Monday, June 6, 2016

Inspired in India, Part 1

by Sandy Kingsley

Inspired in India | Taj Mahal  Sunset
Taj Mahal  Sunset 
India has become an inspiring tourist destination. It has always been a fascinating place and in the past few years it seems it has become even more intriguing and popular. Perhaps that comes with the rise in interest in the practice of yoga in the US, or maybe it has to do with some popular movies that came out in the past few years. Interest is stirring. Having spent close to seven weeks there on two different trips in 2005 and 2013, it has been my obsession and focus to get back to India again and again.

Inspired in India | Just one of India's many colourful markets
Just one of India's many colourful markets
Spirituality and devotion fill the air in just about any city or village you visit in India. Whether it is the beautiful bright colors, the enthusiastic chanting, the melodic way native Indian speakers speak English, or the smell of incense, you are always aware that you are in a foreign land, yet a land that could not be happier to embrace you and take you in with a warm energy of sharing. If at first you do not see this devotion and spirituality everywhere or smell it in the air, just smile at someone. See the light of love and curiosity that shines back at you from behind their eyes. Or head to a shrine to see Hindus in their devotional practice, sometimes while simply on their way to work.

The natural entwining of devotional practices and everyday life…

Inspired in India | View of Pushkar from the Saraswati Temple in summer
View of Pushkar from the Saraswati Temple in summer 
On my last trip to India, I went on an early morning walk from our hotel in the town of Pushkar to the Savitri Temple, dedicated to the wife of Lord Brahma, high on a mountain top. At the base, my husband and I met two Indian men who were long-time postal workers. They were in Pushkar for an annual convention, yet they were about to head up the mountain to the temple to do puja before their meeting started at nine am. We walked up with them (and they showed us some handy techniques for keeping the monkeys away). This is just one of many examples of how devotion is infused into everyday life in this country. Over my next few blogs, I plan to share a few of the experiences – from spiritual, to educational, to just plain sweet and comical – that have stayed bright in my heart and memory.

In Varanasi, India (also called Benares, or Kashi)

Inspired in India | The city of Varanasi on the Ganga
The city of Varanasi on the Ganga
It was late afternoon and we were walking along the main ghat on the Ganges River, our first day in Varanasi. A little girl, about 8 years old or so, approaches my friend and me with a small tray of tea lights and flowers. In her sweet and savvy singing voice she says, “You buy and do puja in the Ganga? “Only 5 rupees,” as she holds her tray out towards us. We smiled but continued to walk on, a bit tired of being approached to buy something and also unsure of what we were supposed to do with the candle and flowers. She sensed our hesitation and remained persistent. “You buy from me and you do puja in the Ganga. Only five rupees. Your father, your mother, your sister, your brother, your auntie, your uncle, all will be very happy!” This wasn’t her first sales job. She continued, “Auntie, auntie, ok, ok, you afraid to do puja in the Ganga? No problem!! You give me rupees, and I do puja for you! Same same! Only 5 rupees. OK ok, for you, 2 for 10.”

This was too fun to walk away from. We saw many others at the river’s edge. My friend and I each bought a candle and flowers. This little girl and a slightly older boy who was with her walked down to the holy river with us as our guides. We blessed each member of our family, following her instructions and sent our candle-flower petal float off with a blessing into the Ganga. We thanked her and she responded with a giggle and ran off with the boy to find their next customers.

Looking for an inspiring yoga retreat in India?

This journey has the perfect combination of cultural immersion, historical interest, local interaction, yoga exploration and practice, plus spectacular festivities!

About the Author, Sandy Kingsley

Sandy is a seasoned yoga teacher (500-hr RYT) and a grant writer for a nonprofit organization. Nothing makes her happier than traveling and sharing the delights of India with others. Her love affair with India started in 2006 when she and a friend decided to travel as far as they could using frequent flyer miles. On her second trip to India, she took her husband with the sole purpose of ensuring that he would want go back again and she was successful! Sandy is thrilled to be accompanying travelers on journeys to India with Inspired Exploration: Travel to Delight the Heart and Senses. 

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