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Did you meet any pandas on the Way?


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In India, in Puri, Orissa, there are pilgrimage 'priests', called 'pandas', whose job it is to look after pilgrims on their stay; to fix them up with board and lodging, make sure they know all they need to know about local holy sites, and to offer prayers for them in the temple. It's a job reserved for Brahmins of course.

In return, pilgrims are expected to leave a generous tip. This system of 'bidagi' is claimed to bring good karma for the next life. Surprise, surprise.

Each area is divided up into territories, with rich pickings for the pandas. They also indulge in drinking bhangas, a sugar and milk preparation containing ground cannabis leaves. Or, they spend the day wrestling in Puri's old gymnasiums. Ho hum.

Nice work if you can get it - and let's all be be thankful that the European tradition of hospitalero is much more benign! No tips, no bhang, no wrestling. :D

Buen camino!
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