On the carnival-lit street leading to Asramam Temple, a flurry of activity was underway. Animated twinkle-light figures of trunk-faced Ganesh, Popeye, and a tableau of an elephant playing cricket with a monkey loomed overhead as devotees filled brass lamps with coconut oil and prepared offerings for Lord Krishna’s arrival. It was already past ten, and in the dark a storm boiled in the distance. The large, paint-washed banyan tree hung over a similarly large and weathered bull elephant. This creature was crowned with an ornate headdress-repository for the god’s essence. Tonight Krishna-as-elephant returned from a symbolic hunt to fastidiously prepared offerings from his subjects.
Heavy terra-cotta fireworks crafted by the townspeople tore the air, pelting our bodies with deep, thudding pressure. An onlooker explained to me that the explosions suggested the clash of Lord Krishna with animals on his hunt. The booming stopped, and Krishna, flanked on each side by smaller elephants, slowly made his triumphant return to the temple gate. Brahmins filled heaping bins of offerings for tomorrow’s feast: rice, coconut, bananas, jaggery and sugarcane, with each handful presented to the tusked Krishna for approval.