It’s a tradition travellers come across in different parts of the world…quirky wish-fulfilling activities that make it to every visitors “must-do-list” Many of them owe their origins to the religious beliefs of the devout and the faithful. Take for example the practice of throwing coins in wells and fountains. Trevi fountain in Rome may be its most famous image, but you have many smaller versions scattered around the world. Water being a precious resource, the ancients believed gods watched over such places and would present gifts like coins to appease them or to act as a materialistic sacrifice in return for a wish granted. These days, believing in gods watching over the wells or the thought that water has healing powers has largely lost favour, but people still practice such ancient traditions for the great selfie-moments and travel-memories they provide! Two such stories from my own travels come to mind today…one a temple of bells and the other a bridge of padlocks. The first is from a cantonment town and hill station that for me has many childhood memories associated with it~Ranikhet in the mountain state of Uttarakhand; and the latter from the world famous city of romance~Paris!
One of the must do activities in Ranikhet is to drive up to the even more scenic and unspoilt Chaubatia and en route do a short stopover at the Jhula Devi Temple. As per the information board outside, the temple was established nearly 700 years ago and locals firmly believe the ‘Devi’s’ grace still protects their livestock from wild cats which roam around these forested areas. What sets it apart from other such local shrines is the humongous number of bells that festoon it’s perimeter wall as well as the courtyard inside. You can find bells of all conceivable shapes and sizes! For a photography buff it provides some amazing shots. The popular belief is that gratitude for any wish granted by the deity has to be expressed by tying a bell and judging by the number of bells this seems quite the right place to make a wish! Even if you are a sceptic, you can go ahead and spend just Rs 50 to buy a bell at the stall outside and tie it to partake of the happy vibes of the place and for the sweet travel story it makes!
In Paris we were fortunate to walk on the padlock-laden Pont des Arts just a month before the city administration took the decision to remove the nearly million plus locks weighing down and posing a threat to the famous bridge. Over the years it had become ‘the’ Paris tradition for couples to express their mutual love in an ironclad statement~a metal lock, etched with the couples initials attached to the metal trellis of the bridge and the key tossed into the flowing waters of the Seine below! No wonder a host of posts lamenting the removal of the locks flooded social media sites when the news came out! Personally i did think they were a visual eyesore on the beauty of the structure but the thought that each lock kept secure a unique individual love story somehow added an aura of romance that softened the ugliness.
The romantic-locks may have been melted but people will find other means of keeping the tradition going. Ultimately its not about the wish you’ve made, the coins you threw in, the lock or bell you fastened; but rather about the desire to leave behind a symbolic embodiment of our having been there, the recollection of which keeps that happy memory alive.