As far as travel goes India will always, always have a special place in my heart. Especially the southern part of India.
And last Sunday I discovered a tiny piece of South India nestled amongst the Australian hinterland on the South Coast of NSW. A small detour off our road trip route had us turning into the small township of Helensburgh. Almost in an National Park, this quiet town is surrounded by bushland. And sitting unsuspectingly in the outskirts of the town is a beautiful almost surreal Hindu temple, Sri Venkateswara Temple. As far as temples go, it’s huge and on weekends has a steady stream of visitors. Gleaming in white, the architecture is Dravidian.
No photography is allowed inside the shrine. However once you cross inside the temple, you will be magically transported to somewhere in Karnataka. Women clad in silk, men with white tunics wrapped around their waists and austere priests reciting age-old Sanskrit mantras. I can only imagine how nostalgic it must be for someone from India. The same smell of incense, the same practice-t0-a-T rituals. It is simply divine. And now I understand that despite it being located almost an hour outside the Sydney metropolitan area, why it’s packed on the weekends.
There was a time in my early 20’s when I used to be strongly against immigrants trying to establish their own communities and areas of worship in their new countries. I felt that once you were on another soil, you were meant to completely assimilate and adopt the ways and norms of your new country. Wipe the slate clean and forget where you came from. After all the decision to move to another place was yours and should you have such strong desires to reconnect to your roots then perhaps you should stay ‘where you came from’. Alas age teaches you about things in shades of grey. And here am I today, a nomad, a traveler not really belonging anywhere yet trying to find a little bit of me everywhere I go.
So kudos to all those people who leave their homelands for a better life, struggle towards it yet still keep themselves connected to what matters in their hearts. This temple in Helensburgh, I feel is an excellent example of a smooth integration. It’s location is remote enough not to disturb any inner suburb lifestyle and free enough for any jubilant Hindu worshipping to continue without any restraints! I know of certain places of worship in Sydney which are just..forgive me…stupidly located and permitted to operate in areas that do nothing but aggravate people in the wrong way.
I didn’t spend much time here to find out more about this place but the temple does have a www.svtsydney.org which has information on their services and how it all began. The temple is open to visitors. Though to many I suppose, it’s a little piece of home.
A small bit of South India in the Illawarra region of Australia…it really is a small world after all.