Tag Archives: Ganesha

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa – A Beautiful Journey to the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism

By Lakshmi:

No visit to Lhasa could be considered complete without a stop at one of the holiest sites in all of Tibet – the Jokhang Temple.

And so one morning, we headed out on a pilgrimage to the heart of Tibetan Buddhism.  As we approached the square housing the temple, we passed by many rows of shops that sold everything from prayer wheels and incense to mandala paintings and little statues.  This was so similar to the scene you encounter en route to a Hindu temple, with one slight difference that made us smile.  We saw Buddhist monks shopping for textiles and instead of walking on, we stood there just gawking at this trio, pretending to shop so we appeared discreet.

As we got closer we saw people throwing juniper leaves into huge clay burners, leading to the air smelling of juniper incense.  The smell was evocative of the scent of incense sticks at Hindu temples.  And what we saw next was identical to a scene I have experienced at many a temple since my childhood.  We saw adults, children, the elderly all prostrating repeatedly in front of the temple.  Some were doing it a few times, many several hundred or thousand times and a few for several days too.  This was indeed the best visual depiction of devotion.

After circumambulating the temple a few times, we walked in and encountered swarms of people smiling with warmth and genuineness towards us.  The children were enthralled by Sathya, since she was petite and they kept looking in her direction and smiling.  The Gods could not have extended a warmer welcome to us.

The temple was dimly lit with yak butter lamps and in this dimly lit space we saw many of the jewels.  The many paintings, the holy statue of Sakyamuni, statues of King Songtsem Gampo, Princess Wen Cheng and Princess Bhrikuti and of course the Dharma Wheel.  There was one other realization that dawned on us as we observed the swarm of faces dimly lit by the lamps…there was a look of genuine contentment painted across the spectrum, and any hardships or troubles that existed seemed lifetimes away within this place of worship.

We proceeded to the top from where we got some beautiful views of Barkhor Square and the throng of worshippers lining to come inside.

As we walked away from the temple towards another line of shops beyond the square, we were awakened into reality with a poster of Aishwarya Rai, the Indian movie actress.  And in the distance we heard hindi music playing.  But my spiritual journey was not yet complete.  It was completed when I saw and got a silver Tibetan Ganesha, the only one of its kind sitting at a table among the many Buddha statues.

To learn more about visiting the Jokhang Temple, click here:


When a Childhood Dream Comes True – Words Cannot Express the Experience

Angkor Wat in Cambodia

By Lakshmi:

“The Unusual Stories of Angkor Wat”, was the headline of a lesson in middle school.  I distinctly remember the words sounding exotic and how quickly the teacher’s voice receded to the background as I transported myself to the jungles of Cambodia.   The temples were built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century and became one with the jungle terrain for many decades, making an appearance in the modern world through the discovery made by French explorer Henri Mouhot.  The lesson was finished 45 minutes later, but not before creating in my mind a magical, mythical sounding place where the Hindu and Buddhist stories of my youth merged with exotic palaces and tough jungles.

Having never set foot outside my native India, I made a promise to myself.  If I ever got out of India, Angkor would be the ultimate destination for me.  I read up everything on Angkor.  My father made multiple trips and came back with stories and my resolve grew stronger.  Matt Lauer traveled to Angkor and if he could, I certainly had to!

So, finally I decided that a birthday trip to Angkor with the family would be the ultimate gift for me.  As we boarded the plane from Bangkok, my kids and husband kept reminding me that my dream was coming true.  If my heartbeat were any faster, my heart would have popped out.  Landing in Siem Reap, I could not believe that we had to drop our luggage off at the hotel.  Surely I did not come this far to see a hotel.

And then before we knew it, we were driving into the heart of this temple complex.  Just looking at the moat surrounding the temple area and then looking at the complex was so incredibly moving, the thought that a dream conceived so many years ago was coming true, the happiness, the ecstasy, the joy….whatever I felt at that moment was so overpowering…it was one of the most precious moments in my life, a moment where I felt that anything you dream, no matter how big is possible.

I took small steps towards the complex, every detail had to sink in.   Memories of a class long ago, articles read for many years, and TV programs covering the site all converged in my mind.  I was here, I was literally walking past the snakes, the statues of the asuras and devas churning the ocean.   A few minutes later, we were in front of a relief of one of the most famous epics in Hinduism, the Mahabharata.  We were looking for every story hidden in the scene.  Bheeshma lying on a bed of arrows, Ekalavya giving his thumb to Drona…the list could go on forever.

The next few days, were spent exploring the various aspects of the temple complex.  The famous smiling face of the Bayon, the Banyon trees embracing the temples at Ta Prohm, the elephant ride up to the terrace to watch the sun set over the temples, each image as memorable as the next, building a kaleidoscope of memories that would stay with me forever.

Magical, Beautiful, Miraculous…What would be the words I would use to remember this trip?  I did not have to choose an answer.  It came to me at Ta Prohm.    As the kids were running around, an old lady who was cleaning up approached my husband and me and gave us a smile . She  then stretched out her hand.  We thought she was asking us for money, but instead, she pressed something onto my husband’s palm.  A bit taken aback, I stared at my husband as he opened his palm.  Sitting there was an idol of Ganesha, the Indian God of good fortune and the remover of all obstacles.   There were no Ganeshas that we had seen during our trip, no idols for sale, and yet in the middle of nowhere, a woman had given us an idol of my most preferred deity.  Recovering from the surprise and shock, we looked up to thank the woman, but she was gone.  We walked around the complex and she was nowhere in sight.

The fact that I had made it to Angkor was miracle enough, but I had experienced the ultimate miracle in that moment at Ta Prohm.