Baba Bhoothnath or the Lord of of the Bhoot (spirits) is a divine form of Shiva. Shiva is known as “the destroyer” within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma and Vishnu. He is the Supreme being who creates, protects and transforms the universe. Located near to the Nimtala Ghat (a cremation ground), the temple was established in 1524. I drive through narrow roads, small abandoned colonial merchand buildings that fall into pieces on each side. Rick shaw and Kuli carriers run all over the places. Babies, children, carriers sleep on the small non paved roads, on earthy pavements or on their Rick Shaws or wooden carts . Now and then, I cross a railway bridge and for miles huts made of earth, straw, corrugated iron roofs…long the rails, where people live. The air is filled with fried food, dirt, humid heat, a kind of warm earthy sour smell, the buildings are covered with a thick brown layer of dust, pollution, whatever it is while the sun sets and night turns in. At the Nimtala Ghat, stairs lead to the Hooghly river, a sidearm of the Ganges. On my left side, a couple of big ovens crowned by huge smoke hoods and fired by big heaps of wood logs. The cremation worker watches over the cremation of a dead soul. On my right, a son prepares his deceased father, some family members gather around him. He embalms his feet. Flowers garlands crown the stretcher. The family accompanied by the priest carries the stretcher with the father to the river in order to get him washed in the holy river prior to cremation.
I get back to the road, stalls of blessed orange bracelets everywhere. Stalls where Sadhus prepare wonderful Masala Chais topped with safran. This place is very popular among students to have a stroll , a chat on the river, and a holy tea while others wash their clothes in the river.
I enter the temple, take off my shoes, buy some flowers for offering, greet Shiva. Devotees in long queues recite their chants. « Om Nama Shivaya. » Shiva is supposed to give blessings to wishes of devotees faster than any other gods. He is the universal father. For the time being, I pray for a safe and healthy, enriched trip, and for the fulfilled lives of my family. The priest marks my forehead with sandal paste, which is the blessing of the third eye, and pours some sweets in my right hand, which I eat immediately. Devotees pour water from the Ganges on the silver cow (associated notably to Shiva). Whispering recitations follow me down to the temple’s courtyard that oversees the Hooghly. An eternal fire burns and devotees meditate in half lotus pose. Priests walk with oil lamps and devotees touch over the fire, which is supposed to bring the spirit of fire inside yourself.
I realize that there is no « third » world as much as there is no « first » world. A terminology so easily used in the West. As if there are first class and third class human beings. There are no boundaries between life and death, the suffering, the pleasure, the fortunate and unfortunate ones. All melts together in one experience. The mystery of creation.