This morning, I visited Isha Yoga Center, a meditation facility on the outskirts of Coimbatore. It was nice to have a change of pace after so many days of touring garment factories. Although Isha is called a yoga center, it's focused less on the yoga that we are used to (the exercise type) and focused more on meditation, religion, and spirituality. This stunning oasis is located at the base of the Velliangiri Mountains, hidden in a forest of beautiful palm trees. It was founded by Sadhguru, a famous yoga professional. Isha allows people to meditate along the four different paths of yoga: gnana, karma, kriya, and bhakthi (which represent knowledge, action, energy, and devotion, respectively).
Upon arriving at Isha, we removed our shoes and bags and entered! We were given instructions by employees on how to properly worship and participate in the spiritual activities that we would soon encounter.
First, I went to a mediation room where you offered gifts to an idol form of a Hindu god. Most of the other people there were Hindus who were actually in worship, so I just tried to follow along and mimic what others were doing! I bought a basket that had different offerings to their God in it, including a coconut, flowers, leaves, and a candle. I lit the candle and brought the basket forward as an offering, and sat and listened as people chanted along to a Hindu prayer. After some time, the ritual was completed and I was able to recollect my basket. It was a little hard to understand the meanings behind all the rituals, but I believe the purpose of this was to ask for protection for one's self and one's family. Next, I went to a pool and, to be honest, I'm not really sure what the religious significance was, but it was really intense. Basically you get undressed and put on an orange robe and take a cold shower. Then you go to a pool and it's completely silent and there's a solid ball of mercury in the middle and people are just praying and swimming around the ball and it was wild. I felt very holy.
I also got a red string bracelet, called an Abbhya Sutra. It's believed to protect its wearer and make him or her fearless, and it has to be worn for at least 48 days. Afterwards, it can be buried by a lake or tied to a fruit plant.
After we left the yoga center, we went to a nearby stand that was selling coconut water right in the coconuts! It was very "smorgasborg", but much more authentic. After you were finished drinking the coconut, the man would cut it up for you so you could eat the "meat" inside. It was so fun!
Finally, we stopped at an ancient Hindu Temple that is dedicated to the god "Shiva." This beautiful temple was built around the time of Jesus Christ. As part of the Hindu religion, it is rebuilt and redecorated every few years by the surrounding community. This allows them to show their constant devotion to their god. Unfortunately, we were unable to enter the temple because it was closed, but it was still a beautiful sight to see! I am continually fascinated by the amount of devotion that Hindus posses to their gods!