So, as HFEK pointed out, a post on Kali maybe shouldn’t omit mention of Durga. This is a problem because there’s only one Hindu temple in Darjeeling (and the one we visited close to the Nepal border, which definitely didn’t have a shrine to her.)

So I went back to Mahakai temple to see if I missed her.

On the way, once you’re above the central town, it’s a nice walk through the rhododendron forest. They’re about 40′ – 60′ feet tall here. I’ve been in rhody forests since nearing India and haven’t seen one bloom. Nothing happening until April at the earliest.

So imagine my shock when I round a corner and see a flash of red, below. Click the image and you can spot it above and to the right of the road

Unreal. It’s Rhododendron arboreum. Magnificent. And the way the final whorl of leaves present the bloom is stunning

The other bloom I’ve seen here is Primula malacoides, the real thing

Anyway, back to the walk to the temple

And found her here

We didn’t miss her the other day; she was obscured, as I watched this at this very spot a few days ago. Durga in the background:

Like the above, I had some yellow and red thread tied around my wrist when I first came, too. Now it’s in the tiny-souvenir ziplock, here on my touchpad

Here’s a traditional image of Durga

And this description

… refers to the Goddess as a warrior who kills or helps kill trouble-making demons… In folk and classical songs, she is described as one who loves blood and bedecks herself with the heads and entrails of her victims.

And yet … what we see is a gentle, benign looking deity, dressed in finery, her face ethereal and enchanting, smiling benevolently. Her devotees worship her as mother. They sing songs to her glory. But few pay attention to the blood on the altar. A buffalo lies decapitated… Those lips, those eyes, those jewels distract us from the violence around: the weapons of war, the ferocious lion, the man impaled by a trident, the blood pouring out of the buffalo’s severed neck.

From here, a website I like for its entertaining spin.

My poor photo. You can tell it’s her: she’s sitting on a lion

Monkeys, doing something, on the way out

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