('Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist', Orion Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012)
In May 2013, I went to Kolhapur (कोल्हापूर) after almost a decade.
I visited Ambabai (अंबाबाई) temple.
It has now become very crowded for my taste. Although more majestic and elegantly beautiful than the most, once it was like a temple in my neighborhood where we loved to go as kids, the way we went to Dutt (दत्त) temple at Miraj. Now, it's a destination for almost all Hindu religious tourism. Commerce, wealth and security on display are overwhelming.
Is it better to meet Ambabai in one's heart?
As a kid, I always wondered: if the main temple is so crowded, why are the most other temples on the campus so empty? Are other deities less important or less magnanimous? This time too I wondered the same because when we went to Shakambhari (शाकंभरी) temple, there was almost no one. Even the priest was sitting outside.
Earlier, I visited Rankala (रंकाळा). Once, I used to go there at least once a year. What a pleasure it was walking a couple of km to the lake (some of it on unpaved road) with my elder cousin - Diluappa (दिलुअप्पा) and loitering there for a while and breathing deep in that cool gust. I felt as if I never left the place...I felt 40 years younger.
There were kites/hawks flying over, occasionally swooping in to pick up pieces of bread/ trash thrown by visitors into the water. But that act of vandalism by humans had no effect on me. Rankala was simply overwhelmingly seductive...Ambabai's in her Temple/ All's right with the world!
This is how H G Wells describes 'the end' in his ‘The Time Machine’:
When "All the sounds of man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects, the stir that makes the background of our lives—all that was over" arrives, will Rankala still be there?
I hope so.
Artist: Les Edwards, 1979 portraying when 'all that was over'