I step from the busy street into a silent, secret world. Kataragama Devale. Here there are no scary monkeys, no dogs, no people except a Brahmin priest slipping out from behind a curtain. From the entrance courtyard I tiptoe barefoot further and further back. There are niches and small rooms with wooden gates you can look through but not enter to see unfamiliar gods. There is a room full of ligam, phallic and primitive, the elephant-headed god Ganesh, and then in the midst of this Hindu world is the Buddha. As I continue my perambulation a thin old man appears and asks if he can explain anything, but I decline his offer. Back in the entrance the temple stallholder speaks no English. His friend translates and I buy two bead necklaces for a few pence. These are thin and fragile, not Buddha prayer beads. I don’t know their purpose, maybe they are offerings to be hung on the gods, but I want one as a keepsake. I wrap it around my wrist and for several days it still smells of temple incense. I am reluctant to put on my shoes and re-enter the real world.

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