The Temporal Invading the Spiritual

There’s nothing like a challenge to unify disparate ideas or odds and ends that just tickled your fancy at the time.  Ailsa’s done just that with her ‘Contrast or Nonconformity’ challenge this week.  As chance would have it – or as I prefer to think of it:  with Sri Lankan serendipity – all five photographs were taken in/of/from temples here on the island.

Taking it very seriously - Kataragama 1995Many years ago, at the end of one of my ‘long’ holidays, Mo and I caught the overnight bus to Kataragama.  Somehow we had felt the need for a parting visit to Sri Lanka’s most beloved of temple complexes – to walk under the elephant and crack a young coconut at the Kovil, to lay lotus at the Buddha statue and yes, to sit a while at the Mosque (while my friend took the opportunity to go inside to pray, something Sri Lankan Muslim women otherwise do from home).

At the last minute I was persuaded to wear sari;  not only that, to allow myself to be photographed in it.  You see, the sight of pale-skinned western women with their towering broad-shouldered physiques and fair (in comparison) hair, has always filled me with dismay.  Somehow even the most graceful of us look awkward and out-of-place in contrast to the exuberance of even the most strictly draped sari.  And yes, there I was, stiff as a board, taking it all so seriously – in contrast to the merriment that characterises most visitors to this sacred pilgrimage site with the holiday air in the deep south of the island.

There’s a straight-laced, school-marmy side to me – for all my egalitarian laissez-fair beliefs – that sometimes surprises me by the vehemence of my response to certain things here.  The other day, up on Nagadeepa, I couldn’t stop an explosion of disgust at some photographs and billboards I saw there.  “Do these people have any idea just how offensive their blatant politic-ing might be to others?”, I wondered.   I refrained from making an international incident of it by asking the four Indian gentlemen who were just ahead of me, but you can be sure I sat down for a quiet chat with the young man having a drink in the shade.

Yes, even young people find it offensive when the temporal world of politics invades the spiritual space of temple precincts, even if the temple isn’t one of theirs.

I did take photographs, but as you might have guessed by now, I try to keep politics out of this space – and since almost all of you will be unable to read the slogans daubed across the rocks at the foot of this simple little temple on the road up to Anuradhapura, I submit it as an example of the temporal invading the spiritual.  As political posters go, this is quite beautiful, in its way, with the graceful rounded characters of Sinhala akuru in simple white paint, still, the contrast couldn’t be more blatant.

Temporal vs Spiritual

26 thoughts on “The Temporal Invading the Spiritual

  1. Seems like nothing is sacred anymore! You will be surprised by how ‘religious’ these very same people are! Only the true meaning of religion has been left behind a long time ago. Thank you for another remarkable post Meredith.
    You look gorgeous in that sari 🙂 I would gladly swap the curves that make me look sexy in a sari for a narrow western frame 😀

    • Oh, yes, I know, soooooo religious, don’t do anything without consulting for auspicious times, dates, etc., and making extravagant and very public/well publicised gestures at every temple and ‘holy’ place they pass!

      I don’t care what they say – we can’t wear sari (though I did enjoy it a bit more after Mo gave me a couple more walking lessons, somehow changing the way I walked made me fit into it better!). Wish I looked a bit more like that these days 🙂

  2. That last photo makes me wish I could read Sinhala… I’m sure there’s so much meaning, even if it is political, written there like a foil to the temple just above.

  3. If people are offensive when politics invades temple precincts, how do they think they can get people’s support?
    Meredith, you look absolutely gorgeous in sari!

  4. I have said before that, unless specifically being asked to, I don’t point out type-os unless it totally can change the meaning. I have to note that:
    ” to sit a while at the Mosque (while my friend took the opportunity to go inside to prey, something Sri Lankan Muslim women otherwise do from home).”
    I imagine the friend went to “pray” in the Mosque?

  5. as usual in your posts there is so much to dwell on … the sari story touches a chord because my feelings are much the same, it seems you need to be born to a sari (although you do look lovely, if stiff :))… and until i read the words your last photo of the temple and the writing looked quite harmonious … but aha! it was political sloganeering … not to our taste at all, yet no doubt you will see plenty of it by returning in an election year … but the leaf and petal, perfect illustration of our life cycle!

  6. You look beautiful in the sari and it’s nice to finally get a glimpse of the person behind the lens. And you’ve convinced me. I’ll never vote for Joe Blogs nor the XYZ party. Ever!

  7. Multifaceted examples, and great images. The dry brittle leaf and the fresh still lustrous petals could spark a debate on the merits of the beauty of both, equally transient, along with the politics that so presumptiously assumed a place adjacent the spiritual but will fade, at least for a while, unlike its neighbour which will prevail.

  8. Always a delight to match a face to the name — I think we Westerners are always too harsh and self-conscious about our appearances (I am fully guilty of the same) — you look great! The contrast in the last photo is just perfect.

  9. Is it not considered desecration to splash political slogans at a temple site? At best, it’s a distraction. I had a similar reaction the last time we visited Naples, Italy. The graffiti is everywhere, including the exterior of churches and government buildings, and all over beautiful statues. What does it accomplish, except to spoil the experience for others?

  10. Politics should be stay away from the spiritual. Spiritual is pure, of what’s divine and truly important in this world. As for politics, we all know where that’s heading just watching the current events around us. I share your sentiments. Wonderful pictures.

  11. Dear Meredith,
    You are beautiful in your sari! The photos are quite lovely as well. So interesting to hear your stories, and your thoughts on politics and religion. I strongly believe in the separation of religion and politics–not just for aesthetic reasons. (Even so, I would not have known that the writing on the cliff was anything but lovely designs). Thank you for sharing a really great post.

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