Only now I understand the slogan Incredible India - it really is incredible!
It took me some time to get the courage to set off on this adventure, as I was often threatened by my friends that it was too dangerous for me to go to India on my own. Fortunately, in these cases I learned to listen to my inner feeling and not the external voices of my environment.
Every time I go for a holiday, I try to have a purpose to it. I usually dedicate my holidays to self-development in any way, physical, mental, emotional, be it detox, silent retreat or any kind of education, wrapped up with a touch of some cultural tourism (being from this background :) ). This time it was time for education - I decided to finally get my reiki master certificate, as I did the course before but never really got the actual certificate. Not that certificates matter, but I like to have things rounded up and completed, and this paper somehow gives me a feeling of completion. I started searching and the first thing that popped up was Buddha Hall in Rishikesh, India. I looked at the program and loved it but thought it was too complicated to travel to Delhi, spend the night there, get another flight to Rishikesh all on my own, so I continued searching for a similar program anywhere in Asia, and found nothing! It was so funny, as I was thinking how can it be possible that I cannot find a suitable reiki master course for me anywhere else other than Rishikesh. I took it as a sign and I made the decision of my life. In the end, I ended up traveling with a friend and not on my own, which was also a new experience for me.
India really is incredible! Amazing. Full of colors, rich in every way: spiritual, historical, cultural, natural; it's also chaotic but yet peaceful.
My first few days I dedicated to cultural tourism and wanted to learn as much as possible about the country and its heritage and culture, so I visited the most common places:
Humyun's Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a cemetery of Mughal royal familiy. There are more than 120 people buried in this complex which was built 80 years before Taj Mahal. It is the first example of Mughal architecture in India, the first example of garden tomb. There are four gardens (Char Bagh) that refer to Qur'an and four gardens of paradise, four streams that lead to four directions.
Humayun was the second Mughal king (16th century), who died by falling down the stairs and it was his wife who had it built for him.
Samadhi of Mahtma Ghandi, the cremation place of Mahatma Ghandi (October 2, 1869 - January 30, 1948) is a park containing part of India's recent history, called Raj Ghat, commemorated by a black marble platform with an eternal flame within a lantern. Access is available right up to the platform which can also be viewed from raised ground surrounding the site. Within the park there are also three other samadhi memorials to Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
Qutb Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world, and the second tallest minar in India. Qutb Complex, the minaret and the ancient and medieval monuments surrounding it, are a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site. Made of red sandstone and marble, Qutub Minar is a 72.5-meter tall tapering tower that inside has a circular staircase with 379 steps leading to the top. It was built in the 12th century and it was the first mosque in India, built from 27 Hindu temples.
Qutb Minar is surrounded by several historically significant monuments, which are historically connected with the tower and are part of the Qutb Complex. These include the Iron Pillar of Delhi, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Alai Darwaza, the Tomb of Iltutmish, Alai Minar, Ala-ud-din's Madrasa and Tomb, and the Tomb of Imam Zamin. Other minor monuments include Major Smith's Cupola and Sanderson's Sundial.
Taj Mahal, the symbol of love, an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the banks of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She was his second wife and had three wishes for him:
- Not to re-marry
- Take care of all the children (she died giving birth)
- To do something that will become famous in the world for their love
The tomb is the centerpiece of a 42-acre complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens. All the drawings were designed by Shah Mahal himself. It took 22 years for the construction of Taj Mahal to be completed and it was done by the Iranian architect, Isa Mohamed Mohondi. The construction project employed some 20,000 local artisans and even nowadays, only the ancestors of those families are the ones who repair it and maintain it.
The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage". It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India's rich history. The Taj Mahal attracts 7–8 million visitors a year. In 2007, it was declared a winner of the New 7 Wonders of the World (2000–2007) initiative, as it is the most symmetrical buiding in the world.
Agra Fort, the present-day structure was built by the Mughals, though a fort had stood there since at least the 11th century. It consists of 500 palaces, 60 rulers resided in it. It was only during the reign of Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan, that the site took on its current state. Legend has it that Shah Jahan built the beautiful Taj Mahal for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. At the end of his life, Shah Jahan was deposed and restrained by his son, Aurangzeb, in the fort. It is rumoured that Shah Jahan died in Muasamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with a view of the Taj Mahal.
The fort was the site of a battle during the Indian rebellion of 1857, which caused the end of the British East India Company's rule in India, and led to a century of direct rule of India by Britain.
So this was my cultural part of the journey where I learned so much about the history, culture, tradition, and got to admire the rich art and architectural masterpieces known worldwide.
Then came my favorite part, where I got to learn about the other side of India, the spiritual side, the mystical India, the part of India that actually brings out the unknown from inside of you, confronts you with the hidden part of yourself. There is something about India that is undefined, that cannot be described but needs to be felt and experienced. I loved it. The chaos that you feel in the air, at the same time, vibrates with peace. Very interesting.
I stayed in Rishikesh, a small town on the banks of the river Ganges, known as the holy river. Is the river really holly or not, who knows, but what my teacher Usha said was very interesting:
"Everyone believes it's holy, so it must be holy. It is the intention that counts!"
I kind of avoided those places that were known as spiritual centers, as I doubted that there really was any spirituality in them, I thought it was more of a marketing or westernized culture. But, in the end, I proved myself wrong, as Rishikesh, despite the fact that it is very westernized, it still has an Indian charm in the air and had a lot to offer.
I did a reiki master & healing course so I didn't really have too much free time. My days were mainly spent in the classroom learning and practicing, and if I had any free time, I would just wonder around the streets of Rishikesh, and get lost in those colorful tiny shops. Colors, colors, colors everywhere; bags, malas, crystals, food, people, houses, colors - everywhere. In the beginning I didn't really dare to explore too much on my own, as I was threatened not to walk alone, or to be careful where and what to eat, so I really was careful. But eventually, I felt quite safe wondering around, so safe that Maria and I ended up having the best pizza ever in the German Bakery by the Laxam Jhula bridge, great smoothies, delicious palaks in the street restaurants and definitely the best shopping - I bought so many books, for such a great price! (Books are my passion. I love them and can never get enough of them!)
My teacher Usha was the most adorable person I met. So knowledgeable, with extensive experience in spirituality and energy work, a great business woman, a great teacher. I was trying to soak in every word she would share with us, either by writing or by trying to memorize it. Of course, practice makes perfect. All the acquired knowledge needs practice, and practice makes perfect, but the more I learn, the more I am aware how little I know.
I met so many wonderful like-minded people and learned so much from them too.
Overall, this was one of my favorite trips. Not only did I learn so much and acquired skills and knowledge about chakras, crystals, pranayama and reiki itself but I also learned a lot about myself. I enjoyed the peace and alone time, even though this was my first trip of this kind that I did with a friend. We even shared a room, what I was worried about, but in the end it all ended up great. We got along great, we complemented each other and talked a lot -which is the moment when you become aware of certain things once you say them out loud, and we had so much fun together as well.
I came to India with a goal to learn and to improve my skills to be able to heal myself (and eventually others too) by energizing my body with the universal energy, and not only did I get this, but I also enriched my world with great people, great experience, amazing impressions, and beautiful memories.
If there is anything I would emphasize from this trip, then this is the lessons I am taking with me: