There were several statues, but not much else inside the temple.
The Lonely Planet hasn’t steered us wrong very often…even in cases where their description of a particular site is disconcerting, it almost invariably turns out to be well worth the time and effort to get there and to experience it. That proven track record is the main reason we continue to rely on LP. So when the guidebook suggested a visit to the Shree Laxmi Narayan Temple – a little Hindu temple off the beaten path but well within walking distance of downtown Suva – we decided to check it out. Especially since, otherwise, the book listed so very few actual attractions in Suva.
Temples are, of course, far from unfamiliar for us. We’ve visited temples on pretty much every trip we’ve ever taken – and we’ve been in any number of Hindu temples. So we really weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. But I’m not sure I can convey just how very awkward this visit was to be.
The guidebook gave little description – just noting what color it was and that it might be tricky to get into; that we’d need to get the attention of the caretaker to let us in. It didn’t mention that there was no bell to ring!
The awkwardness started as we stood before the locked gates, shuffling our feet and wondering if anyone would see us to let us in. As we waited, a taxi pulled up. A male driver emerged and escorted a female passenger to the gate, beside us. By this time, a priest (who seemed to be the only person inside the temple) noticed he had visitors and slowly made his way to the gate to let us all in.
He didn’t speak to us. Not sure if he didn’t speak English or if there was some other rule preventing him from talking. He simply ushered us in and flipped on the harsh fluorescent lights in the temple’s main chamber before wandering out of the room, leaving us alone in the main chamber with the taxi driver and passenger.
With no instructions as to whether or not we could take photos (we didn’t want to be gauche), we were a bit flummoxed, but the driver noticed and said to go ahead. Frankly, there wasn’t much to see. Somehow Junkii got some nice photos, but honestly, it really wasn’t a beautiful temple. We were a bit disappointed in Lonely Planet for even suggesting it, actually.
The priest returned, still silent, and offered us an orange and an apple (one piece of fruit each). We’ve never been offered food at a temple before, but took the fruit graciously, even though it meant juggling our cameras for the rest of our stay… which wasn’t much longer.
After taking a photo with the priest, we politely excused ourselves, but as we were leaving, the taxi driver gave us the impression that we weren’t welcome, asking, “Why are you here?” Maybe he was just curious about whether we were of the Hindu faith, but the way he worded his question made us feel judged. And when he followed up with “You shouldn’t have meat prior to arriving at the temple” we were confused, to say the least. Why had he assumed we ate meat? And why not question us BEFORE we entered?!
We were ready to take our leave.
Once out of earshot, we breathed a sigh of relief and started laughing uncontrollably at how surreal the whole affair had been. We passed a couple of construction workers sitting on the back of a van and offered them the fruit as we walked by, not wanting to hold onto that reminder of such a strange visit.
Even the photo we took with the priest looks awkward!
Closeups of the statues don’t tell the story of how bright and, frankly, ugly this temple was.
You will notice there are no wide shots of the temple, only photos of a few nice details.