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Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?

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Jan 29 to Feb 9

Hyderabad, India

(Patricia started a one month Yoga course in Madurai on January 23rd so the section below is Jose’s adventures alone)

After my laptop crashed in Madurai, I found the perfect excuse to make the journey to come and visit my AIESEC Internatinal colleague and dear friend Venkatesh Goteti (or Venky from now on) in Hyderabad.


To get there I had to take a train overnight to Chennai, stay there the entire day doing nothing and then an overnight bus to Hyderabad. Chennai was not my cup of tea, I remember having a great time there a few years ago when I came via Chennai to an AIESEC Indian National Conference in Mangalore. At that point I was taken around graciously to some lovely places. This time I was unlucky not to concide with any of my contacts in the city due to the short notice of my travel.

While waiting for my bus in a closeby train station (I was supposed to just catch my overnight bus from a landmark in a particular street rather that a bus station) all I wanted was a quiet place to sit and read. To my amusement I was kicked out twice from my chosen spots, once by a police woman that claimed the seat I was on was hers even though it had been empty for an hour and there was more than one seat in that section... I had to humbly leave (well I did protest a bit asking why she needed more than one seat). I was then kicked out of Ratna Cafe, a little simple coffee place and light snack place in Chennai Central Station. The staff would not allow me to quietely sit if I was not constantly munchin or drinking something even though the place was completely empty. They said they had to clean and could not do it with me onm a chair... I paid my chai and left to yet another chair inside the station until the time for my bus came about.


The bus ride was comfortable in a relatively modern sleeper bus. I met Venky at around 7am in a busy junction in Hyderabad where I was dropped, surrounded again by a maffia of rickshaw drivers that were waiting eagerly to see if my friend would fail to show up. Venky was there in an instant. However, to my astonishment he came in a scooter!!! As I am still recovering from my Goa scooter related foot wounds (see Goa section) and as I have a massive backpack and a rocksack, I was asking myself what I should do. For a moment I had forgotten that even after all this years Venky is a fully fleshed Indian and it should not have been a surprise when he suggested just to load all into the scooter (to be honest I have seen many Indians carrying up to 5 people in a motorcycle as well as unimaginable loads). I put the smaller bag on my back and the big one resting on the seat between Venky and I... off we went.

I am glad I arrived on a Sunday as we spent the day catching up, drinking chai,eating, driving around the city and sightseeing... not to mention watching a few movies which is one of Venky’s pastime since Rotterdam days and something I was really missing. We watched Isquiya, a really excellent Bollywood film, and also Avatar (the hollywood blockbuster). It was later on, while I was reading the Authobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda (a really excellent book) that I discovered that Avatar signifies the “descent of Divinity into flesh” in the acient Hindu scriptures and something that would apply to figures like Jesus Christ, Krishna and other figures in the Hindu tradition. If you have seen the movie I suppose there is some type of Divine connection (sorry a bit of a digression).

Last time I had properly catch up with Venky must have been about 8 years ago! I was glad to see that, even after going through some difficult times in the last few years, Venky will be very possibly be getting married later on this year. He also has a succesful business with the potential for phenomenal growth and working, as many other IT businesses in Hyderabad, with foreign and local clients. We had some good chats about each others future and offered some (I think useful) advice to each other.

During the week I went with Venky to his business office (AZRI) and mostly spend time with a few personal projects and trying to fix my laptop. I have to say that I am still not really sure what Venky’s business is all about (sorry Venky, I know you tried) but it has to do with social marketing using web tools and programming (is better to check the website to be honest http://azrisolutions.com/). Our day was starting late morning with a great bowl of poridge and a cup of tea prepared by Venky’s dad (who is a renowed authority in India for rail station design experience) and finishing most times shortly after midnight with a dog cuddling session (see pic below).

I felt a bit of a load as Venky was trying to help me as well as trying to run a business and organise passport and visa for a trip to Netherlands to see his girlfriend, without mentioning a miriad of other things. I was depending also on his help to fix my netbook. After an agonysing week bouncing from one place to another in the Dell network, a hardrive replacement and lots of support from Venky and his contacts, I was finally able to get my little netbook fully functioning again. Success!

As you would have expected the mode of transport during the week was Venky’s scooter!!! I am not going to lie and say it was the highlight of the week. Do not get me wrong, Venky is an experienced driver more than capable of dealing with the complexities of Indian driving. However, the Indian traffic chaos, mixed with Venky’s moments of intrepidity and overconfidence on the road made some moments a bit scary... e.g. ducking a truck mirror, saving ourselves from being squashed between an autorickshaw and a bus or filling to close to other bikers (i.e. my knees touching theirs). All of this was not helped by the fact that during the first few nights something a little bit important was missing from Venky’s scooter... the lights! Well, the bottomline is that I survived and learning some of the basics of Indian driving from the master also helped. For example, 1) there is just no right of way in India, is all about who gets there first (sometimes within small milimetrical distances) or who is less of a “chiken” to stop first, 2) the traffic lanes mean absolutely nothing, 3) you can drive in any direction in any side of the road, it does not matter, 4) people can hop on and off buses at any time (even when the bus is in movement or the doors are opening to the moving traffic, 5) no speed limit applies, just go as fast as you can (usually limited by congestion) and finally 5) wearing a helmet is not a must for motorcycle riders and driving with lights off at night is completely tolerated.

Gladly after some lobbying and the support from Mohan, now Venky’s bike has lights.

No seriously mate, thanks for the great times! (now off to Kerala again)

permalink written by  patryandjose on January 29, 2010 from Hyderabad, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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Mumbai, Goa and Kerala (9-21 of January) on the way to Madurai

Madurai, India

From the 8th to the 22nd of January we spent a lot of time traveling all the way from Bodhgaya in North East India all the way to Madurai, just a few hours from the southernmost point of India. The initial leg meant crossing India from east to west, it took about 30 hours on train and the destination was Mumbai.

We just spent a few days in Mumbai and decided to relax from our very spiritual journey with some very mundane threats, including some great restaurants and of course watch some movies! The Three Idiots, a Bollywood blockbuster was the chosen one. Lasting three hours and even it was 95% in Hindi this movie was a pleassure to watch.

In Goa, we spent about 4 days, mostly just relaxing in the beach! Jose came up with the brilliant idea of hiring a scooter to go and see some nearby beaches! The exprience included a bit of a stupid crash with some minor wounds which reflected our (well Jose’s) lack of experience with motorcycles. After a bit of a shock we still managed to ride around the rest of the day (really recommend Agonda beach), although had to pay a small bill for damages to the vehicle  Not much to worry about and glad Patricia was recovered in just days for her Yoga course.

Next stop was Kannur in Kerala. We actually stayed in a lovely home stay (Ezhara Beach House) in a secluded beach which included some delicious home cooked indian meals (lots of seafood!) and great hospitality from Hyacint. Check out www.ezharabeachhouse.com. If you just want a place to relax, have privacy to do Yoga right on the beach and not touristy at all in a beautiful part of Kerala then try this place! See pictures below which best describe the place.

On the way to our final destination we stopped for a day in Kochi and were received by George (we actually met George in Varanasi and he told us about the Ezhara Beach House (run by his wife Hyacint) and the beach cabin he has in Cherai Beach in Vypeen island. While waiting for the train connection in Kochi we visited the cabin and decided that it was a great place for Jose to stay for a few weeks while Patricia was doing her one month Yoga teachers training course in Madurai.

permalink written by  patryandjose on January 9, 2010 from Madurai, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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January 4 - 9 2010

Gaya, India

Bodhgaya is a tiny town around 13 Km from Gaya. It was here 2,600 years ago that Prince Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment beneath a Bodhi Tree and became Buddha.

We wanted to visit this place to see the three; however, it became of a special interest to go there when we found out that the Dalai Lama was going to be in town giving some teachings on the Path to Enlightenment.

We were lucky to be able to get train tickets to Gaya from where we could catch an auto rickshaw to go to Bodhgaya. As we arrived at 2.00 am to Gaya we decided to stay that night there. Next day, we went to Bodhgaya to try luck with the hotels. Everybody told us that it was going to be crazy as there would be no rooms any more and if there were, the prices would be astronomical. The first hotel we visited was fully booked. The second one had a room, claiming that it was the last one they had. The price was high but not as we had been suggested. So we decided to take it.

As soon as we had our accommodation sorted out, we went to register. We were well prepared with passports and photos. Then, it was the issue of where to sit and how to reserve a place. After a lengthy process we found out that we needed to mark the space where we wanted to sit (everyone would sit in the floor under a huge marquee). So, we bought soft mats (like everyone else), wrote our names and hoped that they will stay there until the right time (the teachings would start in two days). The following day we went to check if everything was fine with our spaces. There was a young Tibetan student (refugee in India) who explained to us that there had been a mistake and that area where we had our spaces had been originally reserved for more than 600 university students. After a lot of debate we agreed that we would keep our sits there and if they didn’t have enough space we would try to look for something else the following day.

The next day the teachings were starting at 9.00 am. We decided to arrive early, at 6.00. We were quite surprised to find out that the queue for foreigners was minimal and soon enough we were at the gates for the security check. Jose Pablo was not allowed to enter because he had a camera and had to go back to the hotel (only 10 minutes away). When Patricia’s turn came up (because the queues for man and women are separate), she was not allow to enter because she had a mobile phone. When we came back, the queue for men was not that bad; however, the one for women had became extremely long and Patricia only managed to get in just before 9.00. The Dalai Lama arrived on time and went straight into the teachings. Soon after that, monks were running around giving away bread, sweet rice and butter tea.

The small town was really crowded (thousands of people came for the teachings); lots of Tibetans, Chinese and Westerners. Even Richard Gere was there! However, it was the number of monks in maroon and yellow robes that dominated the scene. Together with all the devotees, an ocean of Indian poor people and others with severed deformities entered the town every morning with their silver plates ready for the generosity of the visitors.

We went to see the 1,500-year-old beautiful Mahabodhi Temple. It is a 50 meter pyramidal spiral and has a 2 meter high image of a seated Buddha inside. The Bodhi Tree is just next to the Temple and is a gorgeous looking tree providing a generous shadow. You can find people there just sitting around, meditating or doing prostrations.

Bodhgaya was also extremely cold and the only warm places were the temporal tent restaurants where we ended up listening many of the teachings with our radio.

permalink written by  patryandjose on January 4, 2010 from Gaya, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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December 30, 2009 to January 3, 2010

Varanasi, India

"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!" - Mark Twain

Varanasi is known as the City of Life and is one of the holiest places in India. It is also one of the oldest continuously inhabitated cities in the world, known formerly as Benares.

We arrived in Varanasi at 5.00 am and once again, were very lucky to find a kind rickshaw man that took us around town searching for a hotel. Our basic requirements are: a double bedroom, clean, with a bathroom and hot water, sufficient space to accommodate the two Yoga mats on the floor and obviously, a good price. After a few failed options and the rickshaw man knocking the doors trying to wake up the staff, he finally took us to a nice place close to the south gaths (steps leading to the river).

Varanasi was extremely cold and fogy. You can especially feel it as the rooms have no heating. On our second day we took a rowing boat early in the morning. Even though we were fully wrapped, Patricia’s lips became all purple and we were shivering like chickens. However, the boat ride, which we shared with 3 Spanish girls and the humble boat man, was very mystical and deeply interesting. Even though it was so early and so cold, Indians were taking baths and completing ceremonies on the sacred Ganga River. Hindu pilgrims come here to wash away a lifetime of sins.

The main reason to visit Varanasi was to see the burning ghats, where the dead are brought to be cremated and their remainders are thrown into the river. The very poor people are burned in a big oven like building, the rich people at open air with expensive sandalwood and a whole range in between. These activities happen every day the entire day. Many old Indians move to Varanasi for their final years to make sure they are sent to the river. It is a particularly auspicious place to die since expiring here offers moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death).

Even more enjoyable was the boat trip that we took in the evening to go and see the Ganga Aarti (fire ceremony). The mood was really relaxing and peaceful. Ganga Aarti was nice; however, the one at Rishikesh is still our favourite one.

The old centre of Varanasi, around the ghats, is all very mystical. The narrow labyrinth oh alleys are just for pedestrians and at night there are almost no lights, so it can be a bit intimidating.

We enjoyed good food in Varanasi. In particular, the I:ba and the Dolphin restaurants.

We spent New Year here and decided to join the party at our small hotel. The owners prepared a nice simple Indian dinner and brought some musicians for our entertaining. One of them beautifully played the flute and another one played the sitar, a classical instrument from northern India which has 20 strings. Both were accompanied by the tabla, Indian drums. We also had a traditional kathak dance that is a sort of story telling. We had a good time and enjoyed with our Spanish and Chilean new friends watching the overly happy owners of the hotel dance the night away to the Indian tunes.

permalink written by  patryandjose on December 30, 2009 from Varanasi, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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26 - 29 of December

Agra, India

The main purpose for visiting Agra was to see the famous Taj Majal. Therefore, we stayed there just for 3 days.

Our first glimpse of the Taj Majal was from the roof top restaurant at our small hotel. It was a great impression, especially as we were not expecting to see it so closely from there.

After observing it for a long time from different sides, we concluded that its beauty is coming from its symmetry (enhanced by the 4 towers that surround it), its big size and its blue sky background (because it is mounted in a platform). These were our impressions from far away. When we were able to see it closely enough then we appreciated the beauty of the marble and the details cut on it, the precious and semi precious stones decoration and the black details of the Quran writings, making it even more beautiful. However, inside there is not much. Just the two fake tombs of the King and her wife. The real tombs are off limits to the public.

It was a love story that transformed into a sad story. The Mughal King Shah Jahan had had two wives and they hadn’t giving him kids. So he married a third one. She gave him 13 kids, so he was a very happy man. However, when she was giving birth to the 14th child, she passed away. The King was extremely sad and became very old over night. He decided to build the most beautiful mausoleum for her, the Taj Majal.

It is said (although not official) that after its completion, the King wanted to build another identical mausoleum for himself, only in black. It was to be located across the Yamuna River and a white and black bridge would connect the two. Apparently, one of the sons of the King thought that the idea was crazy as the cost of building another Taj Majal would have been unbearable for the people, especially as the black onyx would need to be brought from Italy. Therefore, the son imprisoned his father and became the King. The old King was kept in the Agra Fort from where he could glimpse the magnificent Taj Majal. When he died, his son buried him next to the Queen inside the Taj Majal.

We also visited the Agra Fort, with palaces, temples and different halls and confirmed that it is possible to see the Taj Majal from there.

Agra is a small town and in general uninspiring. We also got caught in the last night of a 10 day Muslim festival which had the centre of the town summoned in the loudest religious singing we have ever heard, accompanied by drums for more than 24 hours including an entire night.

Therefore, we were happy to move to the next city.

permalink written by  patryandjose on December 26, 2009 from Agra, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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20 December 09 – 25 December 09

Udaipur, India

Se dice que Udaipur es el pueblo más romántico en India. ¡Quizás tienen razón!

Cuando llegamos, tuvimos la suerte de que nuestro conductor de rickshaw nos llevó al otro lado del puente. Esto hizo una diferencia inmensa ya que ese es el lado calmado y pacífico de Udaipur.

Un pequeño restaurante casi oculto junto a nuestro hotel nos dio la atmósfera relajante y pacífica que buscábamos. Frente del lago Pichola, disfrutamos de las vistas del Palacio y las costas activas del lago. Cada día, las mujeres van a los ghats (pasos que aterrizan en el lago) para lavar ropa en la manera tradicional. Sin embargo, las vistas más cautivantes fueron de los elefantes que andan alrededor de las calles.

Nos gustó mucho la visita al Palacio, aparentemente el segundo más hermoso en India. Tiene decoraciones suntuosas. De allí, tomamos un bote a la Isla de Jagmandir. Lo que era antes un palacio que ocupa toda la isla, es actualmente un restaurante muy caro y un hermoso spa, todo rodeado de hermosos jardines.

Tomamos una excursión al templo de Ranakpur de la religión del Jainismo. Esta es una religión separada del Hinduismo. Ellos creen estrictamente en la no violencia a ninguna criatura viva. Algunos de los creyentes más fuertes barren el piso antes de caminar para evitar la matanza de algún insecto y llevan un pañuelo sobre la boca para evitar tragar un mosquito. Mahatma Gandhi fue un seguidor del Jainismo.

El templo de Ranakpur es probablemente el más hermoso que hemos visto. Ninguna de sus 1444 pilares de mármol blanco tiene el mismo diseño. Después de eso, fuimos al Fuerte de Kumbalgarth con sus paredes que van más allá de 36 km y tiene más de 300 templos. En la noche había un festival de baile y logramos ver unos pocos bailes tradicionales antes de nuestro retorno al hotel por 2 horas.

La noche antes de Navidad estuvimos en otro restaurante muy bonito a la orilla del Lago, disfrutando una vez más los curries de India y de nuestro postre predilecto Gulab Jamum.


Udaipur is said to be the most romantic town in India. It might be right!
When we first arrived, we were lucky enough to be taken by our rickshaw driver to the other side of the bridge. This made a huge difference as that was the quiet and peaceful side of town.

An almost hidden small restaurant right next to our hotel gave us the relaxing and peaceful atmosphere we were looking for. Right in front of the lake Pichola, we enjoyed the views of the Palace and the active shores of the lake. Every day, women went to the ghats (steps landing on the lake) to wash cloth in the traditional way. However, elephants walking around the streets were the most captivating views.

We liked a lot the visit to the Palace, apparently the second most beautiful one in India. It has sumptuous decorations. From there, we took a boat to the Jagmandir Island. The former palace occupies that entire island and nowadays there is a very expensive restaurant and a beautiful spa, all surrounded by relaxing gardens.

We took a day trip to the Ranakpur temple of Jainism. This is a religion separated from Hinduism. They strictly believe in non-violence to any living creature. Some of the strongest believers would sweep the floor before them when walking in order to avoid killing any small insects and would wear a handkerchief over the mouth to avoid swallowing a mosquito. Mahatma Gandhi was a Jain follower.

The temple is probably the most beautiful we have ever seen. None of its 1444 white marble pillars has the same design. After that, we went to the Kumbalgarth Fort with its walls stretching over 36 km and more than 300 temples. There was a dancing festival that night and we managed to see a few traditional dances before our 2 hour journey back to our hotel.

We spent Christmas evening at another nice lakeshore restaurant, enjoying once more the Indian curries and our favourite dessert Gulab Jamum.

permalink written by  patryandjose on December 20, 2009 from Udaipur, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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Days 136 - 139 (16 Dec 09 - 19 Dec 09)

Jaipur, India

Jaipur, la capital de Rajasthan, fue nuestro punto de entrada a esta tierra de Reyes (Maharajas).

La ciudad vieja es llamada la "Ciudad Rosada" porque en 1876, el Maharaja gobernante ordenó pintar toda la ciudad de rosado, un color asociado con la hospitalidad, para dar la bienvenida al Príncipe de Gales (luego el Rey Eduardo VII) y desde entonces la tradición ha sido mantenida. La ciudad vieja está absolutamente congestionada y los principales bazares están ubicados aquí.

Tan pronto como llegamos a Jaipur conocimos a un joven llamado Abdul. Hicimos lo mejor por tratar de deshacernos de él pero su persistencia y un libro llenos de recomendaciones de otros turistas nos convencieron de ir con él. Nos encontró un buen hotel y fue nuestro conductor de rickshaw/guía de turismo todo durante nuestra estancia allí. Aunque fue un poco más caro preferimos esta opción a tener que negociar un precio cada vez que queríamos ir a algún lugar.

El Gaitor Real, los mausoleos de la realeza, son un lugar pacífico y los monumentos tienen hermosos tallados.

El Palacio de la Ciudad es hermoso y en particular las puertas de uno de los patios que están hermosamente decoradas representando otoño, invierno, primavera y verano.

También visitamos al Gurú de Abdul. Entre muchas otras cosas le dijo a Patricia que tiene una energía muy bonita y curativa y que Kundalini Yoga sería un sendero perfecto para ella y para ayudar a otros. A José Pablo le dijo que Febrero de este año que viene será una marca importante en su vida.

Nuestra vista predilecta fue el fuerte-palacio de Amber. Es un lugar inmenso con muchos vestíbulos hermosamente decorados donde logramos imaginarnos realmente cómo fue la vida durante los tiempos cuando los Maharajas y las Maharanis (las esposas del Maharaja) vivían aquí. Aprendimos un poco sobre la última de las Maharanis que murió hace sólo unos pocos meses, Gayatri Devi, y compramos un libro acerca de su historia.

La pasamos muy bien con Denise y su esposo Ranjeed. Habíamos conocido a Denise en Rishikesh durante nuestro curso de Yoga. Fue excelente que logramos verlos y nos llevaron al mágico Chokhi Dhani. Es una aldea virtual Rajasthani con todo tipo de entretenimiento como bailarinas, magos, titiriteros y personas que comen fuego. Además, disfrutamos de un paseo en camello, tuvimos un masaje de cabeza, Patricia tuvo una mano pintada con alheña y disfrutamos de una fabulosa comida tradicional llamada Thali (comida en compartimientos generalmente con arroz, lentejas, curries de verduras o carne, encurtidos y a veces algo dulce). ¡DELICIOSO y por supuesto, picante!

El libro de Gayatri Devi ha sido muy revelador. Ofrece una ventana a toda la grandiosidad y la opulencia de India antes de la Independencia, cuando más de 600 estados tuvieron a su propio Maharaja gobernante. Ella se casó por elección (no fue un matrimonio arreglado) con el Maharaja de Jaipur y fue su tercera esposa.

Cuando la Independencia llegó en 1947, la división de India se basó en la religión (Hindú vs. Musulmán) en India, Pakistán Occidental y Pakistán Oriental (hoy Bangladés) trajo caos en seguida con la pérdida de muchas vidas.

Desde su punto de vista y en resumen, el Partido del Congreso que había dirigido la Independencia fue elegido (no hubo oposición). El joven país decidió remover todos los poderes de los Maharajas y para dárselos al nuevo gobierno republicano. Sin embargo, la corrupción y el poder fueron dos de las principales fuerzas que manejaron el proceso y los puestos gubernamentales fueron dados a los seguidores del partido y no a quienes tendían las habilidades para hacer el trabajo. En un asunto de unos pocos años, el estado del dominio público se comenzó a desplomar. Uno no puede olvidarse que India es una democracia muy joven queriendo manejar un país grande y una población aun más grande.

Por supuesto, esto representa el punto de vista de una persona que apoyó el sistema de Maharaja. Muchas otras personas tuvieron puntos de vista muy fuertes acerca de su abuso del poder y el feudalismo.


Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, was our entry-point to this land of Kings (Maharajas).

The old city is called the ‘Pink City’ because back in 1876, the ruling Maharaja had the entire place painted in pink, a colour associated with hospitality, to welcome the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and since then the tradition has been maintained. This old city is absolutely crowded and the main bazaars are located here.

We were very lucky to find a guy called Abdul as soon as we reached Jaipur. We tried our best to brush him away but his persistence and a book full of recommendations from other tourists won us over. He found a good hotel for us and was our rickshaw driver / tour guide all during our stay there. Even though a bit more expensive we preferred this option to having to negotiate a rate every time we wanted to go somewhere.

The Royal Gaitor, cenotaphs, is a peaceful place and the monuments have beautiful carving.

The City Palace is beautiful in particular the gates of one of the courtyards that are beautifully decorated representing autumn, winter, spring and summer.

We also visited Abdul’s Guru. Among many other things he told Patricia that she has a beautiful and healing energy and that Kundalini Yoga would be a perfect path for her and to support others. To Jose Pablo, he told him that February this coming year would be an important mark in his life.

Our favourite sight was the fort-palace of Amber. It is a huge place with many beautifully decorated halls where we could really imagine how life was like during the old years when the Maharajas and Maharanis (the wives of the King) were living here. We also got to know about the last of the Maharanis that passed away only a few months ago, Gayatri Devi, and got a book about her story.

We had a fantastic time with Denise and her husband Ranjeed. We met Denise back in Rishikesh during our Yoga course. It was great that we managed to meet her and they took us to the magical Chokhi Dhani. It’s a virtual Rajasthani village with all sorts of entertainment like dancers, magicians, puppeteers and fire eaters. Besides, we enjoyed a ride in a camel, had a head massage, Patricia had a hand painted with henna and we all enjoyed a fabulous traditional dinner called Thali (compartmentalised meals usually with rice, lentils, vegetable or meat curries, pickle and sometimes something sweet). DELICIOUS and of course, spicy!

The book from Gayatri Devi has been very revealing. It offers a window to all the grandeur and opulence of India before Independence, when more than 600 states had their own ruling Maharaja. She married by choice (not an arranged marriage) the Maharaja of Jaipur and became his third wife.

When the Independence came in 1947, the partition of India based on religion (Hindu vs. Muslim) into main India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) brought chaos straight away with the loss of many lives.

From her point of view and in a nutshell, the Congress Party that had led the Independence got elected (having no opposition). The young country decided to remove all the powers from the Maharajas and to give them to the new republican government. However, corruption and power were two of the main forces driving the process and the government posts where given to those supporting the party and not to those that would have the skills to do the job. In a matter of a few years, the state of the public realm started to collapse. One cannot forget that India is a very young democracy aiming to manage a large country and an even larger population.

Of course, this represents the point of view of a person that supported the Maharaja system. Many other people had strong views about their abuse of power and feudal system.

permalink written by  patryandjose on December 16, 2009 from Jaipur, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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Days 128 - 135

Delhi, India

¡Ahhh… Nueva Delhi…bueno, es la capital de India con casi 13 millones de habitantes y es absolutamente caótica, congestionada y contaminada! ¡Esto, junto con nuestra habitación de hotel sin ventanas no nos hizo muy bien para nuestro bienestar! A pesar de esto, con todo el ajetreo, Nueva Delhi debe verse por su vida nocturna, su encanto que muestra los vestigios de imperios perdidos y… pues sí, para ver como se ve una ciudad grande india.

Nos quedamos en un pequeño hotel cercano a la Estación de Nueva Delhi en Paharganj alrededor del Principal Bazar. Aunque, el lugar es ideal para accesar el viejo Delhi y para estar cerca a la principal estación de tren, los hoteles pueden ser pequeñas celdas y los cuartos típicamente no tienen ventanas y si las tienen, ven hacia callejuelas sospechosas. Aquí nos dimos cuenta de un par de cosas: primero, que los tapones para los oídos son algunos de nuestros mejores amigos y segundo que de algún modo parece que TODOS los turistas son fumadores. Qué angustia si a uno no le gusta el humo y los restaurantes son como un calabozo. A partir de esto momento, los restaurantes ubicados en las azoteas abiertas, aunque hiciera frío, fueron los únicos que llamaron nuestra atención.

Visitamos el Fuerte Rojo construido en 1648 por el gran emperador Mughal Sha Jahan (quien construyó el Taj Majal). En este gran fuerte (rojo sólo en las paredes externas) se encuentra el palacio del emperador y el uno para la esposa principal, diferentes vestíbulos, una mezquita y los baños reales. También, hoy en día hay jardines agradables, pero no cabe duda que durante la cúspide de la dinastía este debe haber sido un lugar mágico con agua por todas partes a través de un sistema decorativo de canales. Principalmente disfrutamos del show nocturna de luz y sonido que nos dio un vistazo de la historia de la ciudad. Los Mughal, musulmanes que vinieron de Kabul (Afganistán), comenzaron su imperio en 1526 cubriendo casi toda India y trajeron un siglo de oro para las artes, la literatura y las construcciones.

Sin embargo, numerosas invasiones de por ejemplo otras tribus de Afganistán, de Persia y por último de los Ingleses, saquearon y robaron y la ciudad durante siglos. Esto nos dió una idea de todo el sufrimiento de esta gente y todas las veces que tuvieron que recuperarse habiendo quedado sin nada.

La próxima parada fue la Mezquita de Jama Masjid (Musulmán), la más grande en India que puede albergar hasta 25.000 personas. También fue construida por el emperador Sha Jahan. Tiene vistas de Delhi agradables desde la torre (llamada Minarete); sin embargo, no nos sentimos muy bien adentro. Por una parte, no se sintió como un lugar de culto espiritual y por otra, el personal que trabaja allí trata de sacarle a los visitantes la mayor cantidad de dinero que puedan poniendo precios ridículos fuera de la norma (por ejemplo para cuidar los zapatos por 10 segundos).

Inicialmente habíamos pensado no ir a la Tumba de Humayun, el segundo emperador Mughal, y resultó ser uno de nuestros edificios predilectos.

Nuestro lugar preferido fue definitivamente la Casa de Culto Bahai, también llamado el Templo de Loto. Es un templo moderno, creado en 1986 con la forma de la flor sagrada de loto. El interior del templo es muy sencillo e invita a toda persona (de cualquier religión) a meditar en silencio. Y eso fue exactamente lo que hicimos. Algunas de las creencias de los Bahai son: una religión mundial universal, sólo un Dios, que han habido diferentes profetas (como Moisés, Buda y Jesucristo), la igualdad entre hombres y mujeres y que cada persona tiene un alma inmortal. Ellos también creen que finalmente habrá un solo gobierno mundial.

También tuvimos un poco de tiempo social. Tuvimos una cena muy buena con Alex Luke, un colega de PwC de José Pablo y su novia. Ellos están en India por un año. Fuimos a un área agradable de la ciudad y disfrutamos de una comida india muy buena. También visitamos los papás de Ruchira (otra colega de PwC de José Pablo) y tuvimos una velada muy bonita con ellos. Nos ofrecieron una cena fantástica con toda clase de carnes deliciosas.

Ya hemos empezado a saber como manejarnos aquí. Esto incluye el negociar con los auto-rickshaws, nuestra principal forma de transporte. También, ya tenemos algunos platos preferidos, como el postre Gulab Jamuns, bolas de masa fritas y sumergidas en un sirope con sabor a rosas. Fue también aquí en Delhi que comimos el mejor dhal (lentejas) que hemos probado hasta ahora.

También nos hemos dado cuenta de que realmente queremos estar más tiempo aquí en India; por lo tanto nos quedaremos aquí hasta el final de nuestro viaje. Por supuesto, esto significa postergar nuestro viaje al Sur Este de Asia. Pensamos que esto tiene mucho sentido, este país es tan grande y diverso y hay tanto que ver. Así que estamos muy felices con nuestra decisión.


Ahhh… New Delhi…well it’s India’s capital with almost 13 million people and it is absolutely chaotic, crowded and polluted! This, coupled with our windowless hotel room did not do much for our well being! Having said that, with all the hassle, New Delhi is a must see for its nightlife, its glamour showing the vestiges of lost empires and… well yes, to see what a big Indian city looks like.

We stayed at a small hotel close to the New Delhi Train Station at Paharganj around the Main Bazaar. Although, ideal for accessing old Delhi and being close to the main train station, hotels can be small cells and the rooms typically have no windows or if they have, they look at a dodgy pathway. Here we realised about a couple of things: first, that the earplugs were some of our best friends and second, that somehow it seems that All the tourist are smokers. What an agony if you don’t enjoy the smoke and the restaurants are a bit like a dungeon. From here onwards, roof top restaurants, even though it was cold, were the only ones appealing to us.

We visited the Red Fort constructed in 1648 by the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (who constructed the Taj Majal). In this big fort (red only in the external walls) you find the palace of the emperor and the one for the chief wife, different halls, a mosque and the royal baths. Also, there are nice gardens today, but there’s no doubt that during the peak of the dynasty it should have been a magical place with water running everywhere through a decorative canal system. We mainly enjoyed the evening light and sound show that gave us a glimpse on the history of the city. The Mughal, Muslims coming from Kabul (Afghanistan), started their empire in 1526 covering almost the entire India and bringing a golden age of arts, literature and constructions.

However, numeral invasions for example from other tribes from Afghanistan, from Persia and finally from the British sacked and looted the city for centuries. This gave us an idea of all the suffering of this people and all the times that they had to recover from having been left with nothing.

The next stop was the Jama Masjid Mosque (Muslim), the largest one in India being able to hold up to 25,000 people. It was also constructed by the emperor Shah Jahan. There were nice views of Delhi from the tower (called Minaret); however, we didn’t feel very well inside. In the one hand, it didn’t feel like a place of spiritual worship and in the other hand, the staff working there was trying to get as much money from people as they could charging ridiculous prices outside of the norm (e.g. just to take care of your shoes for 10 seconds).

We almost didn’t go to the Humayun’s Tumb, the second Mughal emperor, and it ended up being one of our favourite buildings.

Our favourite place was definitely the Bahai House of Worship, also called the Lotus Temple. It’s a modern temple, created in 1986 shaped like the sacred lotus flower. The inside of the temple is very simple and invites every one (of all faiths) to meditate in silence. And that was exactly what we did. Some of the believes of the Bahai faith are: a universal world religion, only one God, that there have been different prophets (like Moses, Buddha and Jesus Christ), equality between men and women and that every person has an immortal soul. They also believe that there will eventually be a single world government.

We also had a bit of social time. We had a nice dinner with Alex Luke, Jose’s PwC colleague and his girlfriend. They are staying in India for one year. We went to a nice area of the city and enjoyed a good Indian dinner. We also visited Ruchira’s (another of Jose’s PwC colleagues) parents and we had a lovely evening with them. They offered us a fantastic dinner, all types of meat all delicious.

By now, we are starting to get to know our way around. This includes negotiating with the auto rickshaws, our main way of travelling around. Also, we have a few favourite dishes, like the dessert Gulab Jamuns, deep fried balls of dough soaked in rose-flavoured syrup. It was also here in Delhi that we had the best dhal (lentils) we’ve tried so far.

We have also realised that we really want to stay longer here in India; therefore we will be here until the rest of our trip. Of course, this means postponing our trip to South East Asia. We think it makes sense, this country is so big and diverse and there’s so much to see. So, we are very happy with our decision.

permalink written by  patryandjose on December 8, 2009 from Delhi, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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Days 123 - 127

Amritsar, India

Después de una noche muy movida en el tren dentro de nuestras bolsas de dormir, llegamos a Amritsar. Los dos principales motivos para ir a Amritsar fueron visitar: 1) el Templo Dorado y 2) la ceremonia en el borde entre India y Pakistán en Attari, que queda a menos de 1 hora de Amritsar.

Terminamos quedándonos más de lo esperado (¡4 días!); la mayoría de los turistas vienen aquí solo un día o dos. Básicamente disfrutamos de nuestro tiempo haciendo Yoga, leyendo y relajándonos.

La ceremonia del borde fue como se esperaba, nada especial… soldados de India y Pakistán tratan de superarse los unos a los otros en una demostración de movimientos físicos cuidadosamente coreografiados. Ambos países parece que envían a sus soldados más altos y con mejores físicos a la frontera. Hay también un maestro de ceremonias asegurándose que los Pakistaníes escuchen a la multitud de India.

Lo más entretenido para nosotros fue una multitud que estaba calentándose antes de la ceremonia al ritmo de los últimos hits Punjabi que hicieron que muchos Indios no se pudieran resistir a bailar (aunque sólo a las mujeres les permitieron saltar de sus asientos a la calle y a los hombres los devolvieron rápidamente). Tratamos de pasar inadvertidos (José Pablo con una barba y Patricia con un chal) pero las cámaras y la ropa extraña siempre nos delatan. ¡Sin embargo, logramos sentarnos en el medio de la multitud India! A la mayoría de los extranjeros les pedían sentarse en una "sección especial" donde podían tener una mejor vista ¡pero menos atmósfera!

La pasamos muy bien en el Spa Svaasa que Ruchira, una amiga de José Pablo, nos sugirió. Su amigo desde la niñez, Ranjit, es dueño y maneja el hotel. Es una hermosa casa colonial, amigable con el ambiente, con facilidades modernas, habitaciones magníficas, gran servicio, realmente pacífico y la deliciosa comida es orgánica y preparada en estilo hogareño. ¿Qué más puede uno pedir? Estuvimos allí solo por el día pero le dimos buen uso al tiempo y tomamos algunos tratamientos de Ayurveda que estuvieron excelentes. Realmente recomendamos este lugar. El sitio web es: www.svaasa.com Muchas gracias a Ranjit por ser tan generoso y amable.

Lo más relevante de esta parte del viaje fue lo que aprendimos sobre los Sikhs y el Templo Dorado que es como su Meca. La mayoría de los Sikhs son esos tipos guapos Indios que llevan turbantes coloridos en sus cabezas y tienen barbas largas. Fue realmente interesante aprender del por qué de esas tradiciones. Sin querer aburrirles con una clase de religión en la cual no estamos calificados para darla bien, algunos hechos interesantes son: creen en un sólo Dios, en el laicismo (es decir uno no tiene que ser un sacerdote ni monje para lograr la iluminación o tener la vida eterna en el cielo), todos son iguales (es decir no hay diferencias entre las castas - India tiene una serie de niveles sociales fijos -, sexo, orígenes o religiones) y hay no cabeza religiosa suprema (después de 10 Gurús humanos ahora el Gurú es el libro santo que ellos dejaron).

La demostración más verdadera de Sikhismo para nosotros fue la cocina comunal que se encuentra en un lado del hermoso y pacífico Templo Dorado (cubierta dorada). ¡Le sirven hasta 60.000 personas al día, está abierta casi 24 horas, sirven alimentos higiénicos y sencillos a cualquiera y todo es gratis! Inclusive, sirven comida a turistas como nosotros. De hecho, comimos allí un par de veces pero la gente pobre puede ir allí todos los días si quiere. La operación corre en la manera más eficiente con voluntarios en su mayor parte Sikhs. Las porciones son generosas, la comida realmente sabrosa y el servicio increíblemente amable. Sin embargo, es realmente una experiencia de humildad. Uno encuentra a toda clase de personas allí y puede ofrecerse a lavar platos o pelar vegetales (nosotros preferimos dar un donativo). En general, comer en el restaurante comunal y sentarnos a mirar pacíficamente o meditar alrededor del Templo Dorado fueron definitivamente los puntos más relevantes del viaje a Amritsar.


After a bumpy overnight train ride inside our sleeping bags we arrived in Amritsar. We were drawn to Amritsar mainly because of 2 reasons: 1) the Golden Temple and 2) the border ceremony between India and Pakistan in Attari which is less than 1 hour away from Amritsar.

We finished staying for more than expected (4 days!); most tourists come here just for a day or two before heading back. We are basically enjoying our time of Yoga, reading and relaxing.

The border ceremony was as expected, nothing grand… India and Pakistan soldiers (they seem to send their taller best build soldiers to the border) try to outdo each other in a carefully choreographed demonstration of physical movements. There is also a crowd agitator to make sure that the Pakistanis hear the Indian side. Most fun was a crowd warming up with some of the latest Punjabi hits which made the Indian crowd could not resist dancing to (although only women were allowed to jump out of their sits into the street and men were quickly told to go back). We tried to go unnoticeable (Jose Pablo with a beard and Patricia with a shawl) but cameras and strange clothing always give us up. However, we managed to sit in the midst of the Indian crowd which most foreigners were told to sit in a “special section” from were they had a better view but less atmosphere!

We had a great time at the Svaasa Spa that Ruchira, Jose Pablo’s friend, suggested. His friend from childhood, Ranjit, owns and runs the place. It’s a beautiful colonial house, eco-friendly, with full modern facilities, gorgeous rooms, great service, really peaceful and the delicious food is organic and home-style. What else could you ask for? We were there just for the day but made good use of our time and took some Ayurveda treatments that were excellent. We really recommend it. This is the website: www.svaasa.com Thank you so much to Ranjit for being so generous and kind.

The great highlight of this part of the trip was learning more about the Sikhs and the Golden Temple which is like their Mecca. Most Sikhs are those handsome Indian fellas that go around wearing colourful head covers and have long beards. It was really amazing to learn more about the why of those traditions. Not to bore you with a religion class which we are not well qualified to give, but some interesting facts are: believing only in one God, secularism (i.e. one does not have to be a priest or monk to achieve enlightment or have eternal life in heaven), everybody is equal (i.e. no differences between casts, sex, origins or religions) and there is no supreme religious head (after 10 human Gurus now their Guru is the holy book that those left behind).

The truest demonstration of Sikhism for us was the communal kitchen found in one of the sides of the beautiful and peaceful Golden (plated) Temple. They serve up to 60,000 people per day; it is open almost 24 hours, serves simple hygienic food to anyone and it’s free! They even serve food to random tourists like us. In fact we ate there a couple of times but poor people can come there every day. The operation was running in the most efficient way with mostly Sikh volunteers. It was really a humbling experience although portions were generous, food really tasty and service incredibly kind. You meet all types of people there and can volunteer to wash dishes or peel vegetables (we preferred giving a donation). Overall having lunch in the communal eatery and then sitting peacefully to watch or meditate around the Golden Temple were definitely the highlights of the trip to Amritsar.

permalink written by  patryandjose on December 3, 2009 from Amritsar, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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Days 90 - 123

Rishikesh, India

Después de sólo una noche en Delhi, un viaje en tren bastante pacífico y un taxi alocado, llegamos a Rishikesh, la Capital Mundial de Yoga o la Tierra de los Videntes. Las vacas andan pacíficamente y pueden hacer lo que desean (inclusive robar una mano de bananos que José Pablo llevaba) y dejar excrementos en cada calle. De noche, los elefantes pueden bloquear la calle principal, por lo cual, es preferible no enfermarse a esa hora, sino lo llevan a uno en una motocicleta y hay que cruzar un puente colgante. Las clases de yoga y tratamientos de Ayurveda son ofrecidos a cada dos puertas, la carne y el alcohol son vistos como los enemigos y los sadhus (ascéticos – místicos que viven de forma completamente austera – que visten ropas anaranjadas) están por todos los rincones, algunos de ellos en verdaderos viajes espirituales y algunos otros dedicados a mendigar.

El hermoso Ashram Parmarth Niketan (un lugar de retiro espiritual) fue nuestro hogar por 4 semanas. Entre yogis y yoginis de diferentes países y muchos monos juguetones que estaban preparados para robar las botellas de agua o cualquier cosa parecida a comida, Patricia terminó un curso para ser profesora de Yoga. Jose esperaba hacer un curso introductorio y relajado de Yoga por una semana, sin embargo, acabó por hacer uno intensivo de 2 semanas, seguido por 2 semanas de Yoga dos veces al día.

Durante este tiempo, aprendimos no sólo acerca de asanas (la parte de ejercicio que normalmente llamamos Yoga) pero también acerca de cantos védicos, pranayama (control de la respiración), meditación, técnicas de limpieza, ayurveda (la ciencia de la vida incluyendo dieta) y sobre la filosofía oriental. Tuvimos nuestras comidas a horas fijas en el Ashram; todos los alimentos fueron vegetarianos y bastante sencillos y comíamos en el comedor donde todos nos sentamos en el piso cruzados de piernas. Podemos decir con confianza que este ha sido el tiempo en nuestras vidas cuando nos hemos sentido más sanos y más en forma.

Nuestra rutina diaria incluyó despertarnos antes de las 5 de la mañana, para poder seguir los requisitos de limpieza que deben ser seguidos antes de hacer Yoga. La primera clase empezaba a las 6 am de un día completamente lleno hasta las 8,00 pm cuando teníamos una sesión de Yoga Nidra (Yoga durmiendo). A partir de las 9.00 pm se suponía que el Ashram tenía que estar en silencio.

Ganga Aarti tenía lugar todos los días por una hora al atardecer, sentándonos en frente del Ganga (el Río Sagrado Ganges) y la estatua de Shiva, rodeado por los Rishi Kumaris (huérfanos que han sido adoptados por el Ashram) y muchos peregrinos y turistas. Como Swamiji (el gurú del Ashram) lo describe, Ganga Aarti es una hora feliz para juntarse, orar a la Madre Ganga a través de hermosas mantras y tomar parte en una ceremonia donde enviamos todos nuestros pensamientos y acciones negativas al fuego y como las semillas son quemadas ya no pueden germinar otra vez.

También tuvimos el privilegio de sentarnos con Swamiji. El nos contó historias de su vida y nos dio algunos de sus enseñanzas. Una de ellas se refirió a que Yoga no es una religión pero es una antigua ciencia que lleva a la salud en el cuerpo, la paz en la mente, la alegría en el corazón y la liberación del alma. El se refirió a los mantras que cantábamos. Estas mantras son escritos en el idioma antiguo de sánscrito; sin embargo, cuando nosotros los cantamos, se las podemos ofrecer a cualquier Dios que deseamos, a final de cuentas es el mismo Dios, solo que usamos nombres diferentes. Swamiji siempre dice que si usted es un musulmán, sólo sea un mejor musulmán; si usted es un cristiano, sólo sea un mejor cristiano.

En Rishikesh nos encontramos con bellas almas y nos honraron con su amistad. Compartimos una gama de nuevas experiencias como el oír los tambores todos los días a las 5 de la mañana, usar sólo ropa blanca, sentarnos en el piso los días enteros y tratar de aprendernos de memoria las mantras védicas.

En las escrituras, la liberación ha sido declarada como la recompensa de un baño en el Ganga o una revisión profunda del Bhagavad Gita (libro de enseñanzas espirituales). Aunque hemos estado estudiando el Gita, decidimos tomar la vía rápida y tomamos un baño en el Ganga. Estuvo muy frío, especialmente porque fue a las 6 am. ¡Pero quizá vamos a ocupar otros baño para poder lograr la liberación!

Visitamos el Maharishi Mahesh Yogui Ashram o también llamado el Beatles Ashram. Los Beatles y sus señoras visitaron el Ashram en 1968 y permanecieron allí para un par de meses durante los cuales escribieron muchas canciones. Sin embargo, ellos reclamaron que el Maharishi less había hecho demandas de dinero y que había tenido comportamientos impropios hacia los discípulos femeninos. Años más tarde, los Beatles se disculparon públicamente diciendo que los rumores fueron sin fundamento. Por estos o por otras razones que nosotros no conocemos, el Ashram fue abandonado en 1997. Aunque está en ruinas, las cúpulas de meditación están todavía en buena forma.

La principal calle del mercado está inundada con libros sobre meditación, yoga y espiritualidad, con música para apoyar su sendero espiritual, con agentes de viajes y cremas y medicinas de Ayurveda. ¡Ahora estamos bien armados para continuar nuestro viaje!

La pasamos muy bien en Rishikesh y nos gustaría regresar, quizás en Marzo para el Festival Internacional de Yoga…


After only one night in Delhi, a peaceful train ride and a hectic taxi, we arrived in Rishikesh, the Yoga Capital of the World or the Land of the Seers. The cows walk peacefully and can do anything they want (including stealing a hand of bananas that Jose Pablo was carrying) and leaving cow dung in every street. At night, elephants may block the main road so it’s better not to get sick at that time, otherwise you’ll need to be carried out in a motorcycle and cross the hanging bridge like that. Yoga classes and Ayurveda treatments are offered at every other door, meat and alcohol are seen as the enemies and sadhus (ascetics wearing orange robes) are in every corner, some of them on genuine spiritual journeys and some others dedicated to begging.

The beautiful Parmarth Niketan Ashram (a place of spiritual retreat) was our home for 4 weeks. Among yogis and yoginis from different countries and many playful monkeys ready to still your bottles of water or anything looking like food, Patricia finished a course to become a Yoga teacher. Jose was expecting to do a relaxing one week introductory yoga course but ended up doing a 2-week intensive, followed by 2 weeks of yoga twice a day.

During this time, we learned not only about asanas (the exercise part that we normally call Yoga) but also about vedic chanting, pranayama (breathing control), meditation, cleaning techniques, ayurveda (the science of life including diet) and eastern philosophy. We had our meals at fixed times at the Ashram; all the food was vegetarian and quite simple and we were eating at the dining hall where we all sit on the floor cross legged. We can say with confidence that this has been the time in our lives when we have felt the healthiest and fittest.

Our daily routine included waking up before 5 am, so that we could follow the cleaning requirements that must be met before doing Yoga. The first class would start at 6 am of a fully packed day until 8.00 pm when we would have a session on Yoga Nidra (sleeping Yoga). The Ashram then is supposed to be on silence after 9.00 pm.

Ganga Aarti happened every day for an hour at sunset sitting in front of the Ganga (the Holy Ganges River) and the statue of Shiva, surrounded by the Rishi Kumaris (orphans that have been adopted by the Ashram) and a large crowd of pilgrims and tourists. As Swamiji (the guru of the Ashram) describes it, Ganga Aarti is a happy hour to get together, pray to Mother Ganga through beautiful mantras and participate in a ceremony where we send all our negative thoughts and actions to the fire and as the seeds are burnt they won’t be able to germinate again.

We also had the privilege to sit with Swamiji. He told us stories of his life and gave us some of his teachings. One of them referred to yoga not being a religion but an ancient science which leads to health in the body, peace in the mind, joy in the heart and liberation of the soul. He referred to the mantras that we were singing. These mantras are written in the old Sanskrit language, however, when we sing them, we can offer them to any God we want, at the end of the day it is the same God, just different names. Swamiji always says that if you are a Muslim, just be a better Muslim; if you are a Christian, just be a better Christian.

We met beautiful souls there and were honoured with their friendship. We were all sharing a range of new experiences like hearing the drums ringing at 5 am every morning, wearing only white cloth, sitting on the floor the entire day and trying to learn the vedic mantras by heart.

In the scriptures, liberation has been declared to be the reward of a bath in the Ganga or a dive into the Bhagavad Gita (book of spiritual teachings). Even though we have been studying the Gita, we decided to take the fast track and had a bath in the Ganga. It was really cold, especially because it was at 6 am. But maybe we’ll still need another deep in order to achieve liberation!

We visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram or so called Beatles Ashram. The Beatles and their partners visited the Ashram in 1968 and stayed there for a couple of months during which they wrote many songs. However, they claimed that the Maharishi had made demands for money and had had improper behaviour towards female disciples. Years later, the Beatles publicly apologised saying that the rumours were unfounded. For these or for other reasons that we don’t know, the Ashram was abandoned in 1997. Even though it is in ruins, the meditation domes are still in good shape.

The main market street was inundated with books on meditation, yoga and spirituality, music to support your spiritual path, travel agents and Ayurvedic creams and medicines. We are now well armed to continue our journey!

We had a great time in Rishikesh and we are hoping to go back, maybe in March for the International Yoga Festival…

permalink written by  patryandjose on November 2, 2009 from Rishikesh, India
from the travel blog: Resumen de dónde estamos y para dónde vamos? - Summary of where we are and where are we going to?
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