Mahakal Temple, Darjeeling: Where crossroads unite.
Perched atop the Observatory Hill in Darjeeling is the Mahakal Temple dedicated to Mahakal or Lord Shiva. A ten-minute walk towards the right side of the Mall Road will lead you to this temple, which is also a vantage point for a 360-degree view of the entire city as well as the adjacent mountain ranges. As you walk along the right Mall road, an elevated road on the left side will lead you up to a beautiful spiral path that is flanked by colorful prayer flags. On the way to the top, you will pass the beautiful Tinker bell Cottage and the rear side of the Windamere Hotel. As you walk along this elevated road you will see the entrance of the temple. The temple complex has several small and big temples dedicated to various Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
The temple was originally the location of a monastery called Dorjeeling Monastery built by a monk Lama Dorje Rinzing. Some believe that after the British recognized Darjeeling as a sanatorium, this existing monastery was asked to be shifted to some other location and a temple be made here instead. Other sources of information state that after the Gorkha invasion in the year 1815, the monastery was moved to Bhutia Busty and a temple was constructed in its place. Whatever be the reason of the relocation of the monastery, the Buddhist influence can be still observed in this temple. The present Bhutia Busty monastery is under the jurisdiction of the Sikkim Government.
The temple complex houses numerous smaller temples dedicated to many Hindu Gods and Goddesses. There are temples dedicated to Shirdi Sai Baba, Lord Hanuman, Goddess Durga and the main temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
What is striking about this temple is its evident Buddhist and Hindu influence in the structures and ambiance. The main temple has two sections dedicated to Hindu Gods as well as Buddhist Gods. There are two priests who preside over the rituals and offerings. At the center, you will see the Shivalinga that is worshiped by people of both beliefs. The Hindu priest performs the rituals according to the Hindu system of beliefs and the Buddhist priest performs the rituals according to the Buddhist way. What is worth observing is the peaceful coexistence of both the religions that preach peace, brotherhood, and compassion for all.
Why should you visit the Mahakal Temple?
The Mahakal Temple is unlike any other temple I have been to. The first thing that struck me about the temple premises is the ambiance. The entire temple is beautified with colorful Buddhist prayer flags. For a while, you may wonder whether this is a temple or a monastery and apparently it’s both. The sight of a Buddhist Monk and a Hindu Pandit presiding over religious rituals in brotherhood will surely make you question what the main idea behind creating a religion was.
In conversation with both the priest and the monk, I gained a better understanding of the religions we follow. It’s compassion that is elemental in every religion throughout the world. If you are compassionate to every living being you encounter daily, you are doing a great job at being a good human being.
Even God wants the same thing from each one of us. Hatred, war, violence are not the solutions to any problem in this world. These words may seem big terms for us, but just think what if we stop any negative emotion from invading us. What if we stop backbiting or criticizing others for their shortcomings? What if we are gentle and kind to that girl in the Metro who is not carrying a branded handbag or wearing a very expensive dress?Wouldn’t we all be in a better place? I will give you a simple five-step guide on how to become more compassionate from the conversation I had with the monk:
Mindfulness: Compassion begins with mindfulness, being aware of one’s thoughts. Your thoughts manifest themselves, hope you know that!
Love yourself: Thereafter learn to be compassionate towards yourself, you need that. Stop thinking about your flaws or feel guilty for the mistakes you have made and start loving yourself to such an extent that loving others comes innately to you.
Gratitude: Express wholeheartedly to God, to anyone who has been good, bad, kind or mean to you, that I am thankful to You. Thank God for all the things he has bestowed upon you.
Pray: In our fast paced lives we have simply forgotten to pray and converse with God. In these prayers, pray for everyone you know, you don’t know, you have no idea they exist, pray for every living creature that may be walking the surface of the earth. Pray for yourself to change your Karma and to fulfill your wishes.
Courage: What has courage got to do with compassion right? Be kind and have courage, they say that for a reason. You may be a kind person witnessing a road accident. Your kindness may say, “How brutal was that! Somebody call an ambulance, someone get some water for the poor chap.” Or at the maximum, you may call the ambulance for the victim, but it takes courage to get down on that street and wipe off blood from a victim’s forehead. It takes courage to accompany him to the hospital or anything for that matter. Therefore be courageous enough to be compassionate.
As I walked away from the Mahakal Temple, I realized that I just revisited whatever I learned in Bhutan about compassion. Compassion is true religion; practice it daily for the well-being of your own conscience and for the wellbeing of everyone else. I came back a better person from the temple that day and I am fighting hard to make compassion and courage a habit every day for the rest of the days of my life.
Share with me what are the major spiritual teachings that you have had the opportunity to take back with you while traveling. I would love to read about them or you may also let me know about your views on compassion and how do you practice it in your lives. Until then keep traveling and be compassionate.