The Elephant Cloud


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Getting the hang of it

May 7th, 2008 by · No Comments · Asia, India

What kind of holy animal lies in it’s own shit? Rats wont even do that.

I boated down the Ganges River at sunrise this morning, past the blazing riverside crematorium fires and alongside several dead, bobbing bodies wrapped in burial cloths. After lunch I walked back up the river along the ghats. A lot of stuff happened in between, but as I walked, I watched dead, naked cows float by. Cows are sacred and when they die, they are dignified with a toss into the Ganges. As I stood watching them drift by, I couldn’t help but wonder if the carrion birds riding the bobbing steak are worthy of such a holy meal.

Yesterday, I was attacked by a cow. Karma? I think it was just a warning, because one firmly placed hand on it’s head redirected it’s aggression.

In the days before cars and rickshaws, the vehicles of the Gods were animals. Shiva used cows, or perhaps bulls. Regardless, thats why cows are sacred and it’s illegal to kill them (though I see them getting whacked with sticks a lot).

Hinduism has three primary gods, as part of the trimurti: a creator, a sustainer, and a destroyer.

Shiva is the god of Varanasi and the Ganges. He’s the destroyer. If you don’t believe me, ask his son, Ganesh. Shiva chopped his head off in a case of mistaken identity and barely saved his life by replacing it with one from a baby elephant. Ganesh is a favorite of the people because he eats lots of sweets, is a bit rotund, and quite jovial. If you had an elephant head, you’d have to have a good sense of humor.

It’s all rather complicated, but I visited a number of temples today and i think I’m finally getting the hang of it.

I really quite fancy Ganesh, actually.

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