Vaishnavite Priest, Melukote, Karnataka, 050415

April 9, 2015

My fried Uma, on seeing this photograph of a priest in the temple town of Melukote (that I visited last Sunday) said, “A poem might be written about him.” So…here it is….


In the attire That shows off his calling He walks; the traditional clothes Attuned to the tropical heat. But yet, this priest makes a statement of power: The proud caste-marks upon his body, Forehead, and arms, The sumptuous width of his dhoti’s Bright-red-and-gold, woven border, The fact that the heat-suited attire Is countered by the socks on his feet: The many braclets on his arms (Though he wears no gold necklaces) The rings on eight of his ten fingers: Even the brightness of that hibiscus flower Perched high upon his head…. All these say, “I am an important person.” In this town of many temples. I wonder who he is, What privileged path he offers, And to which god… Yes, because of the marks, I know It must be some form of Vishnu. As his god does, he too protects: The social order and customs that he’s been born to And brought up in. The old order changeth, yielding place to new: That’s elsewhere, not for this priest. As he walks, his world is eternal, immutable.