City Faith – Shiv Prajapati Mandir, Near New Delhi Railway Station
A wayside shrine.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is the Capital’s super-congested heart, next to the New Delhi railway station. Outside, the road is clogged with cars and autos and the pavement packed with purpose-filled masked humans. But Shiv Prajapati Mandir is as tranquil and empty as the wayside shrine of a remote countryside. As if it had withdrawn into a much-desired quarantine.
Yet, every day at the same afternoon hour, Hari Prasad, who runs a snack stall just outside of it, on the pavement, enters to clean the temple floor. “Out of devotion,” he says in a low voice, glancing towards the gods and instinctively touching his heart.
The temple walls are pink. On one side are the sacred idols. On another side old rusting trunks are stacked one upon another, beside an old rusting closet. The trunks are locked. A black board on the facing wall is jotted down with white chalk indicating the forthcoming festivals—Makar Sakranti is on 14th January, Basant Panchami on 16th February.
At one end of the courtyard stands a peepul tree, its branches so dense, spreading so far, that the entire courtyard is under its shade. It is astonishing to note that the tree is barely noticeable from outside, though it is one of the largest and leafiest in the vicinity, according to Mr Prasad. Its gigantic trunk is tied about with the sacred kaleva thread. The rays of the afternoon sun scatter into various fragments as they try to make their way through the tree’s jungle-like foliage.
“Sometimes when people enter the temple, they worship the tree too,” says Mr Prasad, his arm resting upon the trunk.
A few minutes later, Mr Prasad exits and the place falls into complete silence, and solitude. Intrusions from the outside world seem to come from far away, like TV sounds from an adjacent room. Suddenly, a leaf falls from the great tree, drifting slowly downwards, and gets entangled in an almost invisible cobweb. From a distance the hapless leaf looks like it’s hanging in mid-air, its pointed tip facing downwards. The sight is magical.
Come in the afternoon, when the temple is likely to be empty.
A temple with tree