City Landmark – Lankeshwar Mahadev Mandir, New Delhi Railway Station
Gods by the tracks.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Saaye saaye, so whistles the forceful afternoon breeze. But the peepal is staying unmoved. No leaf stirs. Its branches, bare. The courtyard too is bare, of humans. But it is amply peopled with gods; the faces of the sacred idols as solemn as of an Himalayan tapasvi. And all around, dozens of brass bells are hanging from the many arches. While the alcove at the courtyard’s extremity is closed with a curtain.
Now, New Delhi-Rohtak Intercity Express passes by. The rail tracks are within an arm’s reach of the temple.
This has to be one of the most tranquil and oddly located shrines in the entire capital region. It lies within the New Delhi railway station, off platform no. 7. So discreet that it doesn’t even have its name written anywhere. (A shrine to Bhagwan Vishwakarma in Gurugram railway station is similarly discreet, but that doesn’t feel as remote).
Gradually, the mandir’s courtyard reveals itself to be not completely bereft of humans. A man is lying by the wall, under a threadbare blanket. Another man is sprawled along a raised ledge. He leans over to inform in a sleepy voice that this is Lankeshwar Mahadev Mandir, dedicated to Bhagwan Shiv. He jumps down and pulls apart the alcove’s curtain.
Inside, a naked bulb is hanging from the ceiling by a long slender wire. Its filament is glowing faintly, accentuating the awe inspired by the meditative darkness. A shivling adorns the center of the marble floor. The wall behind has Hanuman-ji, holding his mace.
Suddenly, the railway station announcer’s train update infiltrates into the silence of this sanctum sanctorum.
On emerging out, Karnataka Express is seen leaving the platform. It slowly passes by the temple. The coaches are empty. Perhaps the train has just completed its long journey from down south in Bangalore and is heading to the shunting yard to prepare for the return trip.
There’s a little restaurant in Ahmedabad that has the tomb of a local Muslim saint inside, separated from customers just by a chrome railing. I love this unexpected nature of India – it’s not so much that you find things where you wouldn’t expect them, you find them exactly in the one place you really wouldn’t expect to see them.
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