Vaishnavite Priest, Melukote, Karnataka, 050415

My fried Uma, on seeing this photograph of a priest in the temple town of Melukote (that I visited last Sunday) said, “A poem might be written about him.” So…here it is….

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In the attire
That shows off his calling
He walks; the traditional clothes
Attuned to the tropical heat.
But yet, this priest makes a statement of power:
The proud caste-marks upon his body,
Forehead, and arms,
The sumptuous width of his dhoti’s
Bright-red-and-gold, woven border,
The fact that the heat-suited attire
Is countered by the socks on his feet:
The many braclets on his arms
(Though he wears no gold necklaces)
The rings on eight of his ten fingers:
Even the brightness of that hibiscus flower
Perched high upon his head….
All these say, “I am an important person.”
In this town of many temples.
I wonder who he is,
What privileged path he offers,
And to which god…
Yes, because of the marks, I know
It must be some form of Vishnu.
As his god does, he too protects:
The social order and customs that he’s been born to
And brought up in.
The old order changeth, yielding place to new:
That’s elsewhere, not for this priest.
As he walks, his world is eternal, immutable.

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