what an interesting country + what a great introduction by our tour vital guide kamalesh gogna:
rule no. 1: there are 5 important things when you travel (and live?) in india: patience, patience, patience, patience (= 4 different levels of patience, of course) + tolerance. easy, isn't it?
rule no. 2: forget everything what you have heard/seen about india and start exploring by yourself. why? because the sensation hungry mainstream media often concentrates on the 1% of strange/sad situations or exceptions and not on the average normal live ... :-)
on our 16-days-journey we have been mainly in the desert state of rajasthan, but we have spent also 2 nights in uttar pradesh (agra + taj mahal) and two days in delhi, but unfortunately we haven't seen the mahatma gandhi museum / monument. anyway, we have visited many unesco world cultural heritage sites, the indian wall against muslim aggressors (yes, indians also built a protective wall and not only the chinese or east germans ;-), tigers and other animals in nature => so nice and much more :-)
hinduism teaches that the result of former actions is our today's life and the result of today's actions is our future. btw, our body is the result of the food we have had before as well. if only mcdonald's and monsanto knew :-) ... doing good brings good future (good karma), etc. the goal of hindus is to step out of the karma cycle and thus the join of the current individual soul with the (higher) global collective soul ...
humans have human powers, gods have above human powers. easy, isn't it? and yes, there are 330 millions gods in hinduism, but let's start talking about the 3 main hindu gods brahma, vishnu and shiva (=> hindu trinity) first:
brahma is creator of the world, his transport animal (= vehicle) is a goose, he has 4 heads and 4 useful tools: a book (veda) + rosary beads (rosenkranz), a ladle (schöpfkelle) and an utensil with water. brahma has 2 wives, the 2nd wife is called wisdom; he is sometimes shown sitting in a lotos flower which vishnu holds in one of his hands,
vishnu has 10 incarnations as fish (~life in water), turtle, male pig (~life on earth), krishna (black god often painted in blue colour who has 16.008 wives), ..., buddha, ... the 10th incarnation kalki as a king on a transport animal horse still to come in order to rescue us).
(from german wikipedia) --> the 10 incarnations of vishnu
- Matsya – Fisch, zieht in der großen Flut die Arche
- Kurma – Schildkröte, trägt den Berg Mandara beim Quirlen des Milchozeans auf ihrem Panzer
- Varaha – Rieseneber, rettet die Erde in Gestalt der Göttin Bhudevi aus dem Urozean
- Narasimha – Mann mit Löwenkopf, tötet den Dämon Hiranyakashipu
- Vamana – Zwerg, wächst zum Riesen heran und misst mit drei Schritten die Welt aus
- Parashurama – „Rama mit der Axt“, Vishnu in Menschengestalt als Rächer eines Brahmanenmordes
- Rama – der Held des Epos Ramayana, nicht mit der 6. Inkarnation identisch
- Krishna – „der Schwarze“ mit 16.008 (Ehe-)frauen, Verkünder der Bhagavad Gita
- Buddha – manchmal auch „Balarama“, der Bruder Krishnas
- Kalki – zukünftige Inkarnation Vishnus als Reiter auf dem Pferd, der den Dharma wiederherstellt
legend #1: why elephant's head ~ ganesha was born when his father shiva was longer time not at home (mediation in the hills?). one day as his mother took a bath, she asked ganesha to watch in front of the house and not allow anybody to come in. as shiva returned in that moment, he wanted to see his wife. ganesha didn't let his father in as his mother said nobody is allowed to come in. shiva became angry and in a fight cut off ganesha's head. after a while he was sad about it and sent some gods/people to bring/borrow a new head for ganesha from the first animal they will meet. of course, ganesha gathered also a smartness of that elephant which later helped him to became the leader among the gods.
legend #2: why god of gods ~ one day the hindu gods decided to choose a supergod out of themselves but couldn't agree on any of them. thus they asked shiva whom to ellect. shiva suggested the leader should be the one who could orbit the world fastest. the gods agreed and started the competition. ganesha knew, that he has no chance to win as his vehicle mouse couldn't seriously compete with others. after a while he painted a phallus symbol in the sand/earth and circled around it on his mouse. when the other gods came back after their runs, they become angry and they said ganesha cheated. they again asked shiva, whether ganesha's trick conforms the rules. after thinking about it, shiva confirmed that the join of man's and women's energy represent the parents, the beginning of life and the whole world and thus that ganesha was right. that's how became the smart genesha god of gods :-)
book bhavagat GEETA / GITA about the dialogue between god krishna and prince anjun / arjuna in which krishna answers prince's 100 questions and doing so explains the philosophy of life.
there are not many professions jainists are allowed to do, so they are mostly salesmen (and thus many of them rich). it is similar to the fate of jews in medieval europe, isn't it? of course, the jews didn't like or even choose the restrictions on their business opportunities but adopted successfully to the bans the christians put on them and became salesmen, doctors, attorneys, bankers, teachers/professors, ...
the jainist monks/pilgrims who left all their belongings behind and travel through the country with a peacock feather (to move ants and other insects from the way in order not to harm them) seek to reach pure infinite knowledge as jina reached after 12 years of pilgrimage. the jainist monks differ in south and north india: in northern india they wear white robes, the more rigorous southern indian jainist pilgrims nothing.
anyway, there is a huge religious diversity and religious tolerance in india. the statistics from 2011 are as follows (= 80% hindus + 15% muslims + 5% others):
swastika (from sanskrit language) is a symbol of good luck (or of balance in life?) - the 4 equal long strokes mean work, duty (for parents & children), sex and death (???). the 4 dots mean the 4 forms of human body: physical, ethereal, emotional and mental
indian castes system was defined/introduced by the portuguese (casta = race, lineage, or breed). of course there was a lineage system in india before as in former times the profession was passed from parents to children and over millennia people of similar professions married each other (=> class system). and yes, the castes are in india still present as there are even quotas for specific castes for government jobs or for higher education access for students from the lower castes; in the 2011 population census was the cast belonging again asked for; the wedding announces in the newspapers are grouped by castes and so on ... the 4 castes represent 4 parts of the body (head, hands, belly, legs). what about the untouchables (streets cleaning personnel, butchers, shoemakers, dead people burner + 1 more)?
kasten- (geburt/abstammung) und klassensystem (berufsgruppen) nach wie vor offiziell bestätigt. bei der volkszählung 2011 wurde die angabe der kastenzugehörigkeit wieder eingeführt und bei staatsposten/-jobs gibt es sogar quoten für bestimmte kasten .... es gibt 4 klassen und die 'schmutzigen' unberührbaren (müllmänner / strassenkehrer, metzger, schuster, totenverbrenner + 1 weitere)
- Brahmanas / Brahmins - priests / teachers => head
- Satrias - knighthood / watchmen / soldiers => hands
- Wesias - commerce (+ farmers) => belly
- Sudras - servitude => legs
the 800 years of muslim and 200 years of english occupation where the indian culture & education were systematically destroyed (e.g. koran schools instead of former universities) have turned a highly developed and highly educated nation into a nation of analphabets. in time of indian independence in 1947 there have been approximately 80% analphabets. today less than 30%, i think.
holy cows? the cow is a symbol of a mother
indian life expectancy? men 63 & women 66 (or similar), which is significantly lower than in western europe (germany 78 & 83)
indian weddings? well, most of them are still arranged within the same social caste by the parents/families as a marriage is also a life-long link between the families. why life-long? unlike the west, the divorce rate in india is only about 1%. does the same caste and thus similar worldview, similar eating habits (a marriage between a vegetarian brahmin and meat-eating warriors would probably cause some problems, wouldn't it?) link indian couples stronger to each other than it is in the western world common? or is it only the still worse possibilities for women to earn money and to be independent what keeps many of indian marriages alive?
our stops (taken from our travel agency's tour vital website and journey desription here): delhi - mandawa - bikaner - rat temple karni mata in deshnoke (bikaner) - jaisalmer - jodhpur - luni - jain temple in ranakpur - udaipur - bambora (bamora) - jaipur - amber - sawaimadhopur - tiger reserve ranthambore (ranthambhore) - bharatpur - fatehpur sikri - agra - delhi
view some impressions:
more pictures here but please be careful as there are much too many picutures, almost 1,000, really. well, i upload pictures basically for myself in order to capture my memories and i really do not want to bore you with too many impressions. please promise, you will look just at overview and zoom in only for the most interesting sights for you, won't you?
anyway, in india there are not only many colours and many tastes (especially the delightful vegetarian food, wich was not that spicy i thought it will be), but there are many noises too:
#2 udaipur by night
#3 every day street horror (jodhpur at the market on the clock tower square)
#4 sweet monkeys in ganesha temple, ranthambore fort (tiger reserve)
#5 wedding musicians in bambora (bamora) spontaneous playing + singing for me, as i was the only one who gave a nice tip to them :-)