Welcomed into a Krishna Temple on the way to celebrate Holi in Old Dhaka.
The complex consisted of an open air sadhana hall (roof, but no walls), living quarters, a temple to a guru (I think that’s what it was!) and a temple for Krishna/Vishnu.
Devotees wearing white or geru dhotis, the cooks wearing lungis as aprons, shaved heads with a lock of hair left at the back (sikha), women in modest saris.
Children, teenagers, adults – everyone. It seems that preparations were underway for a big event at the temple.
Offered Prasad (food offered to a deity, infused with extra-good vibes, then consumed by followers) of dhal-bhat – perfect rice and mild lentils served out of large pots, eaten with the hand whilst sitting on the floor.
Well, this is an excellent start to the day.
I couldn’t help but scamper into the kitchen, and was delighted to meet the cooks. The men were working barefoot over large pots, balanced over fires.
The ladies were in the back of the kitchen, sitting in a circle, industriously cutting up vegetables. They invited me to sit with them.
They mentioned Hari Krishna quite a bit.
It was a happy meeting – each woman indicated that she wanted her photo taken, and then they enjoyed looking at the photos of each other and laughing. It was really nice. It felt a lot like the ashram kitchen that I am used to – but without ovens, electricity and all these sorts of things!
Promised to return later that day for lunch and puja (ceremony), but got distracted by Holi instead. And that’s a whole other story!
On reflection, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of loss – loss for all the temples that have been destroyed in Bangladesh. There is a long history of Buddhist and Hindu temples being destroyed, and the land appropriated in this country.
There is also loss for the diversity of Bangladesh. In 1971, 3 million Bengalis were massacred, and 8 to 10 million fled. Most were Hindus and other minorities.
This is one of the largest displacements of population based on ethnic or religious identity in recent history – and no one seems to talk about it.
3 million people were killed here 45 years ago.
That’s six times the entire population of Tasmania.
I don’t want to end this blog entry on a dark point like this, but it is important to contextualise the importance of Hinduism in this country. I can’t see this city without seeing what is no longer here and what is under threat.