Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Looking back at my travels, I've done close to 3,000 blogs and this effort was disjointed and irregular. I've missed events, lost or misplaced pictures and today I'm laughing about it. I thought I'd blog pictures that I didn't fit into any narrative, like the Bengal tigers, snatched from the film we saw. Aren't they magnificent animals?
We learned a lot about the Hindu Gods. The great Mahatma Gandhi was much admired, But I never mentioned his seven dangers to Human Virtue:
Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Business without ethics, Science without humanity; Religion without sacrifice and Politics without principle.
They resonate with me.
We learned a lot about weddings; the groom rides a white horse, an elephant or a black horse. What about people who don't have a horse? This groom can afford to hire a horse and carriage and decorate it. But, I never found out how even poorer people get married? Maybe next time.
And wouldn't you just once like to ride free and unfettered on top of a car or truck? As a farm girl growing up, I had that experience. And many times rode in the back of a pick-up. In California even your dog can't ride untied in the back of a pick-up.
OAT is such a great company to travel with because of the great off-itinerary items included in the experience. Though my cricket lesson was canceled, one of the employees posed with his cricket racket for me. A cricket serve and return is like a baseball pitch. You can't see it unless it is coming at you at 112 miles per hour. I missed the lesson, but enjoyed the match.
And I have to wonder, will I ever enter a bus with a crowd of people waiting to get on, and look for a vendor holding belly dancing beads or some other fascinating item you can buy nowhere else?
I'm an art nut and an artist. I took pictures of art everywhere.
Art isn't only about paintings, prints, sculpture and fabric wall hangings. What about this doorway in the Palace Hotel?
And this carved door into Agra Marble Company.
Bronze carvings on the hip of a hippo at Chandela.
And a foot rest on the end of our bed at our last hotel. Some flights were early. Others were late in the night. We got to enjoy a professional sari fitting. A yoga class designed to remove tensions and let go of all cares. I marked down every posture he taught us. I learned to breathe out loud. Ahmmm. Ooohhh. Mmmmm.
The gift shop had an interesting assortment of things.
These shoes have tread miles of India. A country I'd recommend for its wonderful traditions; its diverse and colorful people. People here are warm and giving; they speak 607,000 languages. It is hard for me to imagine. My nearby town of Stockton has 22 ethnicities, which means great food.
At the airport in Dehli I saw something I'd never seen before. A smoking lounge. Paid for by Camel cigarettes my guess.
Even a decorated camel is art. Those of you who know me, know I have to get my art "fix". And, I did.
Alaviha. I'll let you guess which of the thousands of languages it is. It means, goodbye.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Long lines awaited our little group of 16 as we came to see a Buddhist ruin.
The Dharmarajika Stupa dominates the scene. Stupas were built to hold relics of Lord Buddha. King Ashoke The Great built it in the 3rd century B.C., one of seven. This is the only one to survive.
Inside the stupa, a green marble casket was found. Inside of it was a stone box. No one knows what the box held, but it is now in a Calcutta Museum. The casket was thrown in the River Ganges.
Layers of brick were laid over the old brick to enlarge the stupa. A set of stairs was built from four directions, meeting at the top so the guardians could climb up and enter the stupa. The stair structure was torn down by order of King Banaras in 1794 A.D. to use as building materials.
In time, the same fate applied to the rest of the buildings on the site.
Today, a wide path around the stupa is used by the faithful to walk around clockwise, then counterclockwise. They still place flowers near or on the stupa. Signs encourage them not to place flowers, but they persist. Hugo and Kris made friends with a charming little boy on their walk around the stupa.
Archeologists dug up the ruins and discovered beautiful carvings on the faces of some of the brick work.
Buddha is carved in the circle on the right.
These little beauties survived in decent shape for over 2,000 years. Pretty amazing.
Before visiting the Stupa, we spent two hours at Museum Sarnath where artifacts from the stupa site are housed, along with a photo section showing some of archeology work and a history of Buddha. The beautiful and very special Buddha housed here has disappeared from my photo album. Due to human error. Human, that's me, I'm sad to say. Who can understand electronics? That's my excuse.
We packed into electric rickshaws and headed for the River Ganges to watch the ceremony at sunset. As you can see the streets are crowded.
The rickshaws are also limited in how close they can get to the river. Our guide, takes us through a short cut, that I mistakenly blogged as happening on yesterday's trip to the river.
The short cut was a crush. You could hardly take a picture for being jostled.
Street cooks were making dinner.
A be sure to miss event for such as we.
We again load into boats. This beautiful tourist boat sits high above the water, but it was not for us.
As the sun went down, we could see the fires on shore. I couldn't see my camera settings well enough to set it for flash. Flash can only reach about 20 feet or less, but it would have helped.
Our guide explains the candles tradition. You send them off with a prayer for yourself, or a loved one who has died.
We silently make our prayer.
Then set them afloat in the sacred water.
A beautiful view from our boat.
As we get closer to shore, we can see the priests and people celebrating in what is their special ritual.
As we climb the stairs on our way out, we find other tourists like us taking pictures of the crowd. The priests, with the help of their apprentices, offer prayers, light the candles with flowers then ring great bells. Someone from our group once commented, "...its their religion, kind of a shame that this has become a tourist attraction."
But, as Ranvir told us, this goes on every day, every night. 365 days a year. It is a never-ending ritual, celebrating dying. With the hope to be reincarnated on a higher plain, a new life.
Friday, March 31, 2017
Varanasi again. This may be overload, but I will only be here once and the culture fascinates me. At the river, we continued watching the bathers. Some soap up, others swim.
There are no rules. If this were the U.S., guards would be making you stand your turn in-line and directing you to go this way or that and keeping order.
Thousands of people on this river every day, bathing, and burning and depositing ashes. The government has to dredge ashes and move them out to sea.
Before we leave the boats, we pass the laundry. All that bathing, towels, and a change of clothes.
Untouchables do laundry. Our guide tells us the great fault of their religion is the caste system that designates children born of untouchable parents cannot change their lot. (An excellent book about the fate of an untouchable woman is, "The Space Between Us", by Thrity Umrigar.
On shore, people are setting up for business. In back, on the steps, people eating breakfast.
Long and steep stairs are covered with water during monsoon up to where the railing ends. Cremations move up with the river.
On shore, I see cell phones in use everywhere. In my hometown, in the grand USA, I do not get a dependable signal for a cell phone. I use it from my car when I travel.
A girl hides in the corner, her crippled feet wrapped in rags. A women gives her food. My entire time in India, I never heard a word spoken in anger.
Among the priests, there is no uniform clothing.
And if someone casually sits on your ghat to rest, no one seems to mind.
The priests have various markings on their foreheads, what they stand for I don't know.
Two makeshift barbershops. They shave their heads to honor a loved or maybe to be part of a cremation ceremony.
Those anointed have horizontal or vertical marks. Our guide tells us they indicate something about the person, maybe cast, or what sect they belong to?
A simple gesture, its meaning clear; but there was no hostility or anger because I aimed my camera at him.
The cobra handler's eyes mesmerize, intense.
The musical instrument he plays looks more like a pop gun, but the snake is flared.
Instruments are rudimentary, home-made and for sale. Interesting shapes. They didn't wake up his well fed dogs.
When we arrived in the cold, early morning, this bull was asleep on the steps. Someone anointed him.
We walk back to the bus. Ranvir points out the pilgrims headed for the river are barefoot.
This group of women were laughing and giggling.
I asked what was so funny. It seems one of them had broken her shoe.
Breakfast or lunch is ready.
Hefting their wares closer to the river for sale.
A young father with his son. We reach the parking area and load into the bus.
On the way home, Ranvir asks the bus to slow down so we can see a typical laundry. The main necessity, a steady source of water.
After lunch, some visit a silk rug shop. I was hoping the first rug shop would show the entire process. The removal of the silk worm larvae, winding the fibers, dying the fibers and then weaving rugs. I've seen it before, but Theo has been sleeping a lot and chose to stay in his room.
The bus took us for an afternoon visit to a Buddhist Museum. That next.