We rode an elephant. All four of us climbed off the raised platform and onto the elephant’s back. Holding tightly onto our seat, perched on the back of the massive elephant we took a ride around the gardens of Tapir Sultan’s palace. Pictures were taken. It was definitely a tourist day.
One of our new friends organized the day for us. He arranged a driver and van for us to use for the entire day. Then he gave us our itinerary and for over 14 hours we toured India, driving through vast country side and visiting various tourists’ spots. Our guide-driver told stories, pointed out interesting sites and answered questions all day long. It was an incredible day.
The country side is lush green and I was surprised to see that rice patties grow right next to plots of sugar cane fields. Coconut trees are ubiquitous. As we drove from Bangalore to Mysore we passed through villages and various settlements. There are people everywhere and I am constantly in awe at how these millions of people eek out a living.
The disparity between the rich and poor is more visible in this country; perhaps because the poor are so poor. The irony of touring an ornate and luxurious palace after having to pass through the lines of beggars and street vendors was not lost on me. The palace was beautiful and decorative – resplendent with a history of wealth and power. Surrounding the palace were seven temples. This was the main impression I had from all our touring yesterday. It was the reality of how religion seeps into every sphere of Indian life and culture.
Throughout our travels I have heard (a number of times) the following stats; 90% of the Indian population is Hindu; 5% is Muslim; 5% is Christian. Our guide gave us these same stats. Religion and spiritual fervor is everywhere. We visited religious sites and temples, and at every point there were numerous devote worshipers.
I’ve always been struck by the reality that humans are created to worship. Throughout my life and over all my travels I’ve always noticed this fact. In the ‘western world’ I see the religion of materialism and the worship of money and influence. University is where knowledge and science is the god. In our own Canadian culture I would say entertainment (specifically sport) is the religion of choice. Humanity is drawn to something to create significance that takes the focus and drive of worship and ambition.
Here in India worship is more obvious – flowers at the foot of statues, paint in the parting of their hair or on foreheads, lit alter candles and incense, calls to prayer, beating drums, specific garb and outfits that show their religious affiliation, consultation of the Zodiac signs for guidance, Muslim mosques and Hindu temples.
The main destination of our tour-day was the tour of Tapir Sultan’s palace. We had to take off our shoes and with headset’s firmly placed over our ears we shuffled through the palace being toured by the audio guide. A large portion of the tour through the palace was concentrated on the religious history and the stories of the Hindu gods. The bulk of the ornate decor, either through sculpture or the paintings was thematic of the Hindu religion.
As I studied in the array of colors and decoration the audio voice pointed out the signs of the Zodiac that were painted on sheets of metal that spanned the entire palace ceiling. Once again it showed man’s need for significance and guidance from a source outside of themselves. Immediately God brought to my mind the verse from Ps. 37 that says: “I know the details of your life”. This need for worship, significance and guidance is a fingerprint of God. It is his mark on our human souls. We search for Him. We long to be noticed by Him.
Whether it be to appease a god or ask for favor the Indian culture is accustomed to looking beyond humanity for help. Even the elephant holds religious significance.
The elephant ride was exciting and riding that massive amount of strength and power was an adrenaline rush. Beside that elephant even the most strong and powerful man seems pathetic. Perhaps it is in moments, like riding an elephant, that we do get a true sense of how the world is ordered and the call for signficance and guidance beyond the material world is undeniable.
Image all that… while bouncing atop an elephant!