Brahma’s Temple

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Pushkar has the distinction of being the only village in India with a temple to Brahma. All over the country, there are temples to the monkey-faced Hanuman, Shiva the destroyer, and Vishnu the preserver, but to Brahma, the one responsible for creating the world, there is only this one simple, white temple with a red spire, almost barren in contrast to other temples. Here, near the entrance to the temple, that I saw a woman with no face. Even now I’m not sure how I knew that she was a woman. Her slight build? Her clothing? She sat on the ground, a beggar, but not begging because she had no eyes to plead with; she had stumps for hands; her mouth an undefined gap where lips normally appear on a face; her nostrils two small holes where a nose once had been. She had no hair either, as if every expected feature of her head had simply deteriorated, melted off. The sight of her stopped me in my tracks. My mouth, like hers, opened. Both of us silent. Terrified by her dependence, I walked away.

Brahma’s temple receives few pilgrims; the world is created, his work done; other gods have more relevance for the busyness of life. We rush from deity to deity, worshipping the features that make us feel solid. Underneath, we are like Brahma’s temple- -unadorned, the root of ourselves, and recognizable by the merest hint of a form and our need for each other.

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