I didn’t want to promise I would manage to post anything while away, which is why I was so vague about my hiatus/infrequent blogging during this time. I am currently in India, and tried once to post while in Delhi, but encountered an error and lost the half a post I had written, and so this is the second chance I’ve had to post something, and hopefully this time it will work (if you are reading this, then it did!).
I’m currently in Varanasi, which I’m visiting for the first time. It is a remarkable place – it best to see the Ganges before reading about its state of pollution, since it is beautiful and doesn’t smell bad the way rivers polluted with industrial waste do in Europe and America. We visited the golden temple, the most important temple to Shiva in Varanasi (supposedly off limits to foreigners) and also witnessed the Aarthi ceremony yesterday evening. It is interesting to reflect theologically on what I see here, since I inevitably do so as an outsider. The ceremony expresses great reverence for the Ganga, yet waste continues to be dumped into it. As with ideas in all traditions, one can utilize religious symbols to maintain the status quo or to enact change. This afternoon we’re planning to meet the Brahmin scientist who is responsible for starting the Clean Ganga organization.
I will surely post more on the trip after I return. For now let me share just one more thought. On the last trip we had a tour guide at the Taj Mahal; this time we did not. As a group we reflected on the legends and stories and inaccuracies one gets from tour guides in many parts of the world. I found myself wondering to what extent some of the stories in the Gospels (both canonical and extracanonical) about places – whether Golgotha, Bethlehem or others – derive from early Christian Jewish tour guides and the stories they told pilgrims and visitors to these important locales in early Christian history.
I do not know if I will get to post again before I return – but if I do, you’ll be among the first to know!