For a wandering mind and soul which have always been aching with the fever of curiosity and liberty; traveling is the only antidote. With a body beaten by a 17-hours flight from Cairo to the very exotic lands of India, I still made sure to share my enticing journey with you. India is one of the most culturally rich countries in the world. Ranging from more than 6 religions and 13 official languages, to distinctly different cultural practices in every state of the country, India is definitely an intense medley of spiritual, cultural and universal experience.
Let’s break the stereotype.
The backpacks of stereotyping, always heavy on a foreigner’s shoulder, came tumbling down as soon as I stepped out of Indira Gandhi International Airport. Unlike what everyone has in mind, no pungent smells or stenches were to be detected anywhere in country (even the metro stations), cleanliness and hygiene is considerably good, and most importantly there were no Bollywood stars dancing on every pavement there is(although I’m still somehow disappointed by that). However, if you don’t like spicy food, then you’ll suffer greatly in India. Rumor has it, India being a culture based on spices, Indians absolutely love to spice up every meal they have; they even went as far as adding spices to fruits and shakes. Indians also get credit for the variety of street food they offer which is very affordable; your taste buds and wallet will equally love it.
It merely takes a heartbeat to lose your breath and get in tempo with Delhi’s busy streets, bustling venues, crazy tuk-tuks and heart wrenching beautiful monuments. Being a person who values beliefs, my personal favorite spot in Delhi was “The Lotus temple”. The Lotus temple is a Bahai temple with wide marbled facade shaped beautifully to resemble the lotus flower. The one sole aim of this temple, which is based on the Bahá’í faith, is to unite all people who seek spiritual belonging and tranquility regardless of their religion, gender or ethnicity. Seated on the cold marbled benches, different waves of prayers resonated with my whispers of verses I knew by heart; creating a beautifully orchestrated symphony of sacred pleas for forgiveness and cleansing, dispersed for different gods, but none less valid than the other.
You can never go wrong with going all touristy for the sake of a couple of good instagram photos. So when talking about tourism and India, Taj Mahal immediately pops in mind. Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in the city of Agra, overlooking the south bank of the beautiful Yamuna river. As soon as I took off my shoes since it’s a must in all sacred places, my barefoot touched the marble floor and my eyes were laid upon the magnificent scenery, a sense of awe washed over me. Being face to face with one of the world’s wonders makes you feel invincible, and Taj Mahal made me feel like I owned the world. The entrance of the mausoleum is adorned with majestic verses of the Quran, which gave the place an aura of serenity. Shah Jahan’s, the commissioner of the Taj Mahal, love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal was the only thing which drove him to build this great wonder. It truly makes you wonder what a human being is capable of under the name of love. Apparently Indians are capable of plenty.
Jaipur the pink city. Despite the fact that its buildings and streets are not very pink, rather a hue of orange, Jaipur is one of the greatest states in Rajasthan if you aim for rich history of royalty, epic battles and great castles. While great fortresses would take you back to magnificent stories of national commemorated heroes, you can casually find an elephant walking with trunk held high just beside you. Painted with vibrant hues of colors, elephant riding is a main attraction in Jaipur.
Udaipur, the Venice of India. If you have a taste for romantic settings and got a sweet spot for watching a sunset by glorious lakes, then Udaipur is the perfect city for you. After a long time spent in Delhi’s overwhelming buzz, I longed for breath of fresh air. Udaipur was my perfect gateway. Being greeted by a Bollywood photo shoot in the hostel I was staying in, was enough to make me look forward to my little trip; and I wasn’t disappointed. Being a state set around several lakes, the view from literally any place is always a sight. A boat trip went perfectly along Udaipur’s gentle sun and hospitable people.
Any Indian experience wouldn’t be complete without witnessing a wedding, and I’m a person who would always make sure to go full force. So my trip to Chandigarh, a city renowned for the wealth of its people and European- like outlook, was to attend a wedding. Yes indeed, a very well authentic Indian wedding. Usually, a typical Indian wedding lasts for three days: first being a day for a priest to perform a religious ritual, second is for mehndi which is very similar to Egyptians Henna night, and third is for the actual ceremony where the reception and cocktail hour takes place. Typically distant friends and acquaintances are invited for the third night. Rituals started from the very early morning in the groom’s house, and ended at midnight in the celebration hall. The night was more like a fairy-tale for me. Witnessing two people unite under dazzling lights and to the lively music which makes your heartbeat wildly is something to live for.
Water is the source of life. Holy water is the source of redemption, repentance, forgiveness, spirituality, and belonging. Rishikesh is a city located by the banks of the holy Ganges river, flowing it’s sacred water for people to wash away their sins and redeem. My experience in this city, which is renowned as a center for studying yoga and meditation, was divine. My trip towards seeking self-realization and oneness started inside an ashram where spiritual talk was like a balm to the soul, and taking part in singing mantras was a heavenly experience. I took to visiting temples overlooking the Ganges river, doing rituals and prayers more sacred and the gods more close. The city slowly grew on me with every yoga pose I did, mantra I uttered, or prayer I sought. I left my heart in Rishikesh, but Ganga shall someday find it and draw me back again.
I went on this trip hoping I would break free from where I’ve been cemented for too long, but what I realized later on is that I formed a new home in every street I walked and every face I met. Thank you India, you’re incredible.