Dr. Lokesh Chandra, a religious scholar and former member of Parliament, said: "In Hinduism the divine and the satanic are not distinguished. Everything, both good and evil, emanates from the supreme. Individuals have an element of both. Life goes on in the gray area between the two."
The Tantric ritual uses five offerings to please the gods--ritual sex, wine, meat, fish and certain finger gestures, all of which are forbidden in other forms of Hinduism.
In the case of Bhairon it is \o7 madya\f7 --wine or its more potent cousin, whiskey--that devotees think is the best way to win the god's grace.
Substitute for Psychiatry
"Bhairon is the ferocious aspect of the divine," said Chandra. "He is pleased only with things that are not normal--human blood, whiskey and so on. When in India you have a very serious problem, the solution lies outside the ordinary. So if your child is very ill you might go to Bhairon and say 'You have the experience of all the terrible calamities so take me out of mine.' It is a replacement for going to the psychiatrist. Nearly every politician goes to a Tantric ritual."
Chandra, who is also an expert on Chinese religious thought, said that the Tantric use of alcohol in ritual is not unique to Hinduism: "It is integral to practically every religious system. To me, Holy Communion is very much a Tantric rite."
Sri Mahant 108, meanwhile, would prefer that fewer devotees honor the god with whiskey and more with money or other traditional \o7 prasads, \f7 or offerings, such as flowers or coconut. For one thing, he said in a recent interview at the temple, he is suspicious of the motives of some of the worshipers.
"They offer a little to the gods and then they take the rest home to drink themselves. At home, people cannot object because it is a blessed offering."
The priest, 45, a gray-haired man with an enormous belly and betel-stained teeth, said one Indian man, now living in Sweden, visits the temple every year with 10 to 15 cases of whiskey.
Sri Mahant 108 said that he would rather have money.
"Only money pays the electric bill," he said.