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....

16 November 2009

A great and sacred blessedness

As a person profoundly distant from religion and religiosity, my brush with faith at Batseri was a curious and a humbling one. Having decided to make Sangla my base, it was only natural that Chhitkul should beckon. However, as Lalchand the faithful charioteer made his way up the mountains, an interesting sight opened itself in the distance. Nestled in the midst of the greys and the green and the azures were some peculiar pagoda-like shapes. It was only logical that a detour be made to explore these shapes.
A treat lay in store.
The temple at Batseri would have Durkheim in a twist. This temple has a soaring pagoda roof, far more curvilinear than any seen in Kinnaur so far. The urban eye, long espousing the belief that the sacred should somehow be spartan and spare in its expression, is startled by the curlicues, the ellipses, the festoons anf fixtures of the temple. If it weren't so reverential, the embellishment on the temple would be deeply comic, including as it does a vast range of divinities not normally seen in this part of the country. Dragons compete for space with elephants, Swami Vivekananda rubs shoulders with Ram and Shiva. There are spires and shikharas and entire constellations bedecking its walls.
More than the temple, however, the display of religiosity comes from a simple village celebration. This ceremony involves a ritual - and routine - ''airing" of the Gods. A group of the chosen - all men - carefully place the idols of the "devtaas" on a palanquin of burnished wood. Outside, the temple band has been variously thumping and blowing into its intstruments. As soon as the band espies the Gods, it sets a cacophony. Every possible sound that can emerge from the pipes, the drums and the cymbals does so with a great deal of gusto. The women watch from a distance and clap encouragingly. Children dance around the idol. The palanquin is reverently set up on a trestle. The pandemonium of the music lasts for a while, until, after another ritual circumnavigation, the Gods are taken back into the temple and set to rest.
This, then, is another wonderful example of hierophany... a sort of breakthrough of the sacred into the mundane human existence. This, to me, appears sacrality temporarily transcending the humdrum, elevating the human spirit. Every fragment of this experience is cosmic, and reveals a divinity to those whose eyes are yet innocent of urban sophisticated thought.


varsha said...

Hanuman with Dragons! Which period was this temple built?

Gallimaufry said...

It's several centuries old, but parts of it were refurbished a few years ago.

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