Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dhaval, the pan chewing priest

One of the interesting things about staying in a small town for a long time is the colourful characters that crop up and reappear day to day. There's certainly no shortage here in Dwarka.

But first, allow me to explain "pan". It's a concoction of betel nut, herbs, and often tobacco all rolled into a leaf and stuffed into the mouth. It's users are distinctive for their red and black stained teeth and inability to annunciate. All over India, you'll see bright red splotches on the walls, asphalt, pavement - the byproduct from the mouths of pan users.

This brings us to Dhaval, the pan-addict Hindu priest of Dwarka. Dhaval is a young man, 23 years of age, and a Brahmin priest working in the main temple here. He speaks passable English and is eager to speak with foreigners.

Being a pan-hound priest must present some difficulties. When you have a mass of leaf, betel nut, and tobacco the size of a mini-snickers bar (like the ones you get at Halloween) it becomes difficult to speak. Being a priest involves reciting a lot of phrases during the daily blessings and puja (special prayers, usually payed for, to help with some specific problem). Lucky for him it's all in sanskrit which nobody (including him) will understand anyway., so he can memble his way through them. The only remaining danger is that someone will notice the red juices he's been spraying all over Shiva's phallus as he speaks.

Well, time's up here at Dwarka's only internet cafe, which brutally exploits it's monopoly on internet access.

1 comment:

pj said...

Hey Seth, have you visited the famed jagatmandir temple in Dwarka? Can you sense the intensified devotion there? Do you see many sites dedicated to Mirabai?

I saw some men chewing that pan in a Lonely Planet travel video and it really looked nasty. Must be more fun than it looks! Kinda weird that they just spew it all over the walls, etc.

Hope you are enjoying some tastier, more savory treats. Sweetmeats perhaps??