An Italian in India
An Italian in India – Part 3: Kesha, Kangha, Karam, Kachha, and Kirpan
As I already mentioned before, Delhi is a multi-ethnic city with people coming from all over India, and the world, expressing their own religions and cultures. Behind the Lotus temple, perched on the side of a hill, stands the Iskcon temple. From afar it is easily recognisable for its twin, red and white, peaks, but when approaching it from the top of the hill, they get overshadowed by the complex built beneath them. The Iskcon temple is fully built in red sandstone, but compared to the Lotus temple, which is built in smooth marble, it more appropriately reflects the famed Indian obsession for details. From top to bottom, it is inlaid with geometric draws which stick out of the white marble peaks. Below the peaks, the base of the temple presents an octagonal dome, where scenes of the lives of Vishnu, Krishna and Radha are represented. The main deity is Radha Parthasarathi. The area seems subdivided between three main altars; to the left of the entrance lies the statue of the founder of Vaishnavism.
Vaishnavism is one of the most important branches of Hinduism, along with Shaivism, Smartism, and Shaktism, and it focuses on the veneration of Vishnu, the omni-comprehensive deity of Hinduism, responsible for the creation of the universe.
New Delhi is also home to one of the major Sikh temples, an impressive building shining in the surrounding grey atmosphere. The Sikhs are the second biggest religious group, after the Hindus, living in the city. Sikh’s have a high status among the top casts, making them some of the wealthiest people in Delhi. As a result, their temple occupies the space of a football field and is fully built in white marble and gold. Reaching it, the first noticeable part is a tall, relatively thin, white marble arch with a sentence carved in gold on its front. From the arch, a few steps divide two separate entrances: on the left, a flight of steps leads any people in need, regardless of their religion, to a common room where food and drugs, usually donated by worshippers, are distributed according to necessity. Others who want to pray or to visit the temple can walk through a water pond to wash their hands and feet, and after having covered their heads, can climb up to the main building and the remaining open areas. On the right, two immense empty pools are surrounded by an arcade. This part is usually designated for baptisms and other ceremonies. Some old Sikhs still meditate in the shadows of the arcade with only their blankets and blades. The temple has been erected on the top of another building, probably occupied by administration offices and/or rooms for the priests. The building presents a pyramidal perspective formed by the lower building, the temple, and its central peak, topped with an impressive pure gold dome.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, which does not recognise the casts system, and does not rely on idols, rites and superstitions. Their philosophy focuses on the practical life, which should be centred on serving humanity, and creating tolerance. Anyone conducting an honest life could be part of the Sikh’s community, entering it as equal to all the other worshippers. Five K-symbols mark a Sikh: Kesha, long hair and beard never cut; Kangha, a comb; Kara, a steel bracelet; Kachha, the underpants; and Kirpan, a blade or a knife. A Sikh without those symbols is considered an apostate.
By Alberto Gouthier