Looking for porn in Ikkeri

A long time back I’d gone to Sringeri, and tried to use insights from Tyler Cowen’s Discover Your Inner Economist, which I had then just read. Cowen had written that the way to get interested in things you’re not normally interested about is in engaging in side bets.

So if you’re watching a game where you don’t know which team to root for (which makes it less interesting), you place a bet. When you go to an art gallery, think about which painting you would want to steal (if given a choice).

And a corollary is that when you visit a medieval Indian temple, you get yourself interested in the sculptures by looking for porn in them. At Sringeri I hadn’t had that much luck. Either I was bad at spotting figures (no pun intended) back in 2008, or the temple there is simply too “sanskari”, but I had completely failed to find porn there.

Last week, we did a family road trip through West-Central Karnataka. We went close to Sringeri but didn’t actually go there. Instead, we visited seven (I think) other medieval temples in that region, most of them off the beaten tourist track.

All seven temples (IIRC) are under control of the Archeological Survey of India, though all of them also see daily prayers (basically, the idols haven’t been destroyed). In many of them, we were the only people at the temple at the time of visit. We didn’t spend too long in each temple (30-45 minutes at max), and they weren’t particularly close to each other, so it was a real “road trip” that way (most time being spent in the car).

In any case, we were in luck at the Aghoreshwara Temple in Ikkeri.

It was the wife (who, you might remember, is a relationship guru) who first noticed this. “Is this guy shagging?”, she asked, looking at a sculpture on the side of the temple. “Oh wow! This woman is touching herself”, she went on.

We only looked closely at one side of the temple (we had gone in the afternoon and the floor on the other side of the temple was too hot so we didn’t spend much time there), but there was plenty of “good stuff”.

One series of people touching the penis of the guy in front. One person tugging at the penises of two people at the same time. Women sprawled out in an inviting manner. People getting anal. Interesting “positions”. The sculptor surely had superb imagination.

The wife diligently documented a lot of things we saw and put them on Instagram. You can check the stuff out here.

Most of our temple visits on the trip came after this one, and so we kept our eyes out for “interesting stuff” there. Unfortunately we didn’t come by much stuff. Some of the temples we visited later on (like the one in Banavasi) were much older. Other temples didn’t have that much sculpture around the outside walls (which is where this kind of stuff usually goes).

Nevertheless, this “discovery” early on in our trip made all our subsequent temple visits that much more interesting.

Palani

I was reading Shoba Narayan’s excellent piece in MintOnSunday about the Palani temple when I was reminded of my own trip there back when I was a kid, so thought I should write about it.

The memories are extremely hazy, for I was a really small boy back then (I don’t even remember how old I was). It was a strict pilgrimage, consisting of two overnight bus journeys, and the only purpose of the trip was to visit the Palani temple.

There was some religious context to it. Apparently my parents had visited the temple some time before I was born, and had promised to return had some condition been satisfied. I don’t remember the exact condition (though the fact that I’m named Karthik has something to do with this, I know) but apparently it had been satisfied, and so off we went to fulfil the “harke”.

I remember taking a Tamil Nadu State Transport bus. I don’t think I was old enough for them to take a ticket for me, so I didn’t get my own seat. But then my father spoke to some people across the aisle and found that they were scheduled to get off at Krishnagiri, after which we crossed over to the three-seater, and I remember sleeping across my parents’ laps.

We reached Palani in the morning and checked into some random hotel. I don’t remember much of what happened there. I remember going to the temple sometime during the day. There was a cable car, if I’m not wrong, to go up. I don’t remember if we took it.

Shoba’s piece is about the Prasad at the Palani temple, but I don’t remember any of it. All I remember is going to some vibhuti (sacred ash) shop there to buy some vibhuti. And I remember the shopkeeper telling us that whatever we bought, we would only get half of it after the pooja was done. Finally my parents, after some deliberation, settling on buying one (largish) packet of vibhuti. I remember taking home half of that, and it satisfying our vibhuti needs for several years after that.

As I said right up front, this is one of my least memorable trips from my childhood. All I remember is the bus. The shady hotel. The steep flight of stairs to get to the temple (Shoba writes about that, too). The cable car. And the half packet of vibhuti. I have no clue what we ate. I think there were people there in Palani who spoke Kannada, but I’m not so sure. And I remember taking another overnight bus back (this one being empty enough that I could sleep across my parents’ laps for the full journey).

Silencing the temple

The temple across the road from my house has really started annoying me. The priest has one tape, of supposedly “devotional” songs and this morning he thought it appropriate to play it on the loudspeaker at 5:30, startling me and waking me up.

This is not the first time he has done so, either. He has been a consistent offender. Earlier, the tape would go on at around 7:30, after we had woken up so it didn’t really affect me so much – I’d put on my own music to drown the offending noise and all would be fine. Of late, though, the bugger seems to be getting to his temple early, and he considers it his sacred duty to wake up the locality with his noise.

Polite attempts (by the wife) to ask him to turn down the volume have had no impact. I’m told over ten years back my grandmother-in-law (known in her time to have been an extremely strong and clever woman) had tried her own methods to silence him, but had failed and given up (one of her rare failures, according to the wife). One of the things she had apparently tried was to threaten to call in the cops. It didn’t work.

As we lay tossing and turning in bed this morning having been rudely woken up by the temple noise, we thought of strategies. One was to write out a police complaint, get neighbours to weigh in with their support and go to the cops. Another was to get in touch with the local politicians (corporator, MLA, etc.) and see if they can do something about it.

One thing bothers me about either approach, though – no there is no risk per se, but I don’t think any of this will really work. The problem is the Indian definition of “secularism” – which is not “each citizen will practice his/her own religion in private and the state will not interfere” but instead is “each citizen can make a big loud show of practicing his/her religion and the state will not interfere”.

And so if I go to the cops or the politicians asking them to intervene, one question that will invariably come up is why the temple priest should shut up when there are no restrictions whatsoever on the muezzin’s call. And if you go to the muezzin and ask him to turn down the volume, he’ll agree on the condition that the loudspeakers at the Ganesh pandals be turned down. And thus we will set off on an infinite loop.

This is the sad story with religion in India. Anything goes in the name of religion. If you oppose something done in the name of religion itself, you are being anti-religion, and that is blasphemous.

Anyway, I still have the conundrum of how to deal with the hooligan priest in the temple across the road from my house!