What an insane first week it has been! After nearly 46 hours of travelling due to delayed flights, we made it to our first resting place, Pondicherry. Pondicherry was a French colony until 1954 when it became an Indian union territory. Much of the town still has French influence in its architecture, restaurants, and language. The town feels very peaceful and has the most vibrant and colourful temples. A highlight for me in Pondicherry was visiting the Ganesh temple. Before entering, we smashed a coconut as an offering to Ganesh as well as a symbol of ‘breaking’ the ego. As soon as we walked in I felt a sense of overwhelming joy. The temple was filled with people singing, playing instruments, praying, and meditating. Even though I do not hold any religious beliefs myself, I found it so beautiful to see the immense faith and devotion these people had to Ganesh. We were lucky enough to see the golden chariot that Ganesh was sitting on move around inside the temple. This usually stays still but appeared to be moving because of a wedding.
Whilst many of the people in the temple were following the chariot, a husband, wife, and their child came up to my friend and I. They introduced themselves and asked us many questions about where we are from, what we have planned in India, and if we could visit them at their home for dinner. They wanted to take photos with us and after doing so, marked us with a red vermillion powder in the middle of our forehead as a thank you. This is just one example of the many heartfelt interactions I have had during my time in India so far.
More highlights from this week include:
- Visiting the Matrimandir (mother temple) in Auroville
- Walking to the beach at sunrise in Pondicherry and seeing people playing in the sea, drawing love hearts in the sand, and laughing loudly
- Being gifted a rose by a local at the flower markets
- Going to Krishna’s solitude farm to learn about cultural redemption and sustainable eating
- Listening to a man named ‘B’ about his life story and how he ended up living in Auroville
- Having lunch with a local who was born in Auroville and hearing about what his childhood was like
- Participating in an hour long ‘sound bath’ where musicians play instruments that mimicked sounds in nature whilst you lay down
- Seeing the light show on the Shiva statue at Isha Yoga Foundation
- Witnessing the organised chaos whilst driving from Pondicherry to Coimbatore
- Eating in silence on the floor during meal times at Isha
- Celebrating the Pongal festival with students at Isha
- Seeing four elephants during our drive through Sathyamangalam reserve
- Visiting the incredible Infosys campus in Mysore
- Haggling at the local markets
- Shaking hands with a women and her three children and seeing the kids jumping and screaming with excitement afterwards
This week has truly been an incredible introduction to India. I am amazed at the sincerity, beauty, and kindness of the people here. I cannot wait to experience more of this country and I look forward to keeping you all updated on my travels.