This is the end of rainy weather. From behind the clouds, a dry Sun grins above me. The road amidst the rocks, to the sky, is in direct ratio with the breath and the emotion inside my chest. With each step, my clothes are getting more and more wet, my body more and more confident, the arms more and more articulate in a kind of completion to my eyes and lungs.

At each step, small snakes and salamanders sizzle behind the bushes.

With each step, a different scene, another mountain, another rock embrace me.

And in each step I take, I feel the pulsation of the sacred land.

I reach the top. A Maramureş-like landscape reveals a few little cows, gathered in a small bouquet across the cactuses, palm trees, and laying grass. The soles of my feet are intensely happy about this flat land. I rush to the cow bouquet, and just before my eyes, the hill breaks, the little jungle descends, and far in the back, there is a little canion where the sea is dashing.

A monkey sitting on top of a cliff is waiting for the sunset. Other little monkeys play among the weeds. The sea is heard in the distance, vultures fly nearby.

I feel this is the reward for climbing up here. I am the main character in an exotic painting. I am the center of mother earth.

I have one arm of sand and one of salt. I have one leg of clay and one of rock. My chest is made out of tiny oysters…and my heart embounds all these. My hip drags me downhill, my spine is long and straight and my crown touches the sky. I am dreaming.

I `m dreaming. Yet I hear a powerful champing from somewhere behind me; the intensity is growing, the sun is burning, and I turn to look. An ox (yes, yes. a real ox), with its big eyes intent upon me, with grass between its lips, is running. I barely come to my senses, as it`s running towards me, I run away from it, it doesn`t stop, I run faster; I run and I run, I`m running in circles and so is the ox. I feel the urge to laugh, but I have no time, as I have to run. Behind this scene, the herd of cows, along with little cows and little oxen look like they`re cheering. Ahead of us, a handful of Indians are laughing and taking pictures. I`m runnig, the ox is running, and I eventually descend amidst the rocks. Looking back, the ox is still champing and asking itself in wonder about the place I jumped off the scene.

I decide to continue my little pilgrimage and I choose the longer route to the other side of the hill.

I`ve encountered a few more cow bands on the way. This time, though, I kept my distance. I kept on walking, I climbed and I descended. From time to time I stopped only to laugh at the memory of the fearsome ox.

Finally, I was able to descend the hill, then I climbed another one, I greeted some monks from small, ascetic temples and, being thirsty for a little water and more adventure, I arrived amidst the town houses.

It`s the festival of Ganesh. On the streets people are praying and pulling Christmas lights. Drums can be heard from everwhere. Tribal looking women decorate the streets with yellow flowers.

The city is made of temple-houses, with many rooms and with open doors. Inside, the chilly atmosphere boasts of monks dressed in celebration clothes. Children are running between cows and are agitated.

It`s only when I step on these beautifully paved streets that people stop for a few seconds. They look at me inquiringly, they salute me with their eyes and with their hands put together, they give me some space, and then they carry on praying and preparing.

There is no trace of a store or a restaurant. I am so thirsty…and I stop by the lake from the town center. Looking at the “attention, crocodiles” and “..people have drowned in this lake every year, don`t be the next one!” signs I decide to move along with my journey.

At the town borders, lay dense and thick jungles. Dogs howling in serious fights can be heard in the distance. Children are laughing and crying. The atmosphere embraces me whole, and so does the Sun.

After another hour of walking, I stop at a porch. Dehydration crushes me. The water bottle has been empty for a long time. My skin is dry. It`s very hot…I put the backpack near me and I rest under a shade. I could have sworn I was only asleep for a second…

Behind my eaves I hear motion. I open my eyes. In front of me children are running and widening their eyes at the sight of a white man looking like a raisin on the porch of their house. I come to my senses, the sun seemed to have becalmed for a while. The heat was slightly cleared off on that shady little porch. My watch was confused with an hour and a half. In my flabbergasted thoughts I remember about my backpack, but soon enough a mildly embarassed smile lays on my lips, as I can see that nothing is missing.

With a little courage, I ask those who were going out of the brown door, in a slight hurry, for some water. I offer my throat the abundance of life, my lips come out form the inside of my mouth, my skin is coloured again and I feel myself alive once more.

On the streets, people were walking together, all of them, children and women, old people and men, heading towards east from the houses made of clay.

The maine temple of Ganesh is full. Colossaly long lines knot around the building. It`s a cram inbetween drums and chants. Soon the day draws to a close, and I decide to end my pilgrimage. I promise myself that I will come back when there will be silence.

I am slightly disappointed. The road back is a little different, I discover a shorter route. Inside my chest, jackal-like fights are carried. How could it have been in the temple? What was up with those immense lines? Just what exactly is the festival of Ganesh all about? On the stone steps, the sun seems in a hurry to get down to the sea. I speed up my pace, as the steps climb toward the top of a hill. At the end, a small temple is looking at the sea.

“Footwear is forbidden ”,written in large letters on the rock, sounds like a slightly nagging consciousness. I throw my slippers outside the rock and I climb to the temple. There, guru Krishna looks at me with a smile on his face as he leans his elbow upon the rail of the hill stub.

Exchange of looks. His big eyes pierce through my forehead to the back of my head. The feeling is eerie, as I am still climbing towards him and his temple. This road only leads to the temple. I arrive in front of it and I stop. He greets me with his head, I smile with a slight unease. With two bony fingers he touches my shoulder in sign of respect. Ants are rushing through my body and questions deafen my mind. “It is ok for me to go to this temple? Who is this man? Why is he smiling so beautifully? ”, as guru Krishna, with the same two boney fingers, shows me the horizon he had been looking at until I arrived.

I turn my head. Behind me the Gokarna beach is filled with people who, dressed in their celebration clothes, dive into the sea, abandon themselves for a long time, then wash their face with the sand underneath.

“What are those people doing? ”

“They pray ”, I hear his voice in the smile, for the first time. “They abandon themselves to the sea, they wash off their sins. The beach of Gokarna is sacred. Many pilgrims come here only for this bath. It is the festival of Ganesh…and this is the little temple of Ganesh. Welcome. I am Krishna. ”

I sat on the porch of the temple for a long time, watching their rituals. We sat there together, in the spot with the best view. We sat in calmess and silence and we enjoyed the sound of the sea, and the singing of the birds, the changing sky, and the healed people.

It seemed like my entire body had stopped from the tired shaking. My skin was pulsating along with my heart, in the rhythm of Krisha`s breath. We haven`t spoken a word, for a long time. From time to time, the wind was blowing, and then the prayers of the people from the valley would arrive, piercing every millimeter of our ear drums.

That was the festival of Ganesh.

 

writing and photos by ruah

translated by laylah