City Faith – Mandir Chaurasi Ghanta, Seetaram Bazar
A temple with sound.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Tnnnnm. The sound at first has a sharp tone, and then wafts around the air, growing softer and calmer, passing along like a light breeze. After that it rushes out into the noisy bazar lanes, and fades.
In all temples, bells must create the same pleasing effect. But the bells here have something most haven’t — the temple is named after them.
Mandir Chaurasi Ghanta, in Old Delhi’s Seetaram Bazar, has chaurasi ghante, or 84 bells, affirms a visitor. She says that all the bells are linked together by a single chain “so that you can ring all the 84 bells at once.”
The mandir consists of a hall with its entire roof studded with brass bells, some portions are denser with ghante than others. A thick cluster of bells are hung at the centre, and the ghante there appear to unite into a single body, much like the lamps of a chandelier.
Despite their great strength, the presence of these bells is discreet. On entering, one first notices the idols of gods and the devotees, and only then is the attention claimed by the bells.
This evening, a young man is reciting prayers from a booklet opened in his open palms; he is stationed directly under a low hanging bell. Then there’s a woman standing in a corner. One hand is ringing the bell, and the other is resting on her heart. The far end of the temple is scooped into a chamber dedicated to Bhagwan Shiv. A woman enters this room and reverently bows her head. Her lips seem to murmur a prayer though one hears nothing. This alcove is the only place with no bells, or at least with no bells the hand can reach easily.
Now, an elderly frail man, who has been in the mandir for long, prepares to leave. A large bell is hanging by the door. He slowly keeps his walking stick on one side, rests his left arm on the adjacent wall for support, and rings the bell with the other hand, just once. As the sound emanates, he closes his eyes for a moment, and joins his palm into a namaste, as if greeting an invisible friend, and then he steps into the crowded street.
The temple is next to Jagdamba Jewellers, and faces Noor Medicos.
House of bells