I sit in the corridor of a thousand pillars in the Ramanatha temple in Rameshvaram. I overlook a great pond filled with delicate pink lotuses. A cement platform extends out over the pond, and from high up on the ledge, men toss metal buckets down into the water over and over again, reeling the filled buckets up expertly. The men then splash that holy water onto the heads of swarms of eager pilgrims who flow out onto the platform.
This is only one stop in the maze of twenty-two holy wells within the temple complex.
I feel like one of the columns here, as I watch, and I like the pillars, I am very, very still. I have begun to see the various moods of the pilgrims who come here most people are rushed and a little frantic in their quest to visit all twenty-two holy wells; some arrive with creased eyebrows, some demand more water.
But every so often a group of Vaishnava devotees will come. They smile from ear to ear and chant Hare Krishna, sometimes with arms upraised or palms folded. Ha! A crowd of devotees just arrived, grinning and jumping, chanting “Haribol! Haribol! Haribol!” They are so happy, so much in bliss! They receive the water on their heads and dash off with the cry, “Jaya!”
Every day, day in and day out, people come to receive the holy water. The faces change, but the lake and the columns remain. Upon closer inspection I see that the columns are inscribed with graffiti. I see names, numbers, dates. . . actually, the pillar in front of me has a faded heart carrying with two names scrawled in Telugu.
Amazing. No matter the country, language or culture, people graffiti monuments, buildings, trees, bathroom stalls and picnic tables. People want to leave a mark to live on long after they’re gone.
Isn’t that the nature of the soul to be eternal? It is so painful to die. We all want to live on forever.
But the truth is, we are all like the people in this river of pilgrims who come to receive their splash of water. Our time in this world is fleeting. Some of us arrive with arms upraised, others with palms folded, some smiling, some chanting the Lord’s name. . . and maybe that’s all we can ask of this life.