Saturday, November 19, 2011

Indie Travel - Spirit

Some places have the power to make even the most die-hard agnostic reconsider their position. Have you ever been in a place where you felt more alive or more connected to nature, the universe, or a higher power than anywhere else?

Hanuman Temple Taos, NM
Unfortunately, I am one of those agnostics and generally do not find a place spiritually enhancing, unless it is incredibly beautiful. Then I feel uplifted and happy, but not so moved as to believe some magical being is behind it all. I'm not sure if that's what this prompt meant, so I'll tell you about the Hanuman Temple in Taos, NM.

It might seem an unlikely place for a Hindu temple, but Taos is many things to many people. And a lot seem to feel it's especially spiritual, it draws the spiritual-ness out of people and draws spiritual seekers as well. 

My recollection (probably flawed) is that the grounds and buildings for the temple complex were donated by someone, and the money to buy the Hanuman statue was raised by the participants. I've been there twice and was amazed both times at how life-like the marble statue is. I've photographed it in different light and still, the translucent quality of the marble and the exquisite workmanship makes it appear as if Hanuman is present and will blink his eyes at any moment. 
It was carved in India by a family of craftsmen who have spent many generations doing nothing but carve Hanumans. It's from a large solid block of marble and weighs several tons. Shipping it from India to the US must have been quite a feat.


The participants in the temple dress the statue in beautiful clothing, varying it to the season and possibly also to the ceremonial calendar. They come in at various times during the day to sing chants which are quite lovely and compelling. I don't know the name of the little pump organ that is used, but when it's played, one hand moves the baffles back and forth while the other plays keys. The second time I was there, a group of Indians came in and sang all the songs by heart, while the anglo people typically use a printed song book. It was crowded but everyone sat close to each other on the floor and sang. I just listened and tried to grasp the need for ritual and togetherness around a mutual belief. I felt very soothed afterwards, and most of the people left the room smiling.