Hinduism captivates us, kicking and screaming! Its heady heights are incredible.

We read it’s a polytheistic religion (poly=many, theos=gods). But, behind these many gods there stands a single extreme power (Brahman). So the many gods we see are simply physical expressions of this formless spirit. Dare, we draw a parallel with saints or gurus or prophets? Maybe; but not here and not now.

Hinduism is 4000 years old! And, today there are a staggering 330 million deities! Gods and goddesses have extended families. They take on different forms. And ride a crazy array of vehicles; a chariot, a crocodile, a bull. They protect, they prod, they guide, they provide, they comfort. Shrines bloom everywhere. Look about! Vishnu jumps out, Rama whispers, Shiva bellows, Devi reprimands.

A goddess of learning sits upon a swan. From the feet of the goddess of wealth the Ganges River flows. Vishnu, the preserver of good has four arms and holds a lotus flower. Shiva, the destroyer of evil, rides a bull with snakes around his neck. Lord Rama calls on an army of monkeys. And dear ol’ Ganesh, with an elephant head, is a god of good fortune. Together and apart, they battle demons and dark forces, for our sakes.

Imaginations run wild. Fascinating stuff! It’s story telling at its best.

There is a festival every other day. And it’s loud and it’s riotous. The streets scream with rasping speakers. Crackers explode in your face. Coloured smoke settles at your feet. No half measures! If nothing else you know you are alive.

The most incredible example of Hinduism resides in Khajurabo, in the centre of India. Here there still stand temples that the Chandela dynasty builds from 950 to 1050 AD. The temples tower, 30m high, like giant 3D jigsaw puzzles! Dry-stacked sandstone puzzle pieces fit perfectly. Stories wrap around the girdles of these towers. They appear outward then disappear inward. The characters are deities, celestial nymphs, composite figures (half god / man / animal) and erotic couples. Harry & I reckon that artistically, they reach the Height of the Himalayas!

Yes. This spiritual backdrop is incredible!! But the physical hardship in the forefront is just as incredible. Every single day shocks Harry and I with a new ghastly hard. Tents and single rooms house families. A square meter becomes a business. Litter feeds cows, dogs and pigs. Picked-clean rubbish is set alight in the streets. Sewerage spills, water reeks, streets snarl up, horns blare, air is thick with pollution. Dogs are skinny, but people are skinny too. It occurs to us even the wealthy can’t escape the screaming stinking streets.

Yes. Bring down that lavish curtain of mind-blowing gods. Rally around, gods and goddesses. Please all, 330 million, of you. Lighten this daily load. No less a heady height will bear this bodily heavy. The title of Milan Kundera’s novel ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ jabs me. Probably because its antithesis; ‘The Bearable Heaviness of Being’ feels true too. I wonder if religious indifference, agnostics and atheism, is the preserve of the ‘haves’?

We have loads of heart breaking photos of life in India. But they don’t belong here. Why indeed come down from these heady heights!


01 P1030205

Shrines like this in every street. This goddess has a tiger for a pet.

01 P1030823

And murals like these all over too … look at the lotus flower underfoot.

01 P1040025

A collection of gods and goddesses …

01 P1040026

… with the favourite elephant headed Ganesh in the centre.

01 P1040077

This is a stage a day after a Diwali celebration.

01 P1040078

Who would not want this goddess on their side!

01 P1040255

Or this many armed warrior god …

01 P1040257

… and his elephant!

01 P1040270

This beautiful chariot will take you faraway …

02 01 P1030445

This is at Khajurabo in the centre of India. This temple is 30m high.

02 02 P1030434

There used to be 85 of these temples. Today 25 remain.

02 03 P1030589

Three broad girdles wrap around each of these temples … hundreds of figurines tell stories.

03 01 P1030494

And these figures of gods, celestial nymphs, animals and humans tell stories upwards too.

03 02 P1030496

03 02 P1030498

03 04 P1030497

And look how their stories sneak away on the inside.

04 01 P1030435

Stories of gods we know, like Ganesh.

04 02 P1030590

Look at the finely carved jewellery that adorns these kings and queens.

04 03 P1030437

Where animals rear children and nymphs play underfoot.

04 04 P1030451

Of kindness … removing a thorn from a foot.

04 07 P1030426

And what is this … an 8 person orgy!

04 08 P1030429

Even beastuality … see the on-looker with his eyes closed.

04 09 P1030453

But this elephant is not looking the other way!

04 10 P1030484

And this erotic position needs assistants!

A Note: Khajurabo is best known for its erotic positions; which make up less than 15% of figurines. They should however be seen in their totality; with the deities, celestial nymphs, composite figures. Hindu and Buddhist meditation practitioners use sexual union as a metaphor for weaving together (tantra) the physical and the spiritual: man to woman, and humanity to the divine.

06 P1030462

And on the inside … we find shrines to gods with natural light that falls cleverly.

06 P1030474

Yes, equally intricate figures on the inside.

07 P1030473

And here I am contemplating all these positions …

07 P1030536

… but can’t muster much more than the headstand position.

Here is a short video clip of a small local scene we catch. It celebrates the defeat of Ravana, the demon king, by the mother goddess Durga. The effigy of Ravana parades before us. These heights take some getting used to!