The Raghunath mandir at 8.00 a.m. is a beautiful sight. With steep domes spiralling out into the air, the temple is the abode of Sriram, Lakshman and Sita, surrounded by a multitude of gods and other minor deities. There is a circle within a circle, at the centre of which resides these idols. The two concentric circles comprise a variety of deities, including Shiva, Radhe-Krishna, Saibaba, and others. The sculpting is very different from South-Indian sculptures, and there are definitely more colours. Each idol is draped in a cornucopia of reds, yellows, greens, blues, pinks that shimmer amidst the mirrors surrounding them. There is a clear contrast of colours, even in the faces of the idols. A thought: Sriram was black, while Lakshman and Sita were white.
The temple itself was serene, filled with a profusion of parrots that were squawking in the fresh morning air. The bazaar area, where the temple is located, had not yet woken up, and the birds were enjoying the calm of the temple atmosphere. There were chants and bells and a harmony of music in the background.
Starting off with the serenity of the Raghunath temple, the day moved on into a more academic mode after the Vandana at Jammu University. Welcoming the delegates as well as the plenary speakers at their biggest and newest auditorium, the General Zorawar Singh Auditorium, the students of Jammu University performed a dance on Ganapathi Bappa.
The sessions dealt primarily with the importance of Shakespeare and the necessity to look at the republic in his works, as well as gendered readings of some of his works. These sessions were interrupted by a tea break and, later, lunch. The food was delicious, serving chole-batura, sandwiches, pakoras, and gulab jamuns along with tea/coffee at 11.30 a.m. and providing mouth-watering parathas, rajma-rice, paneer butter masala, and cauliflower fry along with ice-cream for lunch.
Having had enough of academics (but definitely not the food), the next on the agenda was sightseeing. The Bahu fort and gardens, as well as a quick dash through the aquarium accompanied by a recently arrived friend, was to follow. The fort looked pretty massive and beautiful from outside, yet, it only comprised of a small Durga temple within its walls. Sitting amidst the clamour of bells and the rhythm of chants, breathing in the smell of sambrani, remembering the smell of granddfather’s-prayers-on-Friday-afternoons, there was a moment of serenity and a moment of happiness.
There was a slow breathing-in of the surroundings, and a slow exhaling of everything that was stressful. A moment of wondering- when someone blesses you ‘Sukhi bhava’ (I presume it translates into ‘Be happy’), isn’t that all we ask for? Not to wish one to get married, or get a job, or have children, or be well-to-do, but a deep desire for the other person to be truly happy with whatever she or he has, with where he or she is, at perfect peace and for the other to wish the same of yourself.
An old man, with a bandaged foot, sweeping the temple floor in a routine manner… I hope he is compelled by faith rather than forced be necessity- a futile thought. An offering of money, and an acceptance of it. Seems more logical and more needed than an offering to god. And we leave the temple/fort. But before we exit the walls of the fort, there are steps hidden in the dark, beckoning us to climb them. So we quickly caper up the stone steps and see a breath-taking view of the city lights in the evening.
Glad to have done something out of the ordinary, we went on down to a deceptively small garden. Walking around the lake, the fountains sing out to us. The yellow lights on the ever-so-slightly-rippling waters glimmer in the night. The spray of water from the fountain leads us down steps. And smaller decorative steps allow the water to traipse down their body, fluttering into larger, stiller ponds. Bridges soaked in the harmony of waters’ music separate fountain from fountain. A sense of elation fills us, as the tripping water skips and hums like the beat of the heart. A garden-walk-and-talk.
And finally there was dinner- buns with fried soya beans, a glass of goli-soda, papdi chaat that wasn’t really papdi chaat, and finally a traipse back to the hotel room, conversations about TV shows, and the welcoming bed.