showed the Himalayas in their full glory. We walked along a high ridge directly opposite a magnificent unbroken chain of mountains stretching from India to Nepal. It’s hard to describe how magnificent the mountains are. Alongside our path were flowering rhododendron trees with their huge bright red flowers almost bursting. It was spectacular!
Our day wasn’t all about walking. We had lunch by a group of very ancient temples, dating back almost 1000 years and which, according to local legend, were built in a day. The first thing that came into my mind when I heard that, was that it had to be built by some “Superhero”, as the temples are massive, and made with huge blocks of stone that could easily weigh a ton each.
After lunch, we were invited to take part in a special “puja” or Hindu blessing ceremony at one of the temples, which happened to be one of the 12 holiest Shiva temples in India. Our guide arranged this for us, and so we went with him to buy the offerings that would be taken into the sanctuary. We bought various gold papers, coconuts and a few other objects and foods that we didn’t recognise. Entering the ancient temple, we had to almost crawl into the innermost sanctuary, where two Hindu priests were waiting for us. One of them seemed very young, and he took charge of the ceremony. He asked for all our names and birthdates, and then began chanting. At various times we were instructed to place some of our offerings in front of the images, or throw water on the lingam, or ring a bell,and towards the end he dabbed a bindi on our foreheads and a holy red thread was tied around our wrist. We were instructed not to remove it until it fell off by itself.
The kids were in awe. I suspect that most kids these days find religious services to be incredibly boring – whether it’s in a synagogue, church, mosque, wherever. But the ceremony in the temple was fascinating and very personal. We are not Hindus and we had no idea what the priest was chanting – but it was obvious that he was praying for us and working very hard at it, and the kids all sensed this. The feeling as we exited was close to elation.
We continued our walking, and eventually arrived at our last village house, perched high above a village with incredible views of the fields. That night our chef gave the girls an impromptu cooking lesson which they really enjoyed, while us boys played cricket with the villagers.
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