Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

1 September 2009

Religion is the frozen thought of man

There's a little village called Kao (pronounced "cow") about 7 kilometres from Karsog. The drive from Karsog is an interesting one, as it skirts the edge of the valley and offers enchanting panoramas of the jade and emerald dales spread out before you.
The temple of Kamaksha Devi is, in a sense, not unlike the almost pagoda-like structures you see elsewhere in Himachal. There are two structures. Approaching from the main road, you are likely to come up to the first and the bigger sanctum.

This one has sloping, slated roof on three, or almost four levels. Lovely little wooden cylindrical thingumajigs hang in lacy detail from its edges. They bob and sway in the gentle breeze.

The combination of mud, plaster and wood creates magic once again. The geometry of this 10th-century structure is hard to understand, but so very easy to extol. It is austere and ornate, artless and embellished at the same time. I circle it and circle it again,searching for some flaw, some little error. But the eurhythmy remains unbroken.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am constrained to say yet again that the older "dehra" (the tall equilateral building you see above) is far more attractive in its Spartan look. I love its geometry. Its colours, weathered to mellow amber, beige, sepia, bronze and sorrel; its wood a deep mahogany here, a burnt sienna there with lots of cinnamon in between.

Inside, there is a disarray of objects religious: bells, drums, incense-holders, lamps, stale flowers. The priest is nowhere in sight, so one is deprived of the history of the place. Obviously, this deity bears some relation to the one in Assam, but we remain ignorant in the absence of those who know. Traditionally, this incarnation of the female deity Shakti represents the Goddess in her more violent, vengeful aspect. The idol kept in the sanctum, however, bears a benign expression. She bears her usual arms, the axe and the sword, but her right hand is raised in benediction. She is surrounded by adoring angels and lesser deities.

The slate roof is silvan, ashen and pearly by turns. The wooden pillars contrast most attractively with it.

The temple has a series of these carved wooden panels embedded into its walls at eye level. The images represent a number of members of the Hindu pantheon, all engaged in activities they're usually famous (or infamous) for. Hindu deities are notoriously human in their follies and foibles, but perhaps this is what makes them tolerant and forgiving towards their worshippers, and, in turn, earns them a great deal of personal affection.


Dick Richards said...

Well...the tile of this post stopped me cold..."Religion is the frozen thought of man." Wow. That is brilliant and I'm sure will stay with me. Enjoyed the pics and your thoughts as well

Gallimaufry said...

Thank you, Dick.

Shilpa Gavane said...

very interesting blog. u write so well. enjoyed it a lot.

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