india: journeys to the self.
Some people from the west, who came to India in search of spirituality, meditation and their interest in this millenary culture, tell which experiences were the most inspiring and what was their feeling when they visited this sacred land.
Although India is not a place to describe, but a place to "live", to feel, to experience... it it beautiful to read some of these testimonies with so many colors and emotions that surface when one is in touch with the energy of India and all it invisibly triggers in our emotions and senses.
I have observed that sometimes the tourists don't have access to the real depth of India - specially the ones going to Goa and Rishikesh where the real India is quite camouflaged, since these cities are somewhat commercially 'set up' for tourists and 'quick-Yoga-shoppers' so those who don't have a good source of genuine places can fall into some shallow options. Despite of this, below are some nice insights that allow to have an glimpse of what is felt visually and mentally, when people come in contact with the land of 33 million gods and goddesses.
I was immediately touched by the incredible spirit that can be felt in so many places in India. As a practitioner of Yoga, i regularly go to an ashram. which means "place of effort." My day begins at six in the morning with meditation on the beach. Then we sing mantras, do breathing and stretching exercises and meditate again - all day long. I love that, because i can get into a wonderful flow. These colors, the warmth, the friendly people - after just one day i could already feel a deep and lasting sense of calm.
In India, Yoga isn't merely a lifestyle phenomenon: it's also a part of every day life, just like brushing your teeth. The mental, spiritual and physical practice has such widespread influence that in 2016, UNESCO added it to the intangible cultural Heritage list. There is nowhere else in the world where body, mind and soul come together as seamlessly as they do here in India, the birthplace of Yoga. From my very first course in South India, i began developing a profound and life-changing sense of inner peace - one that i hope to take with me wherever i go.
Varanasi is one of the magical places i found in India. It's considered India's holiest city, which lies in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, is also known as the city of Shiva - one of the main Hindu deities - and serve as major pilgrimage site. Here, everything - really, everything - happens out on the street. People cook, sleep and die as the cows meander among them. Both the narrow alleyways and the major strips are clogged with chaotic traffic: honking tuk-tuks, bicycles, ox carts and cars. Several steps ahead lead down to the Ganges below, where you'll see women in colorful saris and men in their underclothes wading in the river. They bathe their bodies in the sacred waters, dip under the surface three times and pray, while a few meters further, the laundry washers are going about their everyday work. Other visitors are seated, deeply immersed in their meditation practices. And then, of course, there's the burning of the corpses: devout Hindus are convinced that those whose ashes are scattered here in the holy river have the greatest chance of attaining Moksha or salvation. In Varanasi, life is constantly in flux - in the truest sense of the word. It's bewildering, with a feeling that's utterly impossible to describe.
For me, the most inspiring experience was also Varanasi: namely, at the Ganga Aarti, the fire ritual that takes place every evening at the Ganges near the Kashi Vishwanath Temple It's and other-worldly amalgamation of bells, singing and music. During the ceremony, young scholars dressed in saffron-colored robes swing fire lamps and incense sticks in time with the music. They recite spiritual texts and spread fire out into the dark sky, all accompanied by the sounds of these small Indian cymbals that can be heard everywhere here. There's also the light and the smoke, which becomes denser and denser over the course of the ceremony. And then there are all the people standing on the shore or floating along the river in one of the countless wooden boats. It is impossible to capture the atmosphere on photo or video - you just have to experience it in person. It's unbelievably beautiful.