Up Close and Spiritual

Christopher Wise

Chief Priest Ravinatha and Nancy

A California woman running from her birthday meets the chief priest of a shrine in Malaysia.

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"I'm celebrating my 40th birthday in Malaysia. When in Kuala Lumpur, I'm going to the Blue Mosque and the Batu Caves, as I find religious architecture fascinating. Oh yes, and I do plan on shopping until I drop. It is my 40th birthday, after all!" Nancy Faiman, Redondo Beach, Calif.

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Every year, as her birthday approaches, Nancy Faiman plans a trip abroad. "I hate the big 'kapow' birthday celebration--that's why I leave the country," she says with a laugh. In past years, Nancy has gone to Thailand, Singapore, Spain, and Indonesia; in each place, she explored temples and churches. "I love how ornate and detailed the decorations and carvings are," she says. While anyone can visit the Batu Caves--a series of temples near Kuala Lumpur, and one of the most important Hindu shrines outside of India--you need connections to meet with the shrine's chief priest, Sivasri Ravinatha Gurukkal. "It was incredible!" reports Nancy. "I learned that he's from India and his family is still in Chennai. I grilled the poor guy about Hinduism." Ravinatha demonstrated the Hindu prayer process by taking Nancy's offerings to the altar of the god Ganesh and returning to place a bindi, or red mark, on her forehead as a confirmation that her prayers had been received. "It's always good to have someone pray for you, and for your health and wealth!" says Nancy. Next year's birthday destination: Vietnam.

Many thanks to...
The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, which has information about the country's cultural destinations on its website, tourismmalaysiausa.com.


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