Saturday, June 28, 2008

Just another day in Palumpur !

June 26, 2008-(Thursday)- Palumpur, India
Today was pretty interesting all around. First it was off to the school. It was very hot, as usual, and I was soaked in sweat by the time we got there. (15 min drive). I was supposed to have the first 3 periods for planning, so I was not expecting what happened when I got there. The principle asked me to go into the 9th grade science class. I was prepared, I thought, but it turned out they were doing something totally different than what I’d been told the day before. I’d prepared to teach the Crebb’s cycle, and instead I was doing the circulatory system! Thank God I remember most of my biology!
After that class I had a break and talked to one of the teachers. She told me that she was engaged to be married in September to an Indian man who lives in Australia. As she was discussing the details with a total stranger, I gathered she was very nervous about the marriage. It is an arranged marriage, as is 80% of Indian marriages. The women here don’t think it’s strange at all and accept it as their duty to their family. Considering that their divorce rate is only 8%, (in contrast to Duval County, FL’s which is 62%) I wonder if it is not US who have it all wrong. She is very worried because she has only seen pictures of him and talked to him on the phone and computer a few times. She says he seems like a good man, but that he doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. He gets upset about everything and is far too serious. She on the other hand, likes to laugh and joke around. I hope it works out for her. If a couple have problems, the parents of both families get together and try to solve them. In the rare case that they do divorce, the woman is unlikely to find another mate, as it is disgraceful. If the man is wealthy and has a good job, he will have no problem finding another wife. Just another example of the double standard that women everywhere have to deal with.
The rest of the classes went alright, but they kept changing things from the way they originally told me. I just went with the flow, and did the best I could. While it was somewhat frustrating, there really was no other choice. At one point I had to go to the bathroom. Unlike the place we are staying, the school doesn’t even have a bathroom, one just goes out in the yard, preferably far away from the building. When asked where the bathroom was, I was pointed down some steep steps going down into a gorge. I walked down to where I hoped I couldn’t be seen, and did what I had to do. At one point I almost lost my balance and would have ended up off the side of a cliff hadn’t it been for a strong plant stem ! By the end of the day we were completely drenched in sweat and exhausted from the heat. When it was time to go, I was surprised to see our CCS program directors at the school. Apparently they were going to have a long meeting with the principle and teachers in order to remedy the problems we were having. We headed back to the house, leaving the 2 directors to handle things with the teachers. After lunch, we left to go see some monuments. On the way to the sites, I saw a mama monkey with her baby on her back ! Unfortunately we were traveling too fast for me to get the picture, but I’ll keep an eye out! The first monument we went to see was a Hindu Temple for the God, Visnu. Here is some information about it I got off the internet.
· of the most remarkable monuments of the Kangra valley is the temple of Baijnath. Baijnath is situated East of Dharamsala on the main road that leads from the Dharamsala to Mandi. Baijnath is in reality the appellation of the chief temple dedicated to Siva Vaidyanatha (“Lord of Physicians”) by which the town itself has become known. The original name of the town was Kiragrama. This we learn from the two extensive Sarada inscriptions incised on stone slabs, which in elegant and florid Sanskrit verse give the history of the foundation of a temple, by two local merchants. "There is in Trigarata," we read in the inscription, "the pleasent village of Kiragrama, the home of numerous virtues where the river called Binduka, leaping from the lap of the mountain, with glittering wide-waves resembling playing-balls, merrily plays, like a bright maiden in the first bloom of youth. That village is protected by the strong-armed Rajanaka Lakshmana." The river Binduka, so well described by the poet, is the modern Binwa, a tributary of the Beas. The date of the inscription is expressed both in the Saptarishi and in the Saka eras. Cunningham first read the Saka date as 726, corresponding with A.D. 804. The true date, however, must be the Saka year 1126 corresponding with A.D .1204. The Baijnath temple is oriented due west. It consists of a puri or adytum. 8 feet square inside and 18 feet outside, surmounted by a spire of the usual conical shape, and of a mandapa or front hall, 20 feet square inside, covered with a low pyramid shaped roof. The adytum, which contains the linga known as Vaidaya natha, is entered through a small anteroom with two pillars in antis. The roof of the mandapa is supported by four massive pillars connected by raised benches which form, as it were, a passage leading to the entrance of the sanctum. The architraves resting on these pillars divide the space of the ceiling into nine compartments, each of which is closed by means of corbelling slabs. In front of the mandapa rises a stately porch resting on four columns. "The shafts of these pillars," Fergusson remarks "are plain cylinders, of very classical proportions, and the bases also show that they are only slightly removed from classical design. The square plinth, the two toruses, the cavetto or hollow molding between are all classical, but partially hidden by Hindu ornamentation, of great elegance but unlike anything found afterwards." Set amidst a backdrop of Snow-clad Mountains and lush green Valleys the temple is visible from a far distance. Close flows the Binwa Khund (stream), considered sacred by local people. The temple surrounding area has been developed into a beautiful lawn and flowerbeds so that the devotees are able to rest a while amidst congenial surrounding.
When we got there the first thing we had to do was remove our shoes and wash our hands. In the courtyard was an old man was playing on some drums and many sculptures and statues. One statue in particular was of a bull. The legend says that if you whisper a wish into the ear of the bull, while covering the other ear, Vishnu would grant your request. Of course I had to whisper a wish into the bull’s ear, just for fun. After making my wish, I went into the inner temple. Before entering the temple you are to ring a bell above your head. You can only imagine how many times I had to jump in order to reach it. Inside it was very quiet and still. It reminded me of a Catholic cathedral. I greeted the priest and turned around and left. Supposedly the priest blesses each person as they acknowledge him. While walking around the court I took many pictures of the sculptures on the walls. The temple had beautiful gardens around it, noticeably free of trash!
· After leaving this temple, we headed for our next stop, Tashi Jong. (Info below from the internet)In 1958, having foreseen the imminent coming of the communist Chinese, the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, Kalzang Dongyu Nyima, left for India with a group of 16 monks and reincarnate lamas. In Eastern Tibet he had been the head of Khampagar Monastery, which had over 200 branch monasteries, nunneries and retreat centers. It was considered one of the foremost monasteries of the Drukpa Kagy├╝ lineage. In India, they settled first in Kalimpong in West Bengal, where many lay people from the Khampagar area in Kham came seeking refuge, and affiliated themselves with the newly formed community. In 1969, they moved to Himachal Pradesh in North India. There they settled in the peaceful Kangra valley on 37 acres of land, which was named Tashi Jong, Tibetan for Auspicious Valley. The late Tokden Amtin mentioned that at the time of the initial consecration of the land of Tashi Jong, both H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and H.E. the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche clearly felt this place to be the pure land of the Five Manjushris.
This monastery was awesome to see! While the colors of the buildings reminded me of Disney World, the atmosphere certainly did not. It was a very tranquil place with gardens, statues, prayer wheels (sort of like Catholic rosary) and other monuments. I took many pictures here as did the rest of the crew.
We were all drenched in sweat, there is no way to describe how nasty this feels. After returning to the house, I took a cold shower and a nap. In the evening I graded papers on Blackboard for my students online, and then went to bed.

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