The journey to Haridwar didn’t particularly start on a high note, what with having a man touch my breast and put his hands on my thighs whilst I was sleeping on the bus. That wasn’t the precedent for the rest of the trip though. As soon as I arrived I could tell I was in good hands. Nikhill hooked me up with one of his dear friends, a very spiritual man, who’s an astrologer. He’s quiet, kind and a perfect host. He owns one of the best hotels here, which is actually listed in the Lonely Planet and is kindly allowing me to stay for free. These people seriously want to spoil me, I’m having to literally fight to the counter to even pay for food. As soon as I’m half way through a dish, they’re ordering me a new one, it’s as if pleasing me is a life or death situation for them, the latter being if they failed! I could seriously get used to this.
Vivek has shown me around some of the ashrams, one of which he owns, some obscure temples (see pictures) and the famous Ganga Aarti. I’m being entertained non stop. The little time I’ve
been able to spend by myself I’ve spent it sat on the river of the Ganges behind one of the ashrams. Of course, in a town that sees not as much tourism as others in India, I am going to attract a lot of attention, immediately. Especially by children. They didn’t stop swarming around me for at least an hour, all desperately wanting to know my name and shake my hand as if it was going to bring them good luck. Hearing the questions they were posing to me in English, such as ‘what is your favourite flower’ and ‘what is your mothers name’ took me racing back to the days of school where I learnt French, and learnt the same seemingly useless phrases such as these. Maybe they wouldn’t have been so useless after all, well, if I was still 10 years old and didn’t mind asking rather odd questions. This just added to the children’s charm though. They even invited me to play badminton with them, such adorable kids. It’s funny the translations they learn, they kept saying I had a smart name, smart eyes, smart smile…. I was a little confused to begin with, until I realised
Giving my offering to Mother Ganga
A whole 20 rupees worth! She better appreciate it...
this is what they must think means beautiful. As I was walking away, every two steps I’d have to turn around to return the streams of goodbyes and waves they were hurling at me. The children here are yet another reason why I’m falling in love with this country again. Why is it that children, no matter where they’re from, have this amazing ability to touch our hearts?
This was followed by a visit to the Ganga Aarti, which was one of the things I was most excited about seeing here, and it definitely lived up to my expectations… lots of noise, lots of people, a great atmosphere. This is a ceremony that happens every day at the river side where people come and give an offering to Mother Ganga, by placing a basket of flowers and lit candles into the river and watch it float away. I myself gave an offering too, it was a beautiful experience, to be part of something so big, sharing it with so many people. There must have been at least a few thousand there, all crammed at the river side. It was beautiful.
Today we took a road trip through the
Jibibi national park, escaping the heat and noise of the city. Even just to drive through was a nice break. I don’t know why, but I’d got it in my head that Haridwar was comparable to Nainital in its climate, but my god I was completely wrong. A power cut caused my air con to switch off for a few hours last night…. I was literally melting away. It’s not quite the oppressive heat of Delhi, but definitely not far off. Whilst driving through the park we spotted one of the governments baby elephants, tied up I might add, and alone. I don’t know why it upsets me so much to see, but the sight of an animal alone and without freedom to move gets to me. He’s probably well fed and was in the shade, but somehow it just seems so wrong to me.
My mood was uplifted though when we visited one of the most bizarre temples I have ever seen. It was set out like a cave, low walls, narrow corridors and displays of religious acts… I think, either side behind glass as you worked your way around. There were displays of cows with wings and
Shiva’s head….a certain god ripping his chest open to reveal two people inside….. A man instructing a woman to cut off her index finger…. Quite bizarre. I couldn’t take photos inside as I’m a cheapskate and didn’t want to pay the camera fee, but I took pictures of the outside, which was equally as dramatic and theatrical!
Tonight Vivek and I went to visit his uncle, who is an extremely spiritual and respected man in Haridwar. I don't really know what to make of the experience, what with being told that I must talk to my soul and having my soul healed using small brass pyramids. Although I'm on a journey to experience everything, I'm not sure if I could take it as far as believing in healing using pyramids. All the same, it was interesting to be in the presence of someone of a high spiritual stature in India and I look forward to my astrological reading tomorrow with Vivek....
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