March 1st - 6:00 PM

March 1st - 6:00 PM

A Chapter by Jim Parson

Teerthsham Mangalayatan


March 1st - 6:00 PM - Aligarh

This hotel has managed to find new and interesting ways to keep us up every night.  In the beginning, we were all so jetlagged it didn’t take much.  Last night, it was some yapping dog in the middle of the night for at least an hour.


Today was an interesting day.  I’m back in the hotel now to get ready for the Rotary Club of Aligarh meeting tonight.  Today’s agenda has included a visit to a Jain temple and an uneventful press conference in Ashok’s home.  We did have a really good meal there though, prepared and served by his daughter, who is a very sweet, respectful girl (and a really good cook " I actually may like Indian food after all).


The Jain Temple was cool, but I took lots of pictures that can tell that story better than I can, so I’ll cover it only briefly here.  It was called “Teerthsham Mangalayatan”, but I have no idea what that means.

Jainism is one of the oldest religions originating in India.  It differs from other religions in its concept of God.  There is no Supreme Being or creator deity.  Every living soul is potentially divine and is capable of realizing god-consciousness.  There are five basic ethical principals that are followed:  non-violence (cause no harm to living beings), truth, non-stealing, celibacy (ouch!) and non-possession, with the ultimate goal of liberating the soul from the negative effects of unenlightened thoughts, speech and action, thereby achieving moksha.  Once achieved, the cycle of reincarnation is broken.  There is a lot more to it, but perhaps I should have paid closer attention.


You could not wear any leather into the shrine, so we went barefoot, leaving behind my Rotary bag, belt, watch, and wallet.  They did a brief ceremony where they gave us a dot on our forehead with a grain of rice in it and they draped us with a beautiful scarf that we got to keep.


The Jains are strict vegetarians but also do not eat vegetables that grow underground " potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, etc.  I’m not certain but I think this is because they don’t eat anything that would kill the plant or animal in order to eat it.  Root vegetables only grow once…you pull them up and they are dead.  They also walk with a small broom, brushing the ground in front of them as they walk to make sure they do not accidentally step on and take the life of any insect.  In other words, nuts.  Okay, maybe not.  It is because they believe that every living being has a soul and every soul is divine with the ability, although unrealized, of achieving god-consciousness.


I didn’t get the whole story, but evidently the guy that started this particular sect had his wife die and something then happened (don’t remember what) that brought reincarnation into his consciousness.  He went off into the woods, renouncing everything, including his hair which he pulled out with his bare hands.  He would only eat once a day of something that someone else had to bring him while in the woods, usually a handful of rice.  I don’t remember how the story ends, or perhaps I never knew.  I wasn’t really listening to our guide.


Why is it that those that should be seeking psychiatric help start religions instead?

Departing from the journal momentarily to share some pictures…

This is a 65 foot tower with images of the founder of the sect on each side.  Each side (north, south, east and west) has a small altar with a tray that you put rice into -  probably something to do with him being fed rice in the woods.  We were given a little bag of rice before we went in and used it at a number of places throughout the grounds where these altars were set up - pretty much everywhere there was an image of the founder.  This tower was pretty cool.  There’s a good picture of it later taken from the top of the mound behind it.

This is the mound behind it.  You can travel up a circular path that spirals around it until you get to the top, or you can go straight up the steps.  If you take the path around it, there are carvings on the walls that tell the story of the man that started the sect.  There are a couple of cool fiberglass elephants standing guard at the front of the mound.

Here is one of the carvings along the path to the top of the mound, telling a piece of his story…

...and the fiberglass elephants

This is what you see when you get all the way to the top…

And this is what you see from the top looking back down over the grounds…

As you enter the temple grounds, to your left and right are attractive pastel colored buildings that house paintings and statues of the founder of this religion, surrounded by ornate gold screens and carvings.  They were really quite spectacular.


I guess he renounced his clothes, too.


Back to the journal…


After the temple, we were supposed to have a 1:00 press conference at Ashok’s home, but we were running late and got there about 2:30.  It was very uneventful and not really worthy of much mention here.  I have to get ready for the Rotary meeting anyway.  We did have another good meal prepared by Ashok’s daughter though.  Or was it a snack?  I don’t know - we eat every couple of hours around here.  I dreamed of losing ten pounds while I was here.  Now I’m just trying to keep from gaining ten.

© 2011 Jim Parson

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Those carvings are just amazing! I have never really had a chance to really look at Indian art before, and I'm so glad you took so many pictures to share.

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Added on April 10, 2011
Last Updated on April 11, 2011
Tags: India, Rotary, polio, travel, immunizations, jain, temple


Jim Parson
Jim Parson

Los Angeles, CA

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