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....

12 March 2010

The very temple of Delight...

About 50 kilometres from Shimla stands a little village called Chikhad. This is in the Theog sub-division and is localed in a valley off the National Highway. Rushing on his hasty way from Shimla to Rampur, the average traveller is unlikely to spot this village. It is but another Himachali village with its big and little wooden houses, its fields and hayricks and, of course. its temples. From a distance, you would think you are looking at a little model of a village created by a particularly skilful child.
This is a set of three temples. Clearly, they have been built at different times, by different people, and have received varying degrees of attention from the locals.

What you see above is temple number one. Built with the typical pagoda roof and standing about four floors high, this one is home to the youngest deity. It was most intriguingly adorned with a decaying stuffed head of a huge antelope. The antelope's expression was not unlike that of Miss Havisham's in "Great Expectations"! This temple bore all the traditional bells and whistles seen in other temples: there are little dangling wooden pieces, swaying and twirling in the breeze. Little pillar-like objects join the wall to the ceiling, bearing a really attractive likeness of men in worshipful poses: knees bent, palms folded. A little wooden ladder, about as wide as your average laptop bag, ascends to the sanctum sanctorum. The structure is edged by a pretty floral pattern.

The second temple is a small wood-and-stone one. A helpful local tells me it has been at the receiving end of the local politician's attention. Hence, the excessively polished "PWD" look... What I liked best about this temple was its roof. Constructed in the pagoda-roof fashion, its shape is strongly reminiscent of those little umbrellas which come with a cocktail drink! Its candy stripes only embellish that look further.
A feature that emphasises its recent renovation is a large ''om'' that is carved into its door. In older Himachali temples, one is unlikely to come across overt Hindu motifs. In fact, the designs are remarkably catholic and universal in their shapes and forms and are either geometric or floral.

The third and oldest temple is the one that is the most captivating. A squat structure, it recomends itself strongly to passing off as a vehicle of an alien invasion. Something that flew in from the skies one day and found its rest in the hills. Golden, purple, azure shadows break up and crisscross on its floors. A little pink platform bears up the entire structure and slanting wooden pillars, painted a happy green rise to the tiny roof.

Inside the temple you see a pandemonium of colours. Every imaginable aspect of the spectrum marks its presence in the patterns. Humans jostle Gods who rub shoulders with animals and birds. Some gods looks angry and vengeful as they smite demons with sharp weapons. Others bear a joyous aspect and frolic and dance with their divine companions. Each wears rich fineries and elaborate jewellery. The menfolk bear fierce-looking arms: bows, arrows, spears and maces. Some are seen astride horses. The womenfolk are dressed in long skirts and wear lovely trinkets: bangles, anklets, nose-rings, necklaces and all sorts of adornments in the hair.
There is a multitude of scenes from Krishna's life. From his childhood, filled with naughty tricks. His slaying of the snake-demon Kaalia and his frolics with an army of Gopikas.
The temple is also adorned with scenes from the Puranas. Each of the ten avtaars assumed by Vishnu are lovingly represented here. The elaborate details are at once mesmerising and humbling, for yet again, for all the huge quantity of loving attention and hard work they have put in creating these decorations, you find no allusion to their creator or creators. The only thing the artistes have left behind are thousand upon thousands of abstruse images depict the lives and times of a swarm of deities.

A happy calm prevails. No step disturbs the peace of the temple. The holy fire on the altar has long been quenched. No voice bursts into joyous prayer, nor does a sigh rise to the heavens. No precious incense rises like the balm offered by a good person's litanies. But this temple gives you the feeling that a grateful song, a fervent prayer would surely rise to the heavens and find acceptance there.


Vinayak Razdan said...

That's one happy god.

Gallimaufry said...

It seems so, doesn't it, Vinayak?

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