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Thursday, February 08, 2007

once more? Bangalore!

Sari Palace Shiva
Originally uploaded by alxindia.

well, okay, then -- as Fate would have it, I'm back in India for another round of high divine spiritual study. it's been just a year since Jonathan and I made the trek last year; bringing a few of our dear students/friends from America with us to Sri Kaleshwar's ashram in Penukonda, India.

the festival happening at this time of the year, Maha Shivarathri, is one of the most sublime and spiritually uplifting times of the entire year. it is a time of thinning veils and miraculous endeavors. in India the tradition is to stay up all night, without sleeping, hoping against hope to receive the darshan of Lord Shiva (that is, to see Him in person).

in India it is said that on Shiva Rathri night, every person, every soul on the planet receives a visit from Shiva. if you fell asleep for even a moment on that auspicious night -- well, that was probably the exact time He came to visit you!

in preparation for taking new students to the ashram,we trekked out to Sari Palace yesterday. Sari Palace is a kind of Costco-sized department store that is the Mecca of Indian women's clothing in Bangalore. there are racks and racks and shelves and shelves of exquisite clothing, colors all blending and splashing into one another as you walk around the place trying to orient your eye-sight and focus on whatever you're shopping for.

it's a beautiful place, and one of those endless opportunities to observe the contrast between East and West.

the saleswomen are incredibly serviceful -- they just help people find whatever they're in search of. you sit down, and they bring item after item, draping them all out on a table in front of the customer -- so you can sit, comfortably, and ooh and ahh and examine the cloth, the cut, the style, the color, of each article of clothing before going the next step: trying them on.

I was sitting in the midst of a swirl of feminine activity -- many of our students had come there to shop in order to have the proper Indian clothing required by Kaleshwar's ashram -- it was so much fun, seeing my friends turn into instant Indian princesses!

but the deeper theme was the servicefulness of the saleswomen -- how they would attune to whatever styles and sizes each customer preferred, and then find more and more outfits in a similar vein, smoothly, without any fuss or lapse. it became a kind of symbiotic dance, there in the ladies' wear department of Sari Palace, with each woman finding outfits that suited her individual taste, and each saleswoman taking one or two of the Western ladies under her wing, so to speak, and helping them find what they really wanted.

I, of course, having been through this mill a hundred times before, just sat comfortably on the couch the whole time, offering feedback and suggestions to my radiant Indian Princess friends.

and drinking the chai they kept bringing to me.

ahhhhhhhhhh, another amenity of Indian shopping -- you settle in, get comfortable -- you KNOW it's going to be hours!

and they bring you warm beverages.

when's the last time an American salesperson offered you a cup of hot tea while you're shopping???

it was a graceful, effortless, relaxed adventure. at the end of it, everyone was content (if not down-right thrilled!) with the clothing they'd purchased.

then we went off to the back -- where the real heart and soul of Sari Palace lives.

the most beautiful thing (and the most surreal!) about Sari Palace, of course, is the 65-foot tall statue of Lord Shiva that is the centrepiece of an outdoor Shiva temple, just behind (& adjoined to) Sari Palace.

of course he's EXACTLY in the Southwest. perfect vaastu.

(the story goes that the man who built Sari Palace is a life-long devotee of Shiva, so naturally he built a temple to his favorite deity BEFORE building his store. the entrepreneur knew that Shiva would ensure success of the business -- and it must be true, since other branches of Sari Palace have sprung up in other parts of Bangalore since the original one took off.

that's the brilliance of India: build a temple, first, and then go about your financial business, knowing that the divine will take care of your business needs.)

it was a joy to see all of our students/friends taking the tour of this rather surreal outdoor temple, and getting the darshan of the enormous statue there. he's superbly beautiful, a Shiva all in white, his eyes half-open as he sits cross-legged on his tiger skin, blessing the world.

they've been painting the statue, giving him a fresh coat and beautiful details so that when the Maha Shivarathri festivities start, he's really clean and precise and perfect.

that taste of the Shiva energy really knocked everyone out.

one young woman reported that all of her jewelry was burning and buzzing after coming out of that Shiva temple, even hours later.....

even though we're still in the city of Bangalore, the Shiva energy is calling.

I'm looking forward -- longingly -- to be once again in my soul home, in Penukonda.

even though the Shiva is in everything, all the time, for me, it is in Penukonda during this time of year -- around the New Moon in February -- when the most beautiful and intensely palpable quality of this divine character can be experienced, inhaled, tasted.

Hari Om Namah Shivaya!