Sunday, November 13, 2011
Hampi, day 3; Achutaraya and a guru-in-training
This morning Shelley brought me to a small diner where she'd had masala dosa, a South-Indian specialty, with Kiran while I was sick. It was sort of like french crepe meets somosa, a bit greasy, but good!
After breakfast, we met Kiran and wondered west to check out Hampi market, a row of t-shirt, blanket, and bag shops, a few tailors, lots of fruit, and the requisite cow and cutest little kid in the world. The road came to a fork overlooking the river ghat, where a snake charmer exposed his snake (literally, it was a cobra...) to a less than pleased Shelley.
At lunch, back on the rooftop, a few flies buzzed around our plates and as one settled on the table cloth, I contemplated hitting it. Unsure if for any reason it was taboo to kill a fly at the dinner table, I asked Kiran, "Is bad for my karma if I kill the fly?" Kiran answered, "Then you're not killing it for the wrong reason." Buddha said that your head will break into a thousand pieces trying to understand karma but with that simple response, my understanding was instantly a considerable amount broader. I realized how selfish my concern had been with my own good/bad karma instead of the well-being of other beings. The rest is mostly just details. And, no, I didn't swat the fly...
After lunch, I walk back through the bazar, towards the ruins I'd visited yesterday, but instead of continuing up the stairs into the hills, I turned down the path on the left, leading down to the river.
I laughed when I saw a big, bright, colorful sign advertising "GEETA RIVER VIEW Restaurent, RECOMENDED IN LONELY PLANET" and remembered my friend, back in Goa. Further down, as the path cut through another pile of rocks at the base of the hill, I met two shepherds, the first herding cattle and the second goats, as they returned their animals from a day of grazing. A large group of monkeys leapt around on the rocks, playfully. I was shocked when I noticed one had a huge hole in its face, missing most of its nose and exposing the roots of its upper teeth. I suppose it may have been attacked by a dog, or even another monkey. I'm not sure.
By the riverbank, where the flat bed stones arched down to the water, there was a small temple with a chai (tea) stand, and a few long tables in the shade of a tree where I joined a few others sipping their cups of milk chai.
Around the hill, I wondered into some old ruins that I realized was Achutaraya Temple, the ruins I'd gaz down upon the evening before. It reminded me a lot of the Angkor ruins in Cambodia, though not quite as impressive but much more peaceful. A couple families of Indian tourists were leaving as I came in, but other than that, it was just me and a few young cattle.
The tops of the gate towers looked as though they'd fallen down a long time ago, taking away from the grandeur they must have possessed in their prime, but they were still impressive. I admired the carvings along the carved beams as the sun slipped behind the hill, signaling me to return to Gopi's, following the path straight over the hill, making a quick stop at the Hanuman shrine along the way.
Over supper, Kiran asked where I'd been today, so I told him and showed him a few photos of the small camera display. I was especially taken with the photo of the goat herder. He seemed very dignified and had a powerful presence. Kiran said that he was from the city, where his entire family was killed in an earthquake. He moved to Hampi and bought a herd of goats.
After eating, Kiran mentioned a friend of his who was training to become a guru. It takes 30 years before one can be recognized as a true guru, and he was in his third. Kiran was going to visit him and invited us to join him.
He lived just past Hampi market, in a small cement-walled chamber, that felt like an old medieval basement to me. The room was mostly empty other than the bed in the corner and mala hanging from a nail in the wall. After a good round of chit-chat, he hauled out an old instrument that looked like a broomstick stuck to painted blue gourd with a single string strung to it. He played it sort of like a one-stringed sitar and sang an old folk tune about star-crossed lovers.
Kiran suggested that I come back and visit him again an he could teach me a mantra. I thought that would make for an interesting day before we left for Kerala.