In Hinduism there is a Trimurti of three gods, Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. Shiva sometimes gets a bad wrap as he is known as the destroyer. Nonetheless, he is my favorite of the three and the one I evoke daily when I don’t like the way I am thinking or behaving, I call on him to destroy bad patterns.
This week Shiva has been popping up all over the place.
There are two main breakfast spots for yogis here in Gokalum. Om Café and Santosha. Santosha is owned by a lovely couple, Tam and Thomas. Thomas collects and creates traditional Mysore paintings, which are intricately detailed and adorned with bits of gold leaf. I was enamored with one of the paintings in his collection and was discussing purchasing it. He and I got to talking about art and he offered to introduce me to a local artist that he has befriended.
That afternoon we paid the artist a visit, shared a chai and before we left I commissioned a piece. Ganjifa Raghapathi Bhatta is a handsome man in his early fifties, whose face reminds me of my own father’s. His soft eyes and gentle stare made me want to spend the whole day listening to his stories, watching Hindu history unfold through the windows to his soul. He is a studied man whose vast knowledge of Hindu lore provides the most consistent subject matter for his paintings.
I came to his studio with two other women who had each commissioned works by him. They had chosen the goddesses Saraswati and Lakshmi, which left me struggling to come up with a goddess of my own to evoke. Raghapathi jokingly said Parvati, consort of Shiva, mother of the elephant-headed god Ganesh. But Parvati is a mischievous goddess and not one most people chose to have hanging on the walls of their homes.
However, here in Mysore there is another incarnation of Parvati, one who is good and who saved Mysore from a demon. Chamundeshwari is a beautiful goddess and Thomas assured me she is a good one to evoke when you need to defeat your ego.
The day before, my Mysore friend Kelly and her two year-old daughter Maggie invited me to join them for a day trip to Melkote. I had no idea what or where Melkote was but I figured I’d accept the invitation and see where it led us.
Turns out Melkote is home to several temples, one in particular honoring Shiva. The landscape surrounding the city is dotted with large rock formations that reminded me of Moab, Utah and which gave me a brief sense of my beloved Four Corners region. In the city center there is Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple built some 900 years ago, Yoganarasimhaswamy temple is on the hill overlooking Melkote.
The views and natural beauty of the area were awe inspiring. The colors of saris draped along fences while people bathed in the ritual waters were a photographer’s dream and the throngs of people who greeted us, asked us to take a photo with them and invited us to join in their picnic lunches was heartwarming and unselfconsciously generous.
My week was rounded out with a discussion about which of the three Tirmurti gods we each felt an allegiance to. Brahma is Thomas’s favorite because to him he embodies family. Some prefer Vishnu as the sort of the top god from whom the universe began and for his reputation as the protector. Then there are us Shiva loyalists, we are a wily strong-willed bunch and if you ever see me spinning my Om Namo Shivaya necklace you will know that I am evoking Shiva and asking him to help me change my mind.
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