Wednesday, 4 April 2018

D is for Darshan #AtoZChallenge

Dakshina Chitra, Chennai. August 2017
Darshan is derived from darsana in Sanskrit meaning auspicious sight. Literally and philosophically translated, it means to look or to behold.

If you ask a Hindu who's fond of her rituals, she'll tell you that darshan is the highest point of her routine. Her prayers, her chanting and all of her offerings-- all of it leads to this climax--the darshan: a point in time when the divine embraces her and blesses her with his/her presence.

For her, facing his image in a temple is enough.

I grew up with a very religious set of grandparents. Daily temple visits were just that, daily. The Krishna temple near our house was like most Krishna temples in North India--a palace of a place to house beautifully decorated Krishna and his beloved Radha. Their costumes and jewellery would be changed often and the opulence of their image would keep me occupied for hours as a child.

And that's all I saw when I went for darshan. The costumes, the flowers, the shining mukut (crown) and the sparkling beads hanging from his murli (flute). Krishna and Radha always matched. Darshan was a feast for the eyes. It always made me happy. Also, my conditioning and something else (something I still can't define, perhaps learnt reverence) made me fold my hands in prayer and just stare at their beautiful images.

Time turned my innocence into questions. At eleven or twelve,  everything I had found beautiful and shiny as a child, became gaudy and ritualistic. Rigid, non-progressive and primitive.

I still went to temples but not as an awestruck devotee to partake in darshan. My motives to visit the local temple as a teenager were free food and a chance to catch up with friends.
Dakshina Chitra, Chennai, 2017
A few decades of cynicism and questions and growing up later, I ended up (unplanned and unprepared) in a Sikh temple in the Himalayas, perched at more than 15, 000 feet above sea level. I didn't know it at the time, but what I felt there, in front of Guru Granth Sahib ji, without any opulent idols to feast my eyes on, without any sensory stimulants except for Gurubani (devotional songs) was darshan. I didn't know it at the time because all I did was cried, cried and cried some more while I sat there, but I was experiencing a home-coming, a stillness of sorts, a cleansing of accumulated rubbish, a point of equilibrium. I felt light. I was light--lit up and light.

If you have time, you can read about that day here: Hemkund Sahib ji 

Ever since that day, many such moments of darshan have made me smile, cry, laugh, and just be. Sometimes, it's happened in temples, and sometimes while looking into some one's eyes, or while watering a newly flowered gardenia bud, or while walking on dew drenched grass or while kissing my love--a home-coming, a feeling of being one with what I'm looking at--as if what I'm looking at is also beholding me with love so immense that we become tiny particles in the sea of love while holding this deep, delicious sea within us. (like Rumi said)

My eighteen year old son's cynicism about deities reminds me of my journey. I smile. I wish I could hold his hand and guide him to the light I see, but every soul has to travel its path on its own and in his time he too will get to do the darshan.

For now, I simply point out to a mynah that's hanging upside down from a branch of the mulberry tree in our back yard. So lost in her feast of the jewelled berries is she that she forgets her sky is the earth and the earth her new sky. Meera Bai, I think, banwali -intoxicated and free.

Alwar Bagh, Rajasthan January 2018
"The only lasting beauty is the beauty of the heart." says Rumi.

May your hearts be full of love and may your days be filled with light.


  1. It's always interesting reading of Hindu cultures. It's a different world to our South African way of life! Thanks for sharing. Dopamine: Do you Drip or Do you Drown?

  2. What you experienced at Hemkund Sahib ji, I have experienced at a Sai Baba Temple. That day is still etched in my memory and I wonder what came over me that day in that temple, it was as if someone really understood and listened and that was so calming.
    Yes, you can feel this calm not only in a temple but in someone's company /eyes as well. Blessed are those who can have such a wonderful impact on others!
    5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Diary #AtoZChallenge

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Shilpa:)

  3. Hmmmm,that’s quite a different trip you’ve taken down the ‘D’ path Arti - religion means different things to different people but at the end it’s all about the connect you have with Him (or Her- never heard a Her being mentioned though!). You have definitely described the indescribable quite aptly ,we do find it in different places/moments.
    Your teenager’s cynicism is kind of reflective of what we see when you-know-who comes home on vacation. But am sure he too will reach or find it in his own time.There’s no
    ‘recipe’ for that.
    Loved your blog and sorry if got all
    philosophical on you .
    Hmmm,now for the ‘E’......

    1. I love philosophical Sharmila--so go ahead unapologetically:)
      You're right--there's no 'recipe', just on step at a time.
      Hugs. xx

  4. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this post, a very interesting read. I used to teach some religious studies and visiting our local temple was definitely a highlight. However, Derby is not as glamorous as the Himalayas...

    1. Thank you for visiting. My favourite subject when I was teaching primary school was Religious Ed. The exploration of the self fascinates me. Himalayas will be happy to know you find them glamorous:)

  5. Ahh, those serene sometimes even a little scary moments when time and place dissolve into a sea of purity; the place where the eternal divine and my everyday, ordinary me dance.
    Thank you for reminding me of such amazing moments.
    Hugs, xx

    1. Thank you April--I'm loving how your words in this comment are making me feel--hugs. xx

  6. Glad you shared about Darshan we all could use that calm.

  7. A good one with the letter D. Your blog really made me wonder about one such moments that one feels at times. Your writing has a good flow Arti that takes your readers in, all the best!

    1. Thank you Puja. I'm happy you like it here:)

  8. Hari OM
    I was experiencing darshan all my life - only I didn't know that word till very much later. Neither could I declare it until I came to Vedanta, where it was understood and accepted as a matter of course. What brought me to the Hindu philsophy? The Lord. The form matters not, I learned, only that one surrenders. I know those tears of joy! YAM xx

    1. Hari Om Yamini.
      Yes, form matters not.
      Ah! the bliss of surrender.

  9. I think it is healthy for everyone to question the religion of their upbringing and find their own path. Most people's paths wind around and end up back where they began but it is now the individual's journey that led them there, not blind faith in the teachings of their youth.

    Hemkund Sahib sounded and looked like an amazing journey for you.

    Emily In Ecuador | Dolphins - Puerto Lopez

    1. So well put Emily: "...paths wind around and end up back where they began..."
      Thank you:)

  10. Loving your choice of topics this year. You have won to balabce both the worlds.


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