Julia Roberts angers villagers in India during a Hindu holiday

When Julia Roberts and her film crew took over a temple in Pataudi, a small town south of New Delhi, India last week, the locals weren’t too happy about it. Perhaps if the timing of the temple’s film shoot for “Eat, Pray, Love” had been better planned there wouldn’t have been an issue.

Instead, it seems that the folks who scouted out the temple as a location didn’t do their homework about when taking over the temple would be less problematic for the people who use the temple for it’s original purpose–praying and worship. Navaratri, an important nine-day religious festival was happening at the same time of the filming of Robert’s latest project.

This snafu created a mess of bad feelings.

Coinciding with the beginning of autumn, Navaratri’s purpose is for people to worship manifestations of the Divine Mother. It’s one of the most important Hindu holidays. Because Julia and her gang had taken the temple over, no one was allowed in, thus the villagers weren’t able to worship there–something they’ve done every Navaratri, I’m sure, ever since the temple was built.

Navaratri is centered on three Hindu goddesses: Durga, the warrior goddess; Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity; and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. If they had been able to access the temple, the villagers would have been offering prayers for the protection of health and prosperity.

Ironically, it seems as if Roberts has been able to access the power of two of those goddesses–Durga and Lakshmi just fine which possibly has led the villagers to wonder if she is making a movie that ought to be called “Eat, Pray, Love–but Not Here.”

The goddess that Robert’s and gang should have spent a little more time accessing is Saraswati. Knowledge about a culture goes a long way when traversing holy ground.

Hopefully, Roberts and the producers have figured out some way to make amends. At the time of this BBC article, the people in charge of filming weren’t talking about the issue. The villagers certainly were.

Yesterday, Navaratri ended with Dussera which celebrates the victory of good over evil and the motherhood of God.

In case any location folks want to film in a Hindu temple, here’s a link to the BBC resource, “Religion and Ethics tools.” It tells when the Hindu holidays will occur through 2013.

Mongolia Emerges as a Tourist Location

Some time ago, when I still
lived in the United States, I remember watching a PBS special with my husband, one featuring the actress Julia Roberts.  Roberts had traveled
to Mongolia to live with a nomadic family to learn more about their relationships with the wild horses native to the
land.  I remember thinking how brave it was for a celebrity, who was no doubt used to a life of a luxury, to leave
her comfort zone to live with a family who, while warm and welcoming, didn’t speak a word of English.  She spent
several weeks with them in their transportable home, or ger, with no heating or running water or any other
creature comforts we in the West take for granted.  She was wonderfully graceful, and it was fantastically
educational.  And I remember being completely mesmerized by the scenes of Mongolia.

I couldn’t help
thinking of this special as I read this
article in Conde Nast Traveler
, which talks about the future of Mongolia, now that it is no longer a ward of the
Soviet Union.  Author Jim Robbins tells of his travels in the wild country, in which traveling "requires a
Zenlike patience."  And yet, his words are equally mesmerizing:

It is a strange and strangely
beautiful place, at once oddly familiar and utterly foreign. On the one hand, it looks strikingly like the
nineteenth-century American West, inhabited by a race of horse-riding nomads who look and live very much as Native
Americans once did. Yet the round tents, diminutive horses, exotic attire, and trees straight out of Dr. Seuss lend it
an otherworldly air.

Definitely worth a read.