Incredible India Hardiwar and Rishikesh

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Rishakesh And Haridwar

At the foot of the Himalayas lies two holy towns which sit along the Ganges about 30 km away from each other. Hardiwar is not the cleanest city I have ever seen but the many people, cows and monkeys make up for its ‘less than kind’ features. There are many holy places along the Ganges River. There are holy men everywhere due to the prominence of Hindu temples with their many stories. There are 33 million Gods in the Hindu culture so there is a lot of worshipping going on at any given time.

Our Hardiwar and Rishikesh guide, Alok, was proud to give us the top tips of Hindu religion in a simple way. Of course, the main three or Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. As it has been explained, G O D is the acronym for Generator, Operator and Destroyer. In the Hindu religion, Brahma is the generator and creator. Vishnu is the operator and protector. And Shiva, the destroyer and transformer. As one walks through the town, dodging scooter and pigs, there are little pujas and statues throughout.

A bit further North is Rishakesh, another very holy city. It is cold and rainy on the day we arrive. The Ganges snakes along the mountain valley like a serpent of servitude. This river is a reminder of the strength of India’s cultural connection to renewal. Throughout its history, and all the strife, discomfort, war and poverty, is always a sense of hope. There always seems to be that feeling that this too shall pass.

Rishakesh is famous for two bridges to cross the river in significant spots. Laxshman Jhula and Ram Jhula both provide passage to the North side of the river. The most amazing experience there was the Aarti Ceremony right on the foot of the Ganges. The rain stopped and the skies opened to a beautiful sunset. People gathered around next to the Ganga and a large flock of young boys dressed in their saffron and maroon clothing flanking the holy fire. It was simply beautiful. The singing was something I have never experienced. I think the Hindi spoken ceremony was basically about honouring the experience of ‘life’ and ‘light’ that is within. The feeling that overcame me was surreal. The mood was one of release and an uplifting of spirits. And the young boys seemed entranced with such passion as they sang along with the holy man overseeing the service. It was truly moving.

As we left Rishakesh, dodging cows, pigs and scooters along the small streets, I could feel a shift inside. It will be a moment I will fondly remember. No matter what occurs, It is as it should be.

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Delirious in Delhi

Delirious in Delhi? Delirious doesn’t even begin to describe it. We’re already leaving and I feel a pang of withdrawal from the organized chaos of honking cars, shouting people, and seamless workability of a system that’s been around for thousands of generations. It’s 6:45am and we’re on the train heading from Delhi to Haridwar and Rishikesh. The trains are really a great way to get around. And with a second class fare you get the comforts of a nice seat, and tea. It’s a chilly morning but nothing like the Canadian frigid air. Though all the Indians are wrapped in their head scarves and pashminas as if it was the Arctic. It’s an experience to see Delhi via train. Seeing everything from drying cow patties used to burn for heat, and plops of the ‘morning constitution’ being witnessed, to all the goings on of a new morning day. Workers on their bikes or scooters or cars, leaving for work. And the green countryside mixed with small collections of towns or shanty places along the way is part of the experience.

Delhi! Incredible and difficult to describe! I already look forward to coming back. The sites, sounds, smiles, scents and sensory shock is exactly what the Doctor ordered. It’s beautiful and special here. And though my blonde hair on a tall frame makes me the ideal target for hawkers and such, I find everyone really respectful in their way. They see me, and attempt to get my attention, and why wouldn’t they? So it’s by nature of survival that I would be pushed, prodded and cajoled to hand over some rupis. Nodda problem.

The shopping bazaars seem to be some of my favourite experiences. Thanks to our life saver, Baeni, our driver, we fought our ways through the traffic and honking horns to Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi. Wildly chaotic and insane shopping area that is made up of winding wee passages linking one bazaar specialty area to another. You can buy anything there from silver to saris, spices to shoes. It is near the Red Fort which is a major historical site but for my tastes it’s the shopping areas that provide the sense of any city.

Chandi Chowk was bizarre, crazy, and full of people all hawking. Buying, betting and selling. The passageways are so small that in,y a bicycle rickshaw could fit dodging the walkers, hawkers and stalkers. Any wall nearby seems to be the local pee zone and any small crevasse one viewed, Was filled with people! And the strange thing about it, is that it works. Amongst the chaos, it works. And, everyone, old or young, has a cel phone. It’s a lifeline as important here as it is to us in North America. It’s been an incredibly fulfilling experience thus far. Delhi is a cacophony of all things imaginable. I know I have only just scratched the surface of this place. And this is just the beginning. Next stop Haridwar and Rishikesh.

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India Calling!

India Calling! Its not your standard hang out at an Ashram and cleanse from the karma that bites you in the ass trip.  It is more of an Indian Buffet of all things wild, weird and wonderful about India.  As I’ve never been, everything and anything about it will be wickedly gob-smacking!  Two weeks in the North, the Taj – OMG factor; Jaipur – Pink City Retail Therapy;  Pushkar– Get to know your camel toe (on a real camel) and Varanasi – the cultural slap of the Ganges Ghats ; and then two weeks in the South, backwater cruising in the Kerala District; Ayurvedic de-tox sensations; and the final Hippie fest in Goa.  The great thing about travelling in places so foreign is that its like a cold splash in the face on a humid, hot day. It’s a shock to the system and ideally sets you on a new refreshing course.  Travelling has always been my way of ‘system shock’! And, it works!

So, friends, this will be an opportunity for me to share with you some of the wilds of the tastes, smells, sights, and intuitions – both the gross and the glorious!  It will be INDIA in all its glory, on my terms and from my perspective! I hope you enjoy!

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