You approach the temple, descend to your knees and crawl the last few paces. Your travel-weary body resists the motion; the flagstone path scrapes your skin, but you barely notice as you reach the steps of the altar. Lifting your gaze from the leaf-strewn granite you catch a glimpse of gold. All this way and there she is, the Goddess Durga, the Destroyer. As you place your hand on the step, an acolyte appears, swooshing in from a hidden alcove. He, you think they’re a he–you’ve read that all sexes are welcome at the Durga temple–he bends low and scrapes your hand off the stone with a bamboo rake.
What the hell?
The attendant catches your eye and motions you to a fountain and mimes the act of washing.
It’s a distance to the basin so you rise only to be coughed to attention by the monk. He signals you to bow, fold your hands and proceed in reverence.
Geezus, OK, OK, whatever.
On your guard you arrive, and before you dip your hands, you spy a ladle. The ground is wet so you dip and think twice as you start to pour the weak-tea water onto your open hand. Checking the monk for his approval, he gives you a nod. He’s been eyeing you, the feeling of his stare—an insect tasting at the nape of your neck. You sigh with self-praise at achieving the man’s consent and rinse your hands and bare feet.
The water is shockingly cool and fragrant, smelling of jasmine and rain. You let each ladleful trickle over your body watching how the channels between the stones wick away the flow.
Another cough tugs you back from your enchantment. You recall why you’re here.
In a low bow, your hands steepled, you return to the step, kneel and look up expectantly.
The blue-robed attendant tucks his chin and waves your forward. You begin to crawl like a dog, but he hooks your arm and lifts you to your feet. We do not grovel here, he seems to say. You smile and he shuffles away continuing to rake the mahogany and eucalyptus leaves that litter the stone pavilion surrounding the altar.
Between the granite columns you pass into the inner chamber and have no choice but to kneel once again.
In all her golden glory the Goddess Durga blazes before you. Her myriad arms flail the air with innumerable weapons. To confront her, you realize, would be death. Her bemused smile seems incongruous upon such a hellish being. The tiger she rides feels diminished in comparison to her monstrous power and intrinsic brutality. You compose yourself and say,
“Oh, great Goddess, I come to you in abject humility. I quiver before your might and beauty. I’d like to say that I come only baring accolades and this meager offering but, you see, I, well, we have a problem. I have trekked from temple to temple in search of a champion. None, thus far, have deigned to grant my wish. You are my final hope.
“I saved this journey for last knowing that you are the most exalted killer of demons. executioner of evil, slayer of all that are an affront to what is good and great in the world. What I ask is simple…”
Around you are piled a multitude of baskets containing fruits and breads in various stages of decay. Their cloyingly sweet odor, as it wafts around the candlelit room, comes near to gagging you. From your pocket you disgorge a wad of rupees and arrange them in a gap between offerings.
“There is an evil in the West. If, in your great and dazzling wisdom and potency, you could wield your saber and scimitar, your flail and dagger and strike down the one called Donald J. Drumpf, the world would be eternally grateful.”
Image courtesy: Dall-E Mini