A smile keeps clinging on my face as my feet stepping down the stairs of Batu Cave (about 13 km from Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia. Going down the long stairs are completely easier than the opposite. Or maybe it's just this 'air baloon' I have inside my heart that lightens up my steps? Well, it's both I supposed.
I still can smell of the typical herbs of the temple up there. There were so many small temples inside the cave. Yes, the CAVE! It was a 272-staired pathways heading to this Hindu temple. It was quite a hard work for me (who’s rarely physically exercised X_x), but it’s all worth it! I didn’t expect to meet such a big cave up there, with some spots marked by small statues at the sides of the cave.
I can’t stop taking pictures with both my pocket camera and my iPhone, until the batteries are low, haha. Only some of my pictures inside the frame needed. I hear some chant singing accompanied by a tabla (traditional percussion of India) and a woodwind instrument from the Main Temple. I forced my feet to get back to the Main Temple. I can see some people lining up in the front of the small altar. They close their eyes, chanting some prayers as the priest do his work. I think they’re doing the ceremony called the Aarti. Hindu people generally do it twice or three times daily. This one I see is performed in the evening, when the sun is setting down. Many things I don’t understand of the ceremony, but I can see it beautiful. I was stoned with my sparkling eyes and smiling lips.
I keep standing there even though the ceremony has finished and the altar is empty. Later on, the priest calls me and invites me to go up on the altar. So I move closer and closer in doubt. I understand nothing about the ceremony! But I don’t care. So, there I am….joining the Pooja session. Pooja is loosely performed anytime by priests when someone is expecting a blessing.
The priest puts a Tilak on my forehead. It leaves a red mark between my eyebrows. Most religious Indians, especially married women wear this. It’s applied daily after bath and on special occasions before or after ritualistic worship or a visit to a temple. Tilak covers the spot between eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. The Tilak is applied with the prayer – “May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds.” Amen!
After the Tilak, the priest also applies the Holy Ash on my forehead. It’s not just an ash. It’s the ash from the Homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs offered as worship of the Lord. Well, no wonder it smells so good. The ash distributed is called the Bashma. The word Bashma means “that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered”.
The Homa signifies the offering of the ego and egocentric desire into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The ash we apply indicated that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. The application of ash reminds us that the body is perishable and shall one day be reduced to ashes. We should therefore not get too attached to it. Death can come at any moment and this awareness must increase our drive to make the best use of times. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death, but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.
Joining a Hindu Ceremony : DONE! Another checked point on My Bucket List. As I step down the stairs, I see another interesting point. It’s the Dark Cave Tour. Too bad it’s closed already! I’ve just realized that there’s a much bigger cave next to the Temple Cave! They have two types of Tour : the Educational Tour (RM 35 for Adult) and the Adventurous Tour (RM 80 for Adult). The Educational tour takes about 45 minutes walking on pathways inside the (very) dark cave, while the Adventurous Tour takes about 3 hours on the pathways and OFF the pathways. Both are guided.
The same disappointment comes from a Chinese man next to me. We both didn’t see it on our ways up. If you have the chance to go here, don’t make the same mistake as we both (and I’m sure many other people) did! Don’t forget to turn your head left while doing the exhausting walk up there. :)
There’s a ‘weird’ conversation happen on our way down. This Chinese guy came from Hong Kong. He thought I were a Moslem because of the Indonesian nationality I have. Before, he thought I were an Indian because of the marks on my forehead. We both laugh after I showed him the Cross I wear on my necklace, and the conversation continues. Yeah, the Buddhist and the Christian meet each other after joining a Hindu ceremony in a Moslem country. How does it sound? :-)
Well, sometimes it’s good to be one, letting go those labeled stuff of the world. The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. Let’s place our palm together in front of the chest, bow down of the head as a gracious form of extending friendship in love. This is not just a superficial gesture or word, but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect. And don't forget to say, “Namaste…”
*Thanks to www.saranam.com to help me understand what's behind those rituals.