|Posted by David Pugh on January 7, 2012 at 12:15 AM|
I’ve been caught up in a series of strange coincidences. After only catching three morning glimpses of Mt. Khangchendzonga and suffering from the cold, we decided to head south sooner than planned. Feeling defeated we headed off to the computerised train booking office in Gantok to try to get a through ticket from Siliguri to Puri, via Kolkata but the computer went down. We took this as asign that it was not yet time to give up on Sikkim, so instead of taking the shared jeep to Siliguri, we decided to see what the weather was like inNamchi. When we arrived the next day, it was to glorious sunshine and spectacular views of the Himalayas, a stunning surprise that we would have missed had the Internet been working. Now things get spookier, we climbed Mount Solophok to visit the newly opened Siddhesvara Dham complex with the massive statue of Shiva, who looks to the opposite mountain, where the even larger figure of Padmasambhava looks back at him. We had no idea that this spiritual theme park contained scaled down replicas of India’s most holy temples, including my favourite, the epic Rhameshwaram temple in Tamil Nadu. Each of these scaled down replicas are still considered holy and are attended by their own priest. We entered the Jagannath temple, not realising that it is here in Orissa and closed to non-Hindus. I knew very little about Jagannath other than he lent his name to the word“juggernaut” after the huge cart, drawn by 4,000 devotees, through the street here in Puri, once a year. I had no idea what thegod looked like and when I entered the holy of holies I was blown away, he’s an African. A tiny little black faced man with no legs and hands, the representation of something strange hiding in the forest. This figure is possibly the earliest interpretation of Vishnu and therefore the possible starting point of all Hindu belief. Combine this with the strong African similarities to the tribal people here and you realise that not only did humankind originate in Africa but Hinduism seems to have arisen out of Juju. I’m imagining a tribal hunter coming across a fallen tree and the artist in him sees this figure. He hacks straight through the tree, hence the statue has no legs and then chisels out the features one can see today, atl east if you’re a Hindu. Souvenir replicas are sold all over Puri and the original carving has been replaced many times, the previous statue being buried in the temple graveyard. It’s intriguing to think the original tribal carving is there still in the grounds, thousands of years old. My conclusion is that this long forgotten artist might have been the father of all Hinduism, along with parallels to the story of Pinocchio. I’m sure I’m not the first person to make this observation, I shall read more about Jagannath to find out. It’s just so strange that I have found myself so torn between my love of India and Africa and now I have found this meeting place. Even stranger, even though I’m denied entry here to Jagannath’s temple, I was allowed into his presence by a failure of modern technology. I’m quite spooked by this and feel very honoured to have had this revelation.