My wife insisted me to go to a temple as we did not visit any "famous" temples after our marriage. She is a great devotee of Saibaba and she wanted to go to Shirdi once. But there was an accident in June 2012 in which a Volvo bus on its way to Shirdi from Hyderabad fell down from a bridge and nearly 30 people died.
I told my wife that it is not what I expected from the God. When they were going to see him, why did he kill them? She said it was their fate and even the God cannot do anything. Then I asked "if fate is so powerful that even God cannot do anything to avoid it, why don't we start praying the fate which is more powerful than the God and start constructing temples for fate"? Silence was the reply from the other side.
However, I did not want to disappoint her as I am an agnostic, I thought there is nothing wrong in going to a famous temple nearby. I already had a bitter experience when we went to Kanakadurga temple in Vijayawada where the priests literally looted me. The main temple of Kanakaduraga was good and no one demanded money. Then I also wanted to see her husband Mallikharjuna swamy's temple which is just in front of the Kanakadurga temple. But while going, there was another small place where navagraha (the 9 planets) were installed. I did not want to go there. But the priest called us like an auto driver at the railway station exit. So we were forced to go. There, he chanted few mantras and at the end, took the plate for “harathi” in which there was camphor and some currency notes. I put 10 rupees in the plate. But he was not satisfied and he demanded more. He said “there are 9 planets and Vinayaka, totally ten, and you have given only for one”, indirectly saying that he needs Rs.100. Thanking our Hindu ancestors who built temples only for 9 planets and not for stars (if that is the case I would go bankrupted) I gave him 50 rupees and came out. I also got confused why there are two separate temples for wife and husband.
Can't they accommodate both in one? Why a few other temples on the way? At that time, I just remembered the Shopping mall concept .They construct staircases in shopping mall at two extremes (so that before the people go to the next floor, they see more things and buy more) and I thought the shopping mall architects got the idea now, where as Hindu temple architects got the idea ages ago to keep small temples between two big temples and make more business. When I went to the Mallikarjuna temple, again the same story was repeated. A priest chanted few mantras, took the plate with camphor and moved all small valued notes down and took 100 rupees note to the top in the plate.
This time I did not have a 50 note and I cannot give 10 when he is clearly expressing his expectation. I gave 100, came out and never wanted to enter again. With this experience, I am again set to go (with my wife) to another famous temple in Bhadrachalam. We started by 5:30 AM and reached the place by 11:30 AM. We entered the temple and stood in the queue for half an hour and then entered the sanctum for 15 seconds and were pushed out. After coming out, we saw a very rich guy doing ‘kalyanam’ for Lord Ram and Sita in the temple. He was given a special treatment in the temple as he spent lot of money. He sat in front of the idol. I don’t understand why these people who always spend money and do marriages multiple times to a couple already married thousands of years ago and evade the taxes to the government of the country in which more than 40 crores of people earn less than 40 rupees a day. I shouted at my wife "Is it for these 15 seconds we traveled for 6 hours, then another 6 hours back. If we went to the Lord Ram's temple in our own place we would have saved a lot of time and money".
She did not say anything then but started crying when we reached home and that moment caused a lot of friction between us and it took a lot of effort and time to grease that friction away. But still I don't understand this concept of "famous" temple. When the temple for the same God is available in their own village or town, why the people spend so much effort and time to see the God in Tirupati, Shirdi etc and make the temples more crowded and inconvenient. In what way Lord Venkateswara in Tirupati is more powerful and is more benevolent than him in a nearby temple? First of all, when we can see the God in an idol or photo in our own home why to go to temple? Some people told me to see the God in temple. But I think I am a sinner. I always see the idol there, not the God who is visible to all of them.