On Tuesday Visit the Shaman

Hindu shaman priests swallow fire before they give predictions to their followers on in Puri, India

We’d arrive at out hotel about 5 pm, dripping sweat, but the room had a cooling fan and nominal AC.

We had a typical dinner — prawn tandoori and mushroom masala, both excellent ( Wildgrass Restaurant).  In an India known for spicy food, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh pride themselves on the hotness of their food.  We often surprised our waiters since we enjoyed the spiciness, especially cayenne-like pepper pakoras.   We’d also had a week’s training, by eating at local roadside dhabas, where you had a choice of the chef’s (spicy) special or plain rice.

Puri is a small town,

mostly spread along a long beach.  There is a cluster of hotels, mostly used by Indians on holiday, and few people swim.  Instead, they gather in groups and wade out, often fully clothed to let the waves wash over them.   I had been wearing long pants earlier in the trip, in deference to a more conservative style in the interior, but here shorts were proper.    

Even with the resorts, the beaches themselves are nearly deserted, once you pass the small cluster around the resort hotels.  We had exchanged for a timeshare resort that was several kilometers out of town.  After breakfast, we walked along beach into town (about an hour).  The tide was coming in, with 5-6’ breakers along the long sandy beach.  We saw plovers and black-winged stilts and other shore birds, small tritons tossed up by the surf, and a dead cuttlefish.   A few boys with fishing seine nets, but not catching much and the usual uninterested pearl sellers and others sitting under palm frond shelters.  After an excellent fish tikka, and palak paneer, we grabbed an auto rickshaw for the ride back to our hotel.  In all, a relaxing day.  The temperature was still well into the 90’s F with high humidity, but we adjusted our pace, and drank plenty of liquids.

Back to room about 3, we tried to read when jackhammers allowed, but more on that later.

The next day we returned to Puri

for a lunch of prawn malai curry and palak paneer with freshly made butterscotch ice cream for dessert.  Then our local guide Samar picked us up, along with 2 French women for short walk thru villages & rice fields along roads leading out of the town.  Pastoral, luxuriant tropical agriculture. We saw many birds including drongos, cormorants & brown heron.  Samar named one as a ‘yellow roller’ — the closest I’ve found to it may have been a Brahminy Myna.  Also saw nests of the Baya Weaver hanging like Chinese lanterns.   

Then on to twin temples to Shiva & Parvati in the midst of one giant banyan tree.

 Every Tuesday shaman priests acquire a trance state

by means of intoxicating drugs in the sanctum sanctorum of the small temple, to the accompaniment of drums and musical instruments, bell ringing and much smoke. When the shamans emerge from the Parvati temple, they’re escorted to the large leopard statues flanking the entrance.  Attendants hand them flaming flowers or leaves which they take into their mouths, quashing the flame. They toss the smoldering leaf into the crowd. Whoever catches it can ask a question. Sometimes, the shaman proceeds to tell them the answer to their question before they can make the initial inquiry.

A real rest day

Hindu shaman priests foretell the future for their followers in Puri, India

Breakfast about 9.  The hotel is an Indian Marienbad. Passages which worked 2 days ago are boarded up the next day and have glass doors today. People scurry everywhere.  The pools have been jackhammered & dug up. Now women carry headloads of sand to level the bottom where a fountain system is being installed.  May yet reincarnate as a swimming pool.

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