Now I would like to take you to 3 different significant places in India. As indicated on the map above we will be exploring some parts in the north and northwest part of this big subcontinent.
Let’s start with Amritsar. Amritsar is located in Punjab state in northwest India. It is home to the Golden Temple, one of Sikhism’s most spiritually significant and most-visited place of worship. Sikhism is an Indian monotheistic religion that originated in the Punjab region around the end of the 15th century and now it is the world’s fifth largest organized religion.
The Golden Temple is an open house of worship for all men and women, from all walks of life and faith. The complex is a blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural styles. It has a square plan with four entrances and has a circumambulation path around the pool.
Millions of people visit the Golden Temple each year for pilgrimage. Over 100,000 people visit the holy shrine daily. It is unbelievable to see this crowd of people. The temple is closed just for 4 hours a day but at the rest of the times it is visited by huge lines of people. In this crowd you need to wait in the line for almost 4 hours to be able to reach and see the inside of the temple.
Amritsar means the pool of the nectar of immortality. The pool at the Golden Temple is believed to have healing powers and pilgrims bathe in its sacred waters. The flood of Sikh people looks so colourful because of their turban colour. The colours may reflect association with a particular group or religious conviction of Sikh.
Sikh community run temple’s kitchen that serves a simple vegetarian meal to all visitors without discrimination, regardless of faith, gender or economic background. Can you believe it is serving food for almost 50,000 people each day?
I was so impressed by the selfless service of the people. Hundreds of people volunteer for preparing, cooking, serving the food, cleaning the temple and providing water for everyone in the extreme heats of the day.
The temple also offers free accommodation for visitors. And there is a private dorm for foreign visitors. There were more than thousand people sleeping in the building I stayed. The scale is enormous, right?
I arrived here by a 6 hour bus journey from Dharamshala. I hadn’t slept for almost 1,5 days out of a massive inner pain. I’ve wrote about this pain of mine in ‘Bodghaya and Dharamshala’ days. To understand the integrity of my story you can read that essay. Or let me put it into words so simply. Recently I had an unexpected staggering experience that would be life changing eventually. Based on this, I was in a deep grief.
The weather was intolerably hot. I was surrounded by a great number of people. It was not easy to walk and find your way in between them. Some men were carrying kirpans (a sword or a dagger carried by Sikhs that is a part of a religious commandment) and I was finding the glances of men not so comforting and welcoming. Outside the temple, somewhere in the city a man, in an unkind manner told me to go, that I don’t have a place here, due to the printed Buddhist mandala on my tshirt. The atmosphere was intensive. Because of the vulnerability of my heart I was perceiving everything as so tough.
Please do not let my experience put a negative judgement into your mind about Amritsar. These are so personal experiences. Travelling is an unknown field manifesting due to the flow of your energy and the universe’s. Each experience told me again and again that regardless of how much information or recommendation you collect for a specific place, you have a unique flow that brings different tones with itself.
As I arrived at the temple I put my bag in the dorm, found myself a shady place around the pool and slept for couple of hours between the sounds of prayers of hundreds of people. After I woke up I started to observe. I tried to ease my pain with the devoted spiritual energies of people around me. I circumambulated the temple many times.
Next morning I woke up around 4 o’clock. Waking up to the new day was so difficult these days as I was remembering my pain right away at the exact moment my conciousness was opening. Fullmoon is up there in the sky bringing me even more intense energies. People said fullmoon night is seen as more holy in the Golden Temple. Fullmoon as a symbol refers to the endings. But this time the ending in my life was like a distasteful joke. I went to the inner sanctum where priests and musicians were continuously singing hymns. I found myself a corner, sat and I burst into tears. I kept on reminding myself not to fall into the sense of being a victim. But I got exhausted under the burden of the things I had to accept. Grief is such a thing. When it comes it may be difficult to let go. Thanks to the tears that heal us.
“My dear is your caravan lost?
It is if you can no longer be kind to yourself
And loving to those who must live
With the sometimes difficult task of loving you.
At least come to know
That someone untied your camel last night
For I hear its gentle voice
Calling for God in the desert.”
From Hafiz, a great Persian Sufi poet
The journey that took me from Amritsar to Jaipur was totally a nightmare. It was the national holiday, all roads were full of people so it was almost impossible to find a ticket. But somehow two men helped me at the terminal and arranged me a seat at a bus. So that I could be able to find my way without going all the way back to Delhi. After 18 hours I was finally in Jaipur and entered Rajastan state for the first time.
Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of the Rajastan state in northwest India and it is the gateway to India’s most colourful state, Rajastan. Jaipur is also known as the Pink City, due to the dominant color scheme of its buildings. Here we see the unique Rajastani architecture.
At the heart of this historical city, the City Palace continues to house the former royal family. I was not here in the best season. In fact I was here at the worst. Summers begin from mid March to June and have very hot weather with temperatures around 40 degrees. So if you visit during these seasons prepare for the scorching heat.
The city’s streets, alleys and markets are so colourful, vibrant and chaotic at the same time. In the middle of this cacophony you come across some little shrines, temples, small or big markets. There are many traditional shops selling antiques and handicrafts like block printing, stone carving and jewellery.
There is a huge section of colourful saris in the bazaar. Sari (saree) is the women’s cloth in the Indian subcontinent. It is a long one piece fabric (5-8meters) that is wrapped around the waist and shoulder. Above you can see illustrations of many saris of different styles. Amazingly beautiful Indian women look even more beautiful in those sarees with decorative borders, silver and golden coloured shiny ornaments.
Nahargarh Fort which was the residence of the king, crowns the arid hill in the northwest corner of the old city. There is a 360 degree view from top where you can see the scale of the city and its surroundings.
These days were seriously difficult because of my vulnerable heart. The heat was unbearable outside and inside and the chaos of the city was making me feel even more lost in my attempts to find my way out. I was so weak in pain that I was uncapable to look after my mind that it was counter attacking me over and over again, making me wonder if I was going mad or not. I kept on reminding myself to be patient, everything would end sooner or later for sure.
I wish and pray for anyone who is going through these types of intensive times one major thing; that is compassion. Compassion for one’s self. And if that is possible I wish for everyone to have support from people around them who are willing to help to remove the suffering from the one. Compassion is beyond empathy that goes a huge step forward with the motivation to relieve the suffering from the person.
But I was alone. It was not my choice. Somehow all the energies in the universe were unfolding in such a way that I was ending up to deal with my pain alone. Apart from one or two, my loved ones were not around me any more. It was my sixth month in my journey and interestingly as I was out of sight, I was out of the minds of friends. I was forgotten. This gives pain at the first place then you get used to this fact of life. People forget.
In fact dealing with my pain in my aloneness was the best set up for my growth. This enabled me to develop my capacity more strongly, to train my mind more wisely.
I was quite lucky that in Jaipur my path crossed with Derya (above), a dear sister I knew from Turkey. I guess I will never forget that early evening when we went to this forth up on the hill. I remember on top of that hill, I laid down on the ground helplessly. She simply put her hands on my heart. There was no need for words but the human touch performed its healing gift. With tears I just let myself watch the birds fly above me.
Then I moved to Pushkar (above) that is a fascinating town in centeral part of Rajastan and it is situated about 150 kilometres southwest of Jaipur. To me it is the most beautiful town in Rajastan. The best attraction of Pushkar is the Pushkar Lake which is believed to be holy. Town is located on the shore of this lake.
Pushkar is a pilgrimage site for Hindus. The lake has many ghats that are the series of steps leading down to a body of water where Hindu pujas (prayers) and bathing take place. One of these steps is called the Gandhi Ghat where Gandhi’s ashes were sprinkled here to the holy waters.
Pushkar has many temples among which it hosts one of the world’s few Brahma temples. I really liked to wander around inbetween the temples by the lake. I was choosing mostly the quite times when there were less people so I was sharing this mystical spaces just with the cows.
Since it is a pilgrimage place there are also many other temples in the town. Pushkar is also a holy place for Sikhs so there are some gurdwaras as well that are the places of worship for Sikh people.
Savitri Mata temple is located on a hilltop (above) at the southwest part of the town. From here you clearly see the arid landscape you have reached to. The temple overlooks the lake and the views are fantastic especially during the sunset. You can reach there by a cable way or trek one hour up. And about 8km southwest of town is a collection of Shiva temples in an arid rocky area. (above)
Motorcycle is a good way to explore the deserty landscape of the surrounding. Apart from some Shiva temples you can also visit the ashram of Alu Baba somewhere outside the town. Soon for the next destination I was in the direction to reach the desert and all the sceneries were telling me that I was just at the entrance to the heart of the desert. It was so surprising and amazing to see peacocks with their beautiful colours remarkably shining in the calm earth colours of the nature.
You start to see camels in and around the life. Pushkar is world famous for its spectacular Camel Fair which takes place in the Hindu month of Kartika (October/November). Pushkar is also the place to discover Rajastani traditional music. There are many underground musicians performing every night at the lake during the sunset. Go to the sunset point to experience this upbeat vibe. Here we became friends with Soji (above) who is a local musician from the desert.
Pushkar is known to be the best place to shop in Northern India. Main street is the colourful bazaar with lots of shops selling different handicrafts, jeweleries, clothes, cushion covers, bags etc. Many people come to Pushkar to buy souvenirs to sell back in their countries.
Pushkar is a blend of religious and traditional scenes. It is still incredibly mystic and has a great magnetism that made me stay here for two weeks. I gave many of my time wandering around the labyrinth like alleys around the lake. Then I was resting at my favourite chai shop on the corner and observing the people passing by, chatting with other travellers that I met. These were the best things to do to discover all walks of life.
Pushkar let me rest and relax in her soft and compassionate embrace. It helped my mind to calm down during the intensive unpleasant inner process I was going through. Having long walks around the lake, meditating during the sunset each day, hearing the sounds of pujas coming from the temples, all were helping me to relax more and more deeply. Slowly I was receiving the rewards of my efforts on being awake to all the games of my ego. It is ok Deniz. All is ok.
At my last day I did a ceremony by the lake. I offered flowers to this holy water and prayed for wisdom that will free me from suffering.
Through my pain a particular energy was rising, pointing me the opening of new beginnings. How meaningful that was because Pushkar hosts one of the world’s few Brahma temples. Brahma is one of the three major Gods of Hinduism along with Shiva and Vishnu. Brahma stands for the creator aspect of the universe. It was as if this energy was reaching out for me.
It was time to focuse on my journey that had already brought me many gifts and has the potential to bring me more in its unknown flow. It was time to refresh my motivation and open myself fully and surrender to whatever will unfold. A brand new era had started already unfolding with the power of creation. And this was so uplifting, stimulating and so spacious.
“Would you become a pilgrim on the road of love? If so, keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. The wound is the place where the light enters you. Let silence take you to the core of life. Then make yourself humble as dust and ashes. This will unfold your own myth.”