Monday, August 24, 2009

jaia ganesha

hindu temple, kampala

A day after getting back to Uganda, I went downtown to the fabric market with Sejal. During our downtown trip, Sejal spotted the birthday-cake spires of the Hindu temple, and begged for a visit. Sejal's own religion is Jainism, but she was eager to check out the temple, making comparisons with her Jain temple at home in Fort Lauderdale. I'd always been curious, my brush with Hinduism rooted in my yoga practice - and mostly in music and the strange connection I've felt with Ganesh since Justin brought back a little statue from his trip to Bali last year.

We slipped off our shoes and walked around the temple, admiring the ornate carvings and statues inside, and the lingering scent of incense. I asked about a shop (surprise, surprise), seeking a bigger Ganesh statue to add to my apartment. The priest directed us across the street to a building that faces Nakasero Market - the doors were shut tight, but there was a banner proclaiming "Hindu Religious Items."

In the weeks since that first trip, I swung by every time I emerged from the fabric market (during my daily vendor payment trips), and the doors were always shut - until last week, when I saw them flung open with all sorts of crazy Indian stuff pouring out. I ran up the steps, breathless, and came back cradling a big white Ganesh statue, with a lotus unfurling behind his head, and a very lopsided face (thanks to a poorly made plaster cast). The priest begged me to let him paint it, but one glance at the garish green and orange versions on the shelf behind him and I tucked a wad of shillings into his hands, thanked him profusely, and said I preferred the dusty white version.

Lucky for me, I brought Ganesh home just in time for Ganesh Utsav - the 11-day festival celebrating the deity's birth - it began yesterday. The priest offered to come to my house every day for pooja...but again I politely declined. I'm nowhere near a real Hindu anyway. I'm not even sure why the little Ganesh from Bali needed a big, pale twin... but yesterday, at the start of the festival, I lit some Nag Champa and put a bowl of flowers out in his honor. He's the Hindu God of Wisdom, after all, and who can't use a little more of that?

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