Tonight I have decided to tell stories with pictures. I went to a Hindu temple and a Sikh temple today with some others from my school, and it was a very multicultural day, with delicious Indian food to top it all off!
This is the Hindu temple in Toronto. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so we had to settle for the outside! Even from looking at the outside, you can imagine how beautiful it would be on the inside, and it was even more so than I imagined. It was all carved in marble, and the carvings were exquisitely beautiful.
Inside the worship place, the women sat closer to the back, and the men sat in the Holy of Holies. The women usually sat and performed the "puja", or cleansing of themselves with fire from a votive. The men were either standing or lying prostrate in front of the idols as they worshiped. The prayer service lasted only about 30 minutes, and the during the service, their sung prayers were played throughout.
The group of us standing in front, although the sun was so bright it was hard to get the temple in the background.
After perusing a flea market(where I met a very nice Lebanese merchant named George while buying a flag pin), we went to the Sikh temple. We sat in the worship place for a while, and then moved on to where they serve lunch. We had to sit on mats to eat our meal. We brought our steel plates and cups over to the mats with us, and then men came around with pails containing the food and ladled it out to us. They were so generous.
George, the man I met at the market, was very interesting to talk to. I don't know what came over me, but I was simply looking at the flag pins when all of a sudden I asked, "Where are you from?" He told me he was from Lebanon, and then our conversation continued from there. I asked him why he moved to Canada, to which he replied that he wanted a better life for his kids. As it was, they were not getting a good education while there. They would have one day at school, and then 10 days off due to bomb threats or other such things. He did not want them to grow up in that kind of an atmosphere, and since his sister lived in Canada at the time, he decided to move here. He told me that he enjoys fishing, and sometimes he goes and fishes up north with his son. Later on I was told that the purpose of going into the market was not to buy anything, but to talk to people and get to mix with the cultures. This was not made clear beforehand, but I'm glad that I was able to talk to George without the pressure of knowing it was expected. It was more natural that way, and I really enjoyed it!
The Sikh worship was very different. Whereas the Hindus have different times for their services, the Sikh worship lasts all day. Their holy scriptures are sung by men at the front, and they also beat on small drums. They must have replacements after a while, because I can imagine that they would get tired of singing the whole day. People can come and go as they please, and the women sit on the left side while the men sit on the right side. Also, Hinduism consists of 330,000,000 gods(Hindus choose one that they worship, while recognizing that the others have power also), Sikhism(a mixture between Hinduism and Islam) worships only one god.
Naomi and I are wearing our head coverings, as both women and men have to wear head coverings in the Sikh temple. As you can see in the picture above, they gave bright orange handkerchiefs out to those who didn't bring head coverings.
I found it difficult to eat the meal with the head covering on, and I kept spilling food on the cuff of my pants! I never thought that would happen, but I have never had to eat a full meal while sitting on the floor either!
Our free meal consisted of(from top left in a clockwise manner): a lentil soup called "daal", Indian rice pudding, a cheese soup, a sweet called "jalaby", rice, and chapati bread(otherwise known as roti, or Indian flatbread). I couldn't believe that the Sikh temple serves all this for free, and there were so many people there today!
Our group standing with some men from the temple. Unlike the Hindu temple, we were allowed to take pictures inside the Sikh temple.
So this little number here is called an "aperture", or something like that(I forget the Indian word). It was supposed to clear the palate after eating so much Indian food, but there was so much flavour going on that I couldn't really handle it! It wasn't spicy, but it had some rose petals,and other strange herbs in it. As one person put it, "it's an acquired taste". I heartily agree!
I know that some of you are going to call me lame for taking so many pictures of food, but seriously, one cannot experience a culture unless one experiences the food as well! I happen to think that food is one of the most amazing inventions God ever created! This sweet little number is called "jalaby", and it is the most delicious "sweetmeat" I have ever eaten. I don't even know how to describe it,other than to say it is sugary and has some syrup-y stuff inside. Man...this one is gold. I have to get me some!
I didn't really know what to expect going into the trip today. I thought it would be kind of like a tourist trip where we would just go and look, as we did. But one of the men who came with us, Sunil, acted as our guide. He is a converted Hindu, and also a pastor. He related everything back to Christianity, and showed how similar the religions are in some ways. He said that many religions get so close to the truth, but then sweep right on by and miss the point.
Sunil is a very interesting Christian, as he has contextualized his beliefs to fit in with the life of a Hindu. For instance, he will still prostrate himself before God(although some Christians do this also). I'm not saying that he has changed the fundamentals of Christianity to suit his needs, but he does not believe in conforming into the "Westernized" version of Christianity. For instance, he led us in communion after the day's events, and instead of using the bread and wine, he used a coconut. He said that if Jesus had lived in India, he probably would have used a coconut also, as bread and wine would not have made sense. When we took communion, the flesh of the coconut represented the flesh of Christ, and the water represented the water that ran out of Christ's body with the blood when the soldier stabbed Him. It was a very neat concept. Sunil also had symbols for us to think about, as Hindus use symbols to represent what they believe. He took a shaker of salt, and had each of us pour a little into our hands. It represented that we are the salt of the earth; we also ate it so that we would remember. He took honey, which represented the milk and honey of the Promiseland,and we all had some, remembering to look forward to the day that Christ takes us to the Promiseland(heaven). He had incense burning, as Hindus use incense in their worship. It represented how we give our bodies as living sacrifices to Christ, and that our worship of him is like fragrant incense. Another symbol was a light, which represents how we are to be bringers of the Light and Truth to our world, to those who are still in darkness and do not know.
It was a very encouraging day, and Sunil asked us to pray that God would set us apart for His cause. We need to let God use us to do His will, and to shine His Light to all the nations, whether here in Canada, or abroad. It is not so that we can make ourselves look better, but it is all to bring glory to God and His Wonderful Name!!!
p.s. please forgive any spelling mistakes. I am so tired right now, that although I checked once, I'm sure there are more! :)