Temples in Kerala are very distinct and have a unique style of their own. Of the few that I was fortunate enough to visit the one which stands out the most is - The Oachira Temple which is unique in the sense that it does not have covered structures for temples. People worship the Para Brahman (the original formless power lord shiva) under neatly preserved trees. When my husband told me that it is temple without a temple, I did not understand how it was possible to not have a garbagrihum in a temple and still pray. I had to experience it to understand what he meant. It was an exhilarating experience for me. I felt very close to my dad here (my dad expired 12 years ago and since then I usually refer to Lord Shiva as my dad). The temple does have a deity - Life. Life in all forms and shapes. Life that we can see and that we can only feel and experience. It was such a blissful experience for me. I wish with all my heart that every reader of this post gets a chance to either visit or experience something so blissful in their life atleast once if not often. Mighty peepal trees are preserved carefully by pillars being constructed at some points to hold the branches which might have otherwise fallen off or broken and deepams are lit infront of them. The trees – whatever I say can never do justice to them. Those trees are home for squirrels, herons, crows, and many other birds. This is the first place where I saw humans and other beings co-exist. There was a guy stringing a garland of leaves from the peepal tree while a heron was not two feet away from him eating the worms from the leaves. The guy had this ethereal smile all the while watching the heron eat. The heron never bothered about him and he didn’t bother the heron. On the other hand, my younger son was all for petting it and had tried to follow one of the herons to pet it atleast once. But it kept evading him so much he decided to take a squirrel instead. As you see in the above picture, more than the humans, the heron is more intent on pleasing and being with god here. I just couldn’t stop smiling the entire while I was at this temple. A kshetram which is full of life, living, beautiful, colorful, filled with the sound of life. Wow….i was in heaven. Maybe heaven is nothing but nature in its purest form. Infact, its not just this one temple, I noticed that even small temples in Kerala which has a tree within its compound takes great care in preserving the tree. A square boundary with space for sitting is constructed around this tree and acts as a resting place while ensuring the tree lives on and helps us live. All this reminded me of the banyan tree in my village. This banyan tree is a wise old tree. Yeah, you heard me right! Wise! I sometimes wonder, if trees could have the power of speech, imagine the wisdom that could be shared by them. I am not a non-fiction person, but I would have definitely read the autobiography of this banyan tree. I was told that my grandfather used to play around that tree when he was a child, my father (had he been alive, he would have touched 63) always preferred to take this route while travelling to temple in the morning to perform morning pooja, my first play school was in fact under this very tree. It is under this tree that the weekly Saturday market is usually held, and sellers literally fight with each other to reserve a place under the shade of this mighty tree. It would take up to a minute to walk around the tree if you are ok tiptoeing your way around the roots. Else, it would easily take you about 2 minutes to walk around without touching the roots. Sadly, my children never got to know this tree. When I visited my village last December after 10 years, I saw the tree cut, uprooted, and broken to pieces under the guise of development. Apparently the panchatyat decided the space for the village school playground – the 1 acre ground was not sufficient, they needed this 400 yards also to encroach upon. When I took my children there, we couldn’t bear to stand under the sun for more than a minute even to see the place where this mighty being once stood and where now only the broken pieces are scattered. There were no branches to protect us from the harsh heat, no chirping birds to tell us we were not alone, in short no life. Just another vacant empty piece of land. Visiting Oachira after facing the heartbreak of seeing the state of my village was infact good for my soul. Though there is this lingering feeling of guilt, had I visited my village earlier, I might have probably been able to stop these people from cutting the tree. There can never be another banyan like that. The one which had the pleasure of watching my grandpa play, seeing my dad ace his shuttle competitions, keeping an eye on me when I was naughty enough to get into trouble at play school. I am not sure if humans of this generation have the patience to wait and let a life grow for 100s of years without thinking what's in it for them. If only we grew more tolerant and accepting of every living being! Life on earth would be so much more beautiful and heavenly!