None of the women I was traveling with wanted to see the temples.
The hotel had three pages of suggestions of places to tour in and around Udiapur. The 8th and 10th century temples, Ekling Ji and Nagda were just the kind of thing I was looking for. I wanted to see some of those carvings that I’ve seen so many photos of. I wanted to see some of India’s ancient art.
The hotel made arrangements for a taxi to pick me up in the lobby at 9am. Leaving then would insure that I’d get to Ekling Ji in time for the Aarti ceremony.
I had no idea what the Aarti ceremony was. I hadn’t been able to get on-line to find out more about it, but I knew I wanted to see it.
I had a little apprehension of going alone. I haven’t traveled a lot and this is just the kind of thing, a woman alone in a foreign country, that I was taught to be afraid of.
But I had spent the past 7 days with women who regularly travel around the world, often alone. Being with them for over a week inspired me. I want to be the woman who isn’t afraid to do what she wants, not the one who lets irrational fear dictate her actions.
I got into the front seat of the small white car, and the driver, a tall thin man, introduced himself as James. I wondered if it was his real name or one he used for English speaking tourists.
I wouldn’t want to drive a car in India, but I quickly got used to seeing buses, motorcycles and cars, coming at us, head on, only for them, or the car I’m in, to swerve out of the way at the last moment. I’m still in wonder at how a car will come within an inch of a cow on a small road or highway without hitting it. And at how the cow takes her time getting out of the way.
I haven’t seen any car accidents, but James said there are many.
The Nagda Temple is a historical site. It’s outside the city on a lake surrounded by mountains. I gave James 50 rupees to park the car, (the only admission to the temple) and walked through the gate. On either side girls stood in traditional dress carrying pots on their heads asking if I wanted to take their picture.
In the short time I’ve been in India, I’m figuring out how to say no when offered something I don’t want. Like dealing with a telemarketer, giving the smallest indication that you might be interested in something someone is trying to sell, is all they need to pursue you.
For me, saying no thanks and walking quickly away works, or even to just keep walking ignoring the person. This still feel rude to me but, I’m even less willing to be taken advantage of than to feel like I’m being rude.
The ruins of the temple rose up in front of me.
The intricate carvings were a feast for my eyes. Much of the marble was worn smooth with age, the detail obliterated. There was no one there to tell me I couldn’t touch the ancient carvings. I pressed my hand to the cold blocks of marble inside the small temple. I ran my fingers over the details on the dancing figures on the outside of the temple.
I tried to see a story in the bas relief that ran around the bottom of the building. I looked for symbolism in the gods sitting in the lotus position surrounded by flowers, snakes and skulls.
I took lots of pictures and visited each of the smaller shrines surrounding the main building. I spent about an hour absorbing it all.
Having no information about the temple I only knew what I could see. But I would learn more about it when I visited Ekling Ji and witness the ceremony there. The two temples were similar in their design.
But while Nagda still emanated some palpable energy, it held the hush of being abandoned. As if it were sleeping. Ekling Ji was just the opposite. When we got there fifteen minutes later, it was alive and throbbing with the energy of the village it was surrounded by and the worshipers visiting it.