I’ve never been very good at reflective writing . I struggle to articulate my experiences in elegant words. For my final blog, I thought I would express myself through a medium that I’m more adept in. I’ve chosen some images that I think capture the essence of India, as well as my experience there. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words right?
Location: Amer Fort, Jaipur
Time: 10:24 am, 30 January
Some people in our group chose to ride the elephants at the fort. Most of us didn’t. There was definitely an air of contention around the whole thing. They are such magnificent creatures; they looked so beautiful with the bright paint and patterned fabrics draped over them. On the whole, I preferred seeing wild elephants in South India. Tia has a podcast episode on this subject check it out on her blog page !
Location: Amer Fort, Jaipur
Time: 12:49 pm, 30 January
A chill moment with Taryn, Holly and Matilda at the end of our fort visit. I love the warm colours, candid movement and framing of the girls with the temple in the background.
Location: Taj Mahal, Agra
Time: 11:39 am, 11 February
I think it’s important to draw attention to people and things that sometimes go unnoticed or are under-appreciated in touristy places. Many of the major historical sites had gardeners like these women maintaining the beautiful grounds. I always saw them squatting in pretty patterned fabrics, immersed in their days’ work.
Location: Amer Fort, Jaipur
Time: 11:38 am, 30 January
I love how the lady’s dress provides a little pop of colour against the greenery. I thought she looked very striking standing there alone with the wind blowing her bright scarf.
Location: Old City, Jaipur
Time: 4:01 pm, 30 January
The Old City, where our hotel was located, was by far the most intense and surreal place I visited in India. I felt like I had gone back in time to centuries earlier. Shops everywhere selling silver jewellery, and bandhani fabrics. Men serving chai and fruit juice on the side of the road. Women sitting down selling touristy wooden trinkets and beaded necklaces. Tiny kids bathing in the street. Cows, monkeys and pigeons roaming around like we were. Tuk Tuk traffic jams under large faded pink archways. The old city is a grid design so it can be hard to find your way around because most of the streets look the same. Tia, Lily and I actually got lost one day trying to get back to Bloom Boutique, which is when I snapped this picture.
Time: 1:15 pm, 16 February
On the highways to and from Rishikesh we passed many psychedelic trucks crammed with rowdy young men drinking beer and playing music too loudly. I was told they come to Rishikesh for serious religious/spiritual purposes, but I got the impression they were really just there to party.
Time: 10:07 am, 16 February
Fire ceremonies are an integral part of the Hindu tradition. On the banks of the Ganges we were lucky enough to participate in one. We threw herbs into the fire as an offering to the Gods while chanting mantras. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what the exact purpose of our group doing the ritual was, other than just to have the experience of one. The ceremony took place in either Hindi or Sanskrit (I wasn’t sure) without translation which probably explains some my confusion. I know that in these sacred rituals something of importance (like food) is sacrificed in honour of the gods. Among a Puja’s many purposes and explanations, I did gather that the fire burns away what needs to be let go of, and participants are purified by its energy.
Location: Isha Foundation, Coimbatore
Time: 9:28am, 16 January
We spent the morning celebrating Pongal – a south Indian harvest festival – with the students of Isha’s private high school. I enjoyed seeing the teenagers in their formal dress, especially the girls. There was an art competition where the school students were split into small groups and drew rangoli patterns on the pavement. Us Kiwi’s participated but were unsurprisingly not as talented as the others at creating rangoli art! Nevertheless, it was cool to experience a different holiday to back home and try out a new art form:) Cornelia here is helping to fan the flames of the fire, as our clay pot was taking a long time to boil over. When the water finally bubbled up, we all cried out “Pongolo Pongal”! This festival is about abundance, prosperity and good luck for the year ahead.
Location: Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi
Time: 10:18 am, 13 February
This Sufi shrine and burial ground was one of my favourite places in Delhi. We walked past a cramped flower market to reach its entrance, where we then took our shoes off and covered our hair before entering the religious site. On our way to the central shrine we wandered through some stone tunnels with little jewellery stalls wedged into them. Patterned openings in the walls looked like stain glass windows because of the colours seen through them. Outside the main grave there was a man singing in a language I didn’t understand and couldn’t identify, yet the sound of his voice was mesmerising.
Location: Fab India Artisan Supplier, Bagru, Jaipur
Time: 10:19 am, 31 January
We learnt about the natural garment dyeing process. The particular supplier we went to specialised in hand block printing, and we even had a go at printing something ourselves which was super fun! I bought a beautiful pink and gold scarf from this place too. As I had visited Fab India stores before this visit, it was interesting to see all the different steps and considerations that go into garment creation before winding up on the hangers of retail stores. I looked up and saw a worker hanging long sheets to dry. I like the contrast of the raspberry coloured fabric against the pale building. The image isn’t crowded like other photos I took on the trip, which makes it stand out in some ways.
Location: Auroville, Pondicherry
Time: 3:38 pm , 11 January
Beautiful statues of the different Hindu gods. Our tour leader Nick had fun pointing out their names to us … “There’s Ganesha! The one with elephant head”, “And see over here, Parvati! Wife of Shiva”, “Oh and in the middle holding the sitar, Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge” etc. etc.
Location: Museum of Art, Bengaluru
Time: 5:33 pm, 19 January
This is a bronze statue of Ardhanarishvara from the 20th century, artist(s) unknown/non-specified. Ardhanarishvara symbolises the feminine and masculine duality of the universe (including in all of us). The exhibit highlights through historical and contemporary art the unique experiences of women in India, both good and ugly. I was drawn to this statue by the angles and shadows of the display. The craftsmanship of the textiles, paintings and carvings in this museum was absolutely exquisite.
Time: 10:22 am, 14 February
Snapped this from the bus on the way up to Rishikesh. I saw quite a few massive monuments of Hindu gods like this one during my time in India. This statue is easily identifiable as Lord Shiva because of his blue skin and three pronged spear.
Location: Isha Foundation, Coimbatore
Time: 6:58pm, 13 January
I learnt at Isha Foundation that Lord Shiva is considered the first Yogi (‘Adiyogi’) in Yogic tradition, hence why this particular Hindu deity is commonly displayed and worshiped in yoga hubs like Rishikesh and Isha Ashram. I asked our tour guide at the Ashram why Shiva is always depicted with a Cobra around his neck and a crescent moon above his head. My interpretation of his reply is that Shiva is both enlightened (moon representing the higher power or divine) whilst also still grounded and humble (cobra representing the earth). It’s about keeping ones ego in check. There are many explanations for Shiva’s adornments, but I feel most connected to this particular one.
Time: 9:46 am, 8 January
The very first photo I took in India! It was bizarre on that initial bus ride trying to reconcile my preconceptions of this country that I’d dreamed of visiting for so long with the reality in front of me. It felt like a foreign film set in India where they highlight the ‘exotic’ hustle and bustle of Indian street life – a montage of tobacco stalls, small Hindu temples, women side saddled on the back of motorbikes, homeless people hacking at metal over a fire. What these western films don’t always show are the fancy modern buildings, global brands and iPhones gripped in peoples hands…things we’d see everyday back home.
Location: Behrampura, Ahmedabad
Time: 10:53 am, 25 January
Snapped this one walking through Behrampura slum on the way to a primary school part of the Manavsadhna NGO. What makes the school unique is its acceptance and integration Hindu and Muslim religions. It was very admirable to see a school and community inclusive of both these faiths given the historical tensions between Muslim and Hindu communities in India. It was such a welcoming, positive, safe space for the children that we all enjoyed visiting very much. I took this photo simply because the baby goats were cute hehe.
Time: 2:15 pm, 28 January
A pair of monkeys chilling outside our hotel. They are so cute but so vicious! I saw them everywhere in India; perched on residential roof tops, or tree branches outside governmental houses and bus stops, and of course in National Parks as well. One very cheeky monkey stole my banana at the Taj Mahal!
Location: Ganges River, Tehri Garhwhal
Time: 3:23 pm, 15 February
A local man smoking on a swing during a moment of solitude by the Ganges. I took this as we walked on the sand towards the meditation cave of Vashishta. I think this photo captures in some way the feeling of the group in our final days of the trip. I, like many others, was starting to withdraw and reflect more, knowing that our 6 weeks together was coming to an end. It’s quite zoomed in so the quality isn’t amazing, but I think this might be my favourite photo from the trip. The layered, lush mountains of the outer Himalayas captured in this photo truly took my breath away.