January 9, 2013

Do You Think Babies Grow on Trees, Like Money?

Our love affair with Hampi is no secret (read about it here), and our time there was full of beautiful experiences and wonderful people and we still miss it. And not just in Hampi, but in all of India, we've been so impressed with the practice of religion. Unlike many followers of Western religions, the religious population here is seriously devout, and their religion permeates every part of their lives. While we're not religious at all - largely due to the hypocritical behavior of many so-called "religious" people in our own culture - we have been in awe of the devotion shown by India's religious, including Hindus, Muslims, and even Christians.
A Hindu woman stops to touch a holy cow in the market place of Pushkar

One of the more special things we've seen was in Hampi. While visiting the ruins on an incredibly hot day, we were walking on a quiet path, seldom seen by tourists, and came upon a huge banyan tree covered in pieces of cloth. As we got closer, we noticed that, not only were there thousands of cloth bundles tied around the tree branches, there were hundreds of small, rudimentary rock structures below the massive tree. Without having any idea what it meant, we were intrigued.

Ganesh, our rickshaw driver for the day and impromptu tour guide, told us that this tree is holy and that people come here to pray for either children or to have a home. Tied to the tree, each cloth bundle held prayers in the hopes of conceiving children and items symbolic of the person's wish. Under the tree, the devout typically used 3 stones to build a basic structure of two walls and a roof to symbolize their prayer for a home of their own. The more ambitious prayers made larger "houses" with their rocks, or even built small complexes with several small buildings around a larger main home.

To stumble upon this tree carrying the most intimate and personal hopes and dreams of so many people was amazing. We were taken completely by surprise by the tree and I, for one, was humbled by being so near to the sincerest prayers of those seeking help from a higher power. While our immediate hopes are not for a baby or home, I have to say that I was tempted to tie my own baby prayer to the tree, but with a disclaimer: 

Dear god, Please don't answer this prayer for another year!

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