When Pollution Tries to Kill God
The temple of Lord Venketeswara in South India is the richest in the country only comparable to the famous Golden Temple of Amritsar for annual revenues amounting to millions of dollars from worshipers. The deity of Lord Venketeswara was adorned with layers of gold jewelry studded with diamonds, rubies and emeralds; each gold necklace could weigh several pounds. The jewelry on the deity would put crown jewels in London to the shame. Plans are now under way to cover the entire temple with gold. Kings in ancient past donated enormous wealth to the temple after victories in the battle fields as a gratitude for the Lord’s blessings.
The Lord demands and collects payback for rewarding the wishes of his devotees. If a devotee was to promise the deity100 dollars if his wish comes true to get admission into an American University, he would certainly fulfill his promise on getting the admission. If he fails, an unexpected hurdle could scuffle his prospects of getting a student visa in the last minute at the US embassy. No devotee never ever even thinks of breaking promise to the deity. If a devotee delays payback, the Lord was known to collect it with compound interest in some other form sooner or later. Thus, the Lord is also goes by a favorite nickname debt collector. Most towns have a small temple of Lord Venketeswara to serve the local devotees so they don’t have to travel a long distance to the original temple to see real deity.
The cash flow at the Hindu temples were so lucrative, the British during their rule demanded a cut and came out with a cash sharing plan with the temple priests. Money offerings dropped into the donation lock-boxes at the temple belongs to the government and the priests would keep any money dropped on the collection plate. When country got independence from Britain, the new government continued the British business model and went further to nationalize the temples to place the priests on a salary like government workers. The priests fought back and retained their rights to keep the money left by the devotees on the collection plate. This cash sharing plan still operates in many temples.
On the break waters of deep sea port, the temple of Lord Venketeswara on a hillock was very popular in southern city of Visakhapatnam. Juggernaut was born and raised in this seaside town.One has to climb over 200 stone steps to reach the deity, twisting and turning the stone steps provide a spectacular view of the port channel through which cargo and navy ships sail back and forth. Across the channel was the famous Dolphin Nose Mountain with a light house on it whose beacon can be seen from miles.
On weekends and Hindu auspicious days, devotes crowd the temple sometimes waiting for hours in line to get entry to worship the deity. The temple priest Ramachary, a tall fair skin man has a pony tail like many Hindu priests was very authoritative. He would admonish anybody irrespective of social status if a devotee does not follow his instructions during the ceremony. While growing up Juggernaut attended the temple several times, on one such occasion he had the bad experience of dropping a flower to the floor and received the wrath admonishment from Ramachary that brought tears in Juggernaut’s eyes more so for embarrassment and undue attention. On subsequent visits, Juggernaut was more fearful of the temple priest than the Deity.
The road to the temple in old town runs along the ocean, the same route used by port authority trucks. Over the decades, the port became one of the important ports in the country for export and import of bauxite and coal. The temple surroundings became an open storage site for piles of coal and bauxite turning the area into a dust bowl. On any day one cannot see the temple from thick smog and bauxite and coal dust. The trail of dust from coal and bauxite arising out of tractor trailers carrying the materials without tarp clouds the entire area. The ocean breeze stirs up dust from the open storage stockpiles making difficult to breath and impossible to see near the temple. The black soot covered all the structures in the area including the temple.
On a recent visit to the old country, Juggernaut attempted to visit his favorite Lord Venketeswara temple only to turn away because of dangerous truck traffic and pollution so severe, breathing was impossible. Instead, he stood on the roadside at a far distance from temple and prayed loudly as the bystanders gathered “Lord, you are known for collecting interest on the debt from your own devotes but can’t you collect fines with compound interest from the polluters? Please return to earth as reincarnation to fight pollution to protect your devotees and your own temple.” If this were to happen, it could be the very first time God reincarnates himself to protect himself on the earth from manmade pollution. Since Juggernaut was praying loud in English, the onlookers thought he was a preacher man from nearby church.
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