This was a holy occasion, and thus, a shoeless affair.
I don't know what this pole's purpose is, but it's new. At the end of the ceremony, a priest came out and put things on its base, but by the time I got up to it, all I saw was a small bowl with a bit of water. People were dipping their fingers in it and dabbing their foreheads and throats.
There are seven of these golden spikes; they're new, too, and according to a priest we flagged down, they draw divine energy into the temple.
This lady is holding a kumbha (vessel), that's wrapped with thread. A group of people (who I believe paid for the privilege) were allowed to take the vessels, which were partially filled with holy water, and pour their contents on the main altar. This is known as abhishekam, or sprinkling, and it can also be done with milk, ghee, oil or milk curds. The garlands on the door behind her are made of fresh flowers.
The only place in St. Louis I've ever been able to lose my husband in a crowd.
And then the helicopter appeared, carrying one of the temple's priests. He was flown around the various parts of the temple so he could sprinkle holy water and rice on the building. Ordinarily, this is achieved with ladders and internal staircases, but the fire codes prevent this.
Then he did the same to the crowd in front of the temple; it was windy and gritty and joyous.