Jeff and Deb’s India Trip

 

After each description, there is a link to the first picture of the series corresponding to the narrative. You can click "next picture" through each series.

The intrepid explorers. gD-Taj_Majal005.JPG (single picture only)

After a long flight through Amsterdam, we arrived in Mumbai (also known as Bombay). This is a large teeming city. The first amazing thing that we did was to take a boat to Elephanta. This is on an island and is a Hindu site. The rock was sculpted out leaving large likenesses of various deities. Unfortunately, when the Portuguese were leasing the harbor, they used the caves for target practice. This degraded many of the shrines. a1d-Elephanta01.JPG

We then went on a tour of the Jain Temple. The Jains are a separate religion (of which there are many in India). They have there own saints and creed. They must have been quite powerful ate one time as the enormous rock temples at Ellora are Jain. a2d-Mumbai-Jain_Temple01.JPG, (cD-Ellora001.JPG)

In the harbor is the famous India Gate monument. One can also see the Taj Majal Hotel from the water. a3d-Mumbai01.JPG

In Mumbai, if you are not at a high class hotel, you have your laundry done at the central laundry. You hire an agent who brings it to one of the washers and then picks it up and returns it to you. This seems somewhat miraculous. aD-Mumbai-Laundry001.JPG

After a whirlwind tour of Shirdi, the site of Sai Baba’s tomb, we went to Arangabad. This was in a different state and was drier. There was also a higher proportion of Muslims. While we were there, we went to the Ajanta Rock Temples. These were lost for hundreds of years. They were found by the English during their occupation when they wondered where the tigers that they were hunting disappeared. They looked through the jungle and this is what they found. This is a Buddhist site. There are some unfinished parts, which show how they started with a solid rock, hollowed it out, and sculpted out pillars and figures, etc. In addition, the insides were all frescoed. bJ-Ajanta 49.JPG (single) Unfortunately, most of this has succumbed to moisture and weather. If one wished, one could have four big guys carry you in a chair. This was also the site of the most incredibly tenacious and persistent hawkers in India. bJ-Ajanta 58.JPG On the way, we saw gypsies with their painted oxen. bD-Ajanta001.JPG

Also in the area is Ellora. These are also rock temples. The central edifice called the Chariot is the largest structure in the world carved out of a single rock. This is a Jain complex. The figures that look like the Buddha are the Mahadeva. There are subtle iconographic differences. This entire huge complex was also frescoed. cJ-Ellora30.JPG (single) One can only imagine the glorious colors from the remaining fragments. cD-Ellora001.JPG

We also visited a Shiva temple near Ellora. This is one of a few shrines in India where the lingam (phallic manifestation of Shiva) spontaneously arose from the ground. As in most of the "in use" sacred places, we could not take pictures inside. cJ-Shiva 01.JPG

From Arangabad, we went to Jaipur. This is the area where the Moghuls occupied the land. These were fierce horsemen and the places look like something out of The Arabian Nights. Here we saw the "Palace of the Winds", a multi-storied red rock building, an observatory, and the camel in the gas station. Jaipur is also the world center for gems. They also have many carpets. dD-Jaipur001.JPG

Outside of Jaipur is the Amber Fort. eD-Amber_Fort000.JPG (single) Just below this is the palace. We rode elephants up to the palace. There is a harem and the women would look out through beautifully cut rock screens so that they would not be visible to the view of men other than the ruler. There were beautiful mosaic works and stained glass. eD-Amber_Fort001.JPG

After Jaipur we stopped at anther Moghul palace on the way to the Taj Majal. fD-Moghul_Palace001.JPG

The Taj Majal was built by a ruler as a memorial to his deceased wife. It is a beautiful, romantic tomb. After he built it, his son overthrew him and imprisoned him for many years. At least he could look at it until he died and joined his wife. There are verses from the Koran inscribed around the main entrance. There is also a mosque in the complex. gD-Taj_Majal001.JPG

We then flew to Varanasi, the oldest and holiest city ion India. It is also known as Benares. We were there during the holiday of Navaratri. This is a festival for Shiva, although there was a lot of activity in the Durgha centers. It was unbelievably crowded, and the traffic was the worst we saw. There would be bicycle rickshaws, motorcycle rickshaws, (tuk-tuks), cars, buses, and trucks. They would all weave in and out, smaller giving way to larger. The central line to separate the two different directions was, as Hamlet said, "honored more in the breach than in the observance." About half the time, you would be going head on toward another vehicle (usually bigger), before someone yielded right of way at the last second. h1D-Varanasi01.JPG

While we were in Varanasi, we visited a school supported by the Open Ear Foundation, one of the trip leader’s projects. This school educates members of the "untouchable" caste who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get an education. The woman in the pictures is weaving baskets for us as thanks for donations. Her adorable child has kohl under is eyes to make him unattractive so that no one jealously casts the evil eye on him. h3D-Varanasi-Scl02.JPG

Also near Varanasi is Saranath where Buddha gave his first lecture. Deer Park houses the ruins and is a sanctuary for the small deer. The brick structure is a Stupa which is solid and houses some relics of Buddha. There are ruins of a large temple and many meditation platforms where the disciples would seek enlightenment. The interior shot with the gold statue is actually a Jain temple at the site. The building with the prayer wheels outside, and the paintings inside is a small and beautiful Buddhist temple a few blocks from Deer Park. iD-Saranath-01.JPG

One of the foci of the trip was sound healing. Outside of Varanasi, in a small village, lives Babaji, an indigenous sound healer. He is divinely inspired and his clients/patients have a choice of a Hindu or Muslim shrine to be treated at. We spent a morning with him while he did healings on villagers and members of our group. kD-Var-Babaji01.JPG

The heart of Varanasi is the sacred Ganges River. All along the Ganges are piers or Ghats. These are where pilgrims can bathe in the sacred waters. In addition, there are burning ghats where bodies are cremated. If one is lucky and rich enough to be cremated on the Ganges, one can break the cycle of Karma. Each of the Governors of the states of India has a residence/ghat on the Ganges. The center of town is at the Main Ghat. lD-Varanasi-Main_Ghat001.JPG

While we were there, we were lucky enough to spend some time with Babu, the main Kali and Gunga (Ganges deity) priest of the city. His temple and residence are at the Main Ghat. He invited us to watch him lead an Arti (enlivening with fire ceremony) to Gunga. He also let us watch from his boat. During the ceremony, we went out onto the Ganges and floated ritual candles on the water. After the ceremony, he graciously had his boat ferry us to our next destination. It felt kind of like using Pharaoh’s barge for a water taxi. jD-Var-Babu-Arti01.JPG

After Varanasi, we flew to Delhi arriving about 5 p.m. We had dinner and left at 10pm for Amsterdam. We flew through the night and arrived at 6 a.m. We left at 2 p.m. and flew about 12 hours to Seattle where we arrived at about 2 p.m. Our biological clocks were slightly askew on arrival.

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff and Deb's India Trip

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