India Part 2 – Bangalore and a Brush with the Hari Krishnas

After a thoroughly pleasant time in Mumbai, Matt, Jeff, and I caught a flight south to Bangalore. Known as the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore does vaguely remind me of San Francisco. Not too long ago, Bangalore was a medium sized regional city, but in the past 10-15 years the IT industry has boomed and the city has expanded beyond its intended capacity. As a result, the city is clogged with traffic and people. Long time residents we spoke with complained that the building boom has made the city hot, crowded, and unlivable. Hum, this is a familiar story to us.

Despite the lack of traditional ‘tourist stuff’ to do in Bangalore, we had a great time. Our first day we spent an afternoon wandering around the Gandhi Bazar area, and I went nuts in the kitchen goods stores. I got a super sweet high-end tiffin with sealing gaskets between layers and an insulated carrier. I can’t wait to use it. We also spent some time at the ‘Bull Temple’ and Cubbon Park.

Because Bangalore isn’t a big tourist attraction, we got a lot of attention. People made a stink everywhere we went, fawning over us and snapping photos. It felt like we were the Royals being chased around by paparazzi. No one actually asked for an autograph, but I think they wanted to. I have never experienced such a thing in all of our travels, and it took some getting used to. Matt liked the ‘selfie-mobs’, and I’m a little worried that the attention is going to go his head.

Braving the horrendous traffic, one evening we trekked to the ISKCON temple on the outskirts Bangalore. Built in 1998, this is a gigantic, gaudy, Disney-esque spectacle to behold. I didn’t read Trip Advisor very closely so I just assumed this was just a normal Hindu temple, but when we arrived I was jarred to find whiffs of cultishness. My suspicions were increased when the auntie at the ticket booth pushed hard to up-sell us more expensive tickets (‘just an extra 500 rupees will buy you more prayers to lord Krishna’). Hmmmmm. After a Google search, I realized that ISKCON stands for the ‘International Society for Krishna Consciousness’, otherwise known as the Hari Krishnas. Loosely based on Hindu cannon, the Hari Krishna movement was founded in 1966. It has ensnared artists and celebrities such as George Harrison and Allen Ginsberg, and is considered by many to be a cult.

After handing over some rupees and going through a remarkably convoluted dressing procedure, we climbed the many stairs of the temple. When we reached the highest level, we saw that people were gathering for the evening prayer. Since we’re white, we got funneled into a holding pen right at the front- nice. On the alter stood 3 priests, each in fanning an elaborate effigy of lord Krishna, Rama, and some other god I couldn’t identify. The ritual culminated in them blowing a conch shell and sprinkling us with water. I have to admit that it was pretty moving and spectacular. Cults are good like that.

After the main show a young monk tried to indoctrinate us and ‘sign us up’ for a donating a certain number of meals. Matt almost got suckered in since the monk was cute but we escaped only 200 rupees poorer.

After escaping our brush with the Hari Krishnas, we needed some food and headed to a lovely place called Samaroh. We didn’t realize how fancy Samaroh would be, and we stumbled in very sweaty and very bedraggled (as per usual). Samaroh offers a set dinner menu of vegetarian dishes centered around a theme. Since we were in Bangalore during mango season, the theme was mangos. It was excellent – definitely one the best meals we had in India!!! After our meal the manager came out and was fascinated to see three sweaty white people at her restaurant. She asked to make a video of us talking about our meal. I really hope that the video was for internal use only since we looked appalling.

After 3 nights in Bangalore we took a taxi north and east to the city of Tumkur for our next adventure – our first ever Indian wedding!

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