I have just returned from Namdroling Monastery, a Tibetan Monastery about a 30 minute drive away, where we were privileged to witness a stunning prayer ceremony marking the end of the Tibetan year – tomorrow is Losar, the Tibetan new Year.
But before I share that story with you, let me backtrack 2 days, to the 18th February when Mahashivratri, a major Hindu festival, was celebrated with lots of quiet dignity at the Hindu temple just down the little road from our homestay.
About 5 o’clock in the afternoon, I heard the sound of drumming from the direction of the temple, so I zoomed up the path and onto the little Canal Road and there was the procession just disappearing out of view, moving at quite a lick.
The deity was on a tractor trailer, with lots of little kiddos perched on the tractor, so I raced ahead of the procession…at which point someone called out in Kannada (the local language) and the whole procession stopped, and with many smiles and gestures I was directed to go ahead.
I mean, HOW divine is that? To stop your procession to allow an outsider to get ahead and see it.
Such lovely people.
I watched for quite a while, walking along with these lovely people, and was even given a bag of “prasad” by a man sitting next to the deity:
Fast forward to dinner that same night.
We were celebrating the 61st wedding anniversary of our dear friends Gita and Shoki Bhatia with singing and dancing, when suddenly we saw lights on the horizon and heard the familiar sound of drumming.
Off we raced – Noni, Rin from the homestay and yours truly – along the canal path to the temple, just in time to welcome the procession back:
The same drummers, many of the same smiling ladies from earlier in the day, as well as a few new faces in the procession – I was told that as they do the rounds of every house in the neighbourhood, people join in.
The 3 of us followed the procession across the little bridge over the canal and into the temple, where the drummers gave a virtuoso performance, of which I’m sharing only a very short clip below:
The lady to the left, whom you see smiling at me, was the one who welcomed me to the procession earlier in the day and “explained” to me what was happening, though I couldn’t actually understand much, but our mutual sign language seemed to work.
In the temple, I was told to go to the front of the crowd, and people smilingly made way for me.
Rin told us that it is not done to leave the temple immediately after a ceremony, but one should sit awhile and reflect. Noni and I happily complied, and then we wandered the short distance back to our homestay, to rejoin the anniversary party.
That was Saturday.
Today, Monday, there was yet another wonderful treat in store.
We visited Namdroling Monastery, but since tomorrow (21 February) is Losar, we didn’t actually expect anything extraordinary today.
Indeed, I’d decided to treat today as a recce, and had every intention of heading back to Namdroling Monastery tomorrow for what I assumed would be the New Year ceremonies.
Turns out today was THE day to be there, since there is a prayer ceremony to mark the end of the year.
We had a bit of difficulty communicating, since most people only speak Kannada or, in the case of the monks, Tibetan, but we did find one Tibetan man who now lives in the USA who explained things to us. Apparently there will be a prayer ceremony from about 5am – 7am tomorrow, then everyone goes to their homes to celebrate with their families. So not a lot of “public” ceremonies, as it were.
Today, however, was the big prayer ceremony, presided over by a rinpoche who only visits occasionally.
Today was the day.
And we had timed it to perfection.
Hardly anyone there.
And what a spine-tingling, emotional experience it was.
Not ashamed to say that I was moved to tears by the whole amazing ceremony.
I’ll share with you now just one of the many (many!!) videos I took this morning.
Then, if you’ll bear with me, there will be some more, tomorrow, to mark Losar.
Two festivals in as many days.
Kindness and smiles on both occasions.
Such a joy.
What welcoming people. Can’t see the same inclusive response at St Theresa’s!