Friday, June 15, 2007

Pittsburgh, Hindu temples, Amish community...

Accompanied SS on his road-trip to Pittsburgh during the Memorial day wknd as I hadn't planned anything else for the long week-end. While SS was going because he wanted to have a Darshan at the Hindu temple there, I was more than happy to join him for the drive itself. The drive to Steel City takes around 7 hours from my place and for the most part very picturesque - through the Applachian mountains and having 3-4 tunnels enroute.

We attended the Vishnu Sahasranama recitation in the morning at SV temple. Found out that my first name is one of the names of Vishnu! Makes me extra proud of my name :)

During the recitation, a young girl sitting next to me on her father/uncle's lap said to him "I don't understand anything the priest is saying." It made me wonder about the thousand odd rituals like this which Indians/Hindus perform regularly without knowing much about the details, and about the historical Brahminic hegemony on all things religious in Hinduism. I also felt sad that in a few years that girl is quite likely to stop raising such complaints to fit in among her family and peers.

I bought the book Hindu Culture An introduction by Swami Tejomayananda at the Temple store to learn more about my religion; I don't think I have really had a formal introduction to the religion at any time.

Got to see some people wearing a odd-looking red cloth on their head, and on enquiring with one of the women in the group, found that they were Kannadigas from all over US who come to Pittsburgh regularly (usually during a long-weekend) to perform Mettilotsava. The head-clothing they were wearing was supposed to be a simile of the 'cap' worn by Purandara dasa.

In addition to the SV temple, we also visited the Sri Shirdi Saibaba temple and the Hindu Jain temple, all of them being in close vicinity of each other.

On the way back, we took a detour from the regular Penna Tpke route and drove onto Interstate Route 99 with Penn's Cave and Route 80 being the guiding markers. The trip to Penn's Cave did turn out worthwhile even though we couldn't take part in any of the cavern/wild-life tours there. We started seeing road-signs on Route 192 asking us to expect seeing some Horse-buggies, and within a few minutes a Horse-buggy came along making us aware of our inadvertent entry into Amish country. It was surprising to us as we were far from Lancaster county which is commonly associated with Amish.

For a half an hour or so, we got to see Amish men and women go about their lives in their traditional head-covered (and mostly black) dress, walking to places within short distances and traveling by horse-buggies to far away places. It was quite an experience to partake of their anachronistic life-style. A few Amish women - most likely returning from work in the fields - waved at us when we passed them and were looking at them like they were some tourist attractions. While SS was taking a photo of the Horsebuggy as it approached, one of the Amish men in the buggy took out a cellphone and was taking our photo with it :)

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