Another trip to Palani - money gets you closer to God

I had written about the last time we were in Palani.  We had to make another trip - this time for the ceremonial tonsure of my one year old.   It was a Saturday.  Unlike the last time when we drove ourselves, we rented a mini van this time.   Based on our experience with food, we also took with us breakfast and lunch.

We started at 7 AM and were in Palani by 8.45 AM.  We found the place much less crowded than our previous visit.  After having breakfast, we sought out the place where we had done the tonsure the last time.  We had to walk about 500m from where we had parked.  In hindsight this was a bad decision for two reasons - this was quite a distance from the winch station.  Also, the bath facility did not have hot water.  We could have simply gone to the place near to where we were parked.

The tonsurers lamented their plight of not being paid (which obviously must be untrue).  The wailing little fellow did nothing to help the emotional blackmail and a Rs.100/- parted hands as tips for not shedding blood.   This was besides a bunch of toys bought at exorbitant price to distract the infant. Bathing places made a killing too - Rs.30/- for a pot of hot water and another Rs.10/- to use the bath facility.

The winch station was much less crowded and would you believe it - there were two queues - Rs.10/- and Rs.50/-  The more you pay, the faster you went up (assuming the queue had less rush).  Interestingly, the return trips (downhill) were priced Rs.10/- and Rs.25/- indicating that market research had been done to determine the optimal cost that could be extracted from hapless pilgrims based on their state of body or mind.

We were just in time (at noon) for the temple to close for some pujas.  But wait, a Rs.150/- allowed you a darshan of the Lord during the puja.   But not unlike movies, this puja was running housefull - which meant, we had to wait till 1 PM for the Lord to be free for normal darshan.  Rs.100/- per head was the price to pay if you wanted to spend the least time in queue - Rs.10/- for a normal queue and free, if you were willing to wait forever.  The amount paid also determined how close you were to the Lord.

If you thought that was all the money required, you were mistaken.  There were bare-bodied and ash-clad priests hanging around asking devotees to do pujas - for a price.  A Rs.100/- got you a few more seconds before the Lord than otherwise, while the priests pocketed the money.  Unabashed display of greed exploiting the sentiments of the pilgrims was in show - making a mockery of any sense of religiousness or Godliness to the process.

We took the Rs.10/- tickets for the winch back and thanks to packed lunches were ready to leave by 2  PM.  We were in Coimbatore by 5 PM, after a break for coffee in Pollachi.


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