Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chamundi Hill, Swamiji & Castor Oil Bath

Saturday rest day. Ahhhhh... So nice to have a break after a 6-day practice. I was in bed by 7pm last night and I think I fell asleep at 8.30pm. ANOTHER ROCKING FRIDAY NIGHT IN MYSORE!!

So this morning, Maney came to pick a bunch of us up. He's wearing his new Singapore Merlion tshirt. Just for you, Denise!

We were going to check out Chamundi Hill. There it is, waaaaay in the distance there.

We went in 2 rickshaws. The Super-On people decided to climb the 1000 steps to get to the top. The other lazy people (I'm in this lazy group) decided to get a rickshaw ride up to the top. HAHAHA! I'm Singaporean, walking is NOT in our DNA! Especially not when it involves climbing up stairs. (And OK, one of us in this group had had knee surgery, so she is excused).

Road signs on the way up. It's a Plastic-Free zone!

(I love the colourful English translations of the Hindi. How dramatic can you get to describe a temple?)

The view from the rickshaw ride to the top.

I spotted something at the lookout point that was disappointing. A whole stash of plastic - bottles, bags... trash!! C'MON PEOPLE!!! Show a little respect!!

We met the Super-On group at the Bull statue (the 700th step), and were going to walk up the remaining 300 steps to the Sri Chamundeshwari Temple at the top. This is supposed to be the bull that Shiva rode... um... Oh dear... I've forgotten what the Shiva-Bull story is already... Anybody has any idea now?

Because today is also an auspicious day - it's the Harvest Festival or Makar Sankranti (something about celebrating the end of winter and the changing position of the sun). Hence, there were lots of locals on Chamundi Hill today too, observing this festival and coming for blessings from the many temples on top of this hill. Here in Mysore, the women traditionally give each other this snack - a mix of nuts
and sugar - so that we will say sweet things to each other. :)

Indian kids are just sooooooooo GORGEOUS! There's just something so sparkly about their big eyes. This grumpy chubster was giving us all a laugh, and the little boy was pulling monkey faces at his mother trying to take his picture with the bull.

LIAsh and I cam-whoring. ;)

Stef walked round the bull and got blessed.

The highlight of my day today was going into the Cave Temple and meeting with the Swami there, affectionately callled Swamiji.

You enter through this tiny trap door into a space under the rock where Swamiji has set up an altar. The group of us just entered and sat quietly on the side for about 10 minutes, just observing the goings-on. I think not one of us knew what the heck we were supposed to be doing here! As we sat and watched, we saw the people streaming in to get blessed by Swamiji. They'd kiss his feet or bow down to him, he'd pat their backs and offer them sugar crystals. Then they would take the red powder and place this on their foreheads. The roof is right above the Swami's head - that's pretty much the rock forming the roof of the cave temple.

After 10 minutes of us sat in silence watching this scene, Swamiji turns to Maney and says something in Kannada. Maney then says "Swamiji would like you to have Chai with him."


We get taken to another little trap-door exit on the other side of the cave and come out to a cozy little outdoor space. We were admiring the beautiful tiles on the side of the wall. No offense to anyone, but this would make good religious kitsch on a kitchen wall!

After waiting a while, Swamiji appears and plastic chairs are pulled out while we sit and chat. It's quiet for a while as everyone isn't really sure what/ why we're here... Or what to say!

He's the loveliest, smiliest man with such bright, light eyes. Always laughing. He made us laugh when he was telling us his life story about how he was a freelance journalist before, but only up until 1973. "From 1973, I'm Om Namah Shivaya".


Halfway into our little chat, Maney mentioned something about my teacher knowing Swamiji too and it suddenly occurred to me "Oh my Gawwwwwwwwwwd!! This is the dude my teacher was talking about!!!" and I actually blurted it out:


Basically... I had emailed my teacher in Sydney last week and told her that I was in Mysore. She had basically replied and signed off in her email something about "if you see my good friend Swamiji in the cave, please send him my love".

I mean... If someone tells you to say Hi to the Swami in the cave... You're pretty much gonna say "Um... OK." But kinda think "Riiiiiiiiight. When am I EVER gonna do THAT?!" I mean... See a Swami in a CAVE?! ...Right? So when I explained this little exchange to Swamiji, he nods and simply says:

Swami: "C.C."

Me: "See see?!"

Swami: "C.C. Cosmic Connection."


My new Facebook Profile Picture:

He then invites us to the back to take a look at his cave. Someone affectionately called this "The Cave Hotel". It's basically a huge-ass boulder, and right where the rock curves upwards, leaving a natural space for shelter, Swamiji had built a wall around it - so he actually has windows and a locked door into his cave dwelling. And electricity! All the worldly possessions of this man fit neatly into this tiny little space.

He very kindly allowed us to take a photo of his cave home, and I'm so tickled to see he has Satellite TV and... wait for the drumrolll... A HAIRDRYER!!!!
There it is, laying on his bed! :D :D :D

Swamiji pointed to his TV and said "This... This is no C.C. Cosmic Connection. This is Satellite connection.". HAHAHA!!! Great sense of humour!!

My friend invited him for lunch next week and he graciously accepted. I CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE LUNCH WITH SWAMIJI!!

From here, we climbed up the remaining 300 steps to the top. This is the 1000th step.

As part of this Harvest Festival today, they paint all the cows with tumeric so they turn out yellow, and put all kinds of bells and whistles on them to have them decorated. In some of the villages, they also allegedly make the cows jump over hot coals. Umm... I'm not sure of the significance of this and why it's necessary. Poor cows!! Thankfully we didn't see any cows jumping over hot coals today, just lots of decorated cows and also... BABY COWS!! (Yeah, I know they're called calves, but "baby cows" just describes them better).

(She's smashing a coconut as an offering. I like how I caught her in mid-smash!)

Not such a great shot, but you can see the behind of a completely yellow cow on the streets.

Up on top of the Sri Chemundeshwera Temple, it was pretty much CHAOS. Street sellers, beggars, lots of beautiful, foreign sights and sounds.

My "I'M A TOURIST!!" look. So hot.

These guys are tourists too. Cute!

It was a great day, but we came back just after lunchtime and I was pretty much spent. Went to the local supermarket, Loyal World and picked up some Castor Oil and Soap Nut Powder.

I've been dying to have a "Castor Oil bath" coz that's what "everyone" says I should try (and apparently Sharath spoke about the merits of a castor oil bath at conference a few weeks ago too, before I'd arrived). But since it's so oily and hard to get rid of, Soap Nut Powder is used to get rid of the oil.

Umm... I found the Castor Oil in the COOKING OIL section of Loyal World and it kinda smells like Sesame Oil. I stood in the shower with the oil slathered all over me, feeling like I was basting myself to be ready to go in the oven. It's a FRICKING MESSY AFFAIR. And then it gets EVEN MESSIER once you get the soap nut powder on you. I ended up looking like I was covered in brown coffee powder. Oh, I also dropped half the bag of powder on the floor while I was at it. The powder is so fine that the moment I got it out, my sinuses went into overdrive and there I was non-stop sneezing and feeling very miserable for myself as I was covered in oil and snot and not having a very pleasurable time at all.

As you can imagine... You stand there for 10 minutes covered in oil, then another 10 minutes rubbing yourself down with soap nut powder, then a whole other half-hour trying to get rid of the brown globs of goo all over the bathroom floor. I would be so happy to pay someone to just give me a castor oil massage just so I don't need to deal with the aftermath of it.

The verdict?

My muscles did feel a little looser and more limber afterwards, and if you're Singaporean, you'll understand the term when I say I felt a little bit "Nua" after. Y'know... soft and loose and... well, just soft and a tad fuzzy in the head. Nothing too hardcore, just very relaxed. I'm just not sure if it's worth the trouble at all.

Led Primary tomorrow. I'm in the earliest start time at 4.30am. EEEEKS! That means waking up at 3am. And it's 7.30pm now... which also means it's almost bedtime. How the heck does time pass so quickly in Mysore when there's ALLEGEDLY "not much" to do beyond my yoga practice?!



  1. Loved the CC thing... your post is so beautiful S, I really enjoyed it!

  2. Could you not get the Singapore government to put in a lift or an escalator up the hill! Actually reading your blog every day, apart from brightening the days, is making me think to tell them to shove the job now instead of June and go to Mysore. Though 4.30am for Led seems a tad early, what do you do for the rest of the day?

  3. Swamiji was SO FREAKING CUTE. But I think his tea made me sick. No lunch for me, methinks. I got no work done today. :(

  4. I'm I to understand that you are sleeping soundly every night?? Awesome. These posts are the loveliest most generous thing. Thank you so much!

  5. what a great post! EH talked about castor oil bath and the soap nut powder before the led class on saturday awhile back. I feel so connected with you being there in Mysore, you having EH as a teacher too and reading this and me practicing with her now. small world! keep these posts coming!

  6. @FFT - I so agree with you, that these posts are quite generous of J :)

  7. This is the post with the most!

    One for the cybershala archives...


  8. Claudia: Thanks! Can't wait to meet you soon! :)

    Kev: Haha! Well the shala's full till end of March and then closed for the next couple months after when S+S are doing workshops in the US and Oz, respectively. What do I DO for the rest of the day?! Haven't you been reading this, there's so much to do not enough time! Today after led class, I came home and "take rest" (coz there's no time for Savasana when the next led class arrives), then went to breakfast and hung out there for a good few hours. I'm home now interneting and having a completely chill, ME day before conference at 4pm. Other people go to the pool, go sight-seeing, climb Chamundi Hill, go to the market shopping, see the tailor, go for other classes eg. chanting, sanskrit, meditation (both in the shala and with other people outside the shala), dancing, anatomy, cooking, embroidery classes or just stay home and read books like I'm planning to do today. There is A LOT to do here! Plus don't forget your day starts winding down by around 6 or 7pm for practice the next morning.

    Sonya - sorry to hear that! I think my belly is more iron-clad than I've given it credit for. Or maybe I've just been drinking Chai from all over and developing resistance to parasites (or maybe I have worms in my belly already).

    FFT - NO! I am SO NOT SLEEPING SOUNDLY. AT ALL! I get about 3 - 4hrs sleep, then wake up around 1am or 2am like clockwork. Most nights I end up laying in bed from here until the alarm rings for practice. So afternoon naps are a welcome relief. I don't take enough naps though! So Friday evening I had a good sleep from 8.30pm - 7.30am. Gotta make up for the lack of sleep somehow! ;)

    Lilli - ARGHHHHHH! I miss E. :( I still consider her "my" teacher. Y'know... the one who has influenced my practice the most till today; one whom I will be eternally grateful for. You are so lucky to be practicing with her!

    Colleen/ FFT - Um... Not sure when you say these posts are "generous". I'm just long-winded and enjoy documenting my days (quite clearly!) I'm just glad YOU are getting something out of it too! HAHA!

    Owl - Swamiji is my new hero! He is too adorable. :)

  9. I don't know how I missed this post! What great travel tales and photos and observations! Jaime, nothing gets past you and we're all grateful for it!

    (love the hair dryer! HA HA!!!)

  10. I am enjoying reading about what you all get up to off the mat, much more going on than I expected.

    So the Shala is closed April and May, then if the European tour happens it could be closed longer. I'm a Virgo, I'm not good at disorganisation, I like to have everything planned.

  11. Hey E - You would've had a blast with swamiji. :)

    Kev - Umm... Welcome to India... where "go with the flow" and the true test of "surrender to what is" happens here. I like to have things planned too, it's an occupational hazard. But over here... eh! You've just gotta kinda roll with it. ;)

  12. I'm loving your Mysore posts to bits, but this really takes the cake: a real Swami living in a CAVE, with his Mod Cons!! Hahahaha, totally priceless.


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