This weekend past Kim, Morgan and myself visited the famous rock-cut temples of Ajanta and Ellora; a great experience on which I will post more fully soon. Meanwhile, having returned home I was paging though the many photos taken and came to this one. and I thought I’d say a quick word about it.
This photo is at the Ellora caves. It shows the sacred bull, Nandi, mount of Lord Shiva; this is at the entrance of cave 21. I was glad to get these Hindu ladies in the frame; we smiled and said our hellos after. When they were gone, our driver Rupesh – in his first visit to these caves – said, "Sir, did you see that lady with shaved head?” I told him, yes, and that I wondered about it – Indian women are very particular about their hair and take great pains to grow it long. Rupesh told me his guess that this lady was a devotee of Lord Balaji, an avatar of Vishnu sometimes known as Venkateswara. There are two stories of Lord Balaji that explain how ladies who worship him cut their hair.
The first is that Balaji was once wounded on his head. A devoted princess saw him and offered some of her hair to repair the wound in his scalp; even today followers will offer hair in the same spirit.
A more interesting story (to me, at least) is how Lord Balaji got married. For various reasons Balaji wished to marry Lady Padmavathi. Balaji however lacked funds for a wedding celebration of suitable luxury. So he went to Lord Kubera, god of wealth, and asked for a loan. The terms of the load were so usurious, that today Lord Balaji’s followers are still paying interest. For this reason his temples are among the richest in India, as many devotees donate money and gold, and hair – a valuable donation – to defray payments in this ancient debt.