India – a world within a country
Atualizado: 11 de Jan de 2018
There is a saying about India, which goes more or less like this: One either loves it or hates it but never stands in between.
We definitely stand with the first part.
Of course India will always be India and like
any other country it has its own characteristic traits.
The cows will always be sacred; the trash will always be there; the food will always be spicy; the people will always have that intense look towards you; the contrasts and poverty will always be extreme and the smells will always penetrate through your nose without any prior warning.
However, India is a vast world. It is, with a distance, the most diverse country we visited so far.
For those who love facts and numbers, India accepts and practices all religions, from Christianity to Islamism, Buddhism, Hinduism and its varieties. In fact, all religions are taken into consideration when counting the number of holidays, which makes India one of the countries with more days off per year.
There are more than 28 officials languages, and some hundreds more of dialects. It is the second largest country in the world and specialists say they will surpass China in some year’s time due to birth rates.
It has more than 1.3 billion people, but around 90% of the country’s wealth is gathered in the hands of a roughly 10% of the population.
It is a complex ecosystem and everything they do echoes into the world.
The idea we are trying to transmit is that it is almost impossible to judge this enormous and complex country from a biased opinion created on a two-week trip where everything is pre-booked from your country.
India is a world within a country and if one is able to surpass all its main shocking characteristics, we believe one will be certainly mesmerised.
In Delhi, similar to other big metropolis such as Mumbai, we faced the messy markets, the extreme pollution, and saw extreme poverty with our own eyes, as already shared in our first article about India. Moreover, if you have the chance to go with a minimum safety net we guarantee you will experience a burst of emotions with fear being one of the main ones, that few other places will allow such experience.
Chaos, smells, curries, and crowded poor places are India’s first thoughts. Nonetheless, India is far more than that.
India is also the northern part of Himachal Pradesh, where we discovered a spectacular mountainous landscape, trekking paths and incredible views. It is also home to several Tibetan refugees, which shows Indian inner kindness for the Tibetan people.
McLeod Ganj is a breathtaking and spiritual
place where you can often see Buddhist, Western and Indian people commingle together, as a glimpse of what acceptance should be.
For us, it was even more unique, as we met one of the best persons so far: Nitin Sharma. For avid travellers, travelling is also the human interaction, the people that came across into their lives, and Nitin really sure enriched ours.
Continuing to the northern part of the country we can find the most religious place we have ever visited. The Golden Temple, in Amritsar. It was the most remarkable complex we had the opportunity to see, where the spirituality goes on another level and words cannot really express it.
As a Sikh temple, food and shelter are not denied to anybody.
In fact, the Golden Temple complex feeds, freely, more than 100.000 people every day and it is one of the most visited religious complexes in the world.
For us, it was just unspeakable. People were constantly praying, meditating, worshiping, and bathing on the lake. It seems a coordinated show to the sound of the non-stop music, day in and day out.
Nonetheless, it is during the nighttime that the Golden Temple really speaks to your heart. Mirrored on the surrounding water, with people worshiping their believes, one can almost feel their faith.
But India is not just chaos and religion.
In the north/center part, there is a region called Rajasthan, the luxurious India.
The mountains landscapes and religious complexes will transact into majestic palaces and ancient forts.
Here, we found cleaner streets, good-looking accommodation for reasonable prices, huge history, coloured cities and smiling Indian faces. One of the most touristic places in India, the Rajasthan cities, will certainly continue to dazzle any explorer.
Jaipur, its capital, is also known as the pink city. It is a gentle combination of an Indian metropolis with the Rajasthan traits. Messy and crowded but not so dirty, with several impressive forts outside the city center and rich stories within the city pinky walls, it leave no one indifferent.
About 350 km to the east one can find Jodhpur, the blue city and the city of furniture. It is home to one the best forts in all Rajasthan, blessed with an amazing view to blue roofs, which creates a singular view. We got lost in its narrow streets and met local people, the true Indian richness.
Around another 350 km to the east is located Jaisalmer, also known as the golden city. Take a chance to go on a night safari and sleep literally under the stars. Sleeping directly on the sand and eating local food cooked on a fire was one the best experiences. Moreover, its fort is different from the remaining in the Rajasthan. It is still home to several people and stores. It is an awesome place to get lost and stop for a tea with a view to the desert.
Finally Udaipur, the city of lakes and rooftops is the Indian Switzerland. Different from the remaining Rajasthan cities, it can create several sceneries that can be easily compared to paintings. The lake palaces lighten during the night are home to a different India image while the surrounding mountains create the perfect scenario for a romantic evening.
The third city of the golden triangle, Agra is home to one of the World’s seven wonders: Taj Mahal. It took around 21 years and more than 20.000 men to build this majestic masterpiece, which, according to the myth, it is the one of the most glorious love stories. According to historians, the emperor Shah Jahan ordered the construction of Taj Mahal in memory of his fallen wife, Aryumand Banu Begam, to whom he called Mumtaz Mahal ("the crown jewel”).
The real cost is today still not certain, but it is estimated that nowadays it would have cost around 830 millions dollars.
If you want to take the most from your visit in the Taj Mahal buy the services of an accredited guide. We certainly did.
Nonetheless, when it comes to the real Indian culture, travellers say it is mirrored in the city of Varanasi. Sacred, spectacular and one of the most colorful and fascinating places on earth. Even Lonely Planet states “Varanasi is the India of your imagination “.
Walking by the Ghats is something every human should experience in their lifetime. Varanasi is a place where the relationship with death is overwhelmingly close and intense.
We had the opportunity to mingle with the local people and experience the burning rituals at first hand, get a deep understanding from a local point of view, which was one of the most intense and open-minded experiences we ever had.
Varanasi has people from the 4 corners of India and is a place where everyone is treated as equal, flesh and soul.
Unluckily, we missed the Aghori, the exiled monks who worship Shiva the goddess of death. They are feared across India, feast on human flesh and reside near cremation sites in search of spiritual enlightenment. Their clothes are replaced by human ashes, and there are even reports mentioning they do intercourse with dead bodies.
According to some travellers we met along the way, the Aghori can be found in Varanasi especially from December to March, wandering near the sacred Ganj river.
India goes beyond and continues to dazzle with its variety.
It is possible to relax in the beaches of Goa and party in beach clubs all night long. Goa is like taking a vacation from India. More relaxed and westernised.
If you have a chance, rent a bike and get lost in Goa for several days while exploring the endless beaches and hidden corners the ex Portuguese colony has to offer.
Moreover, Goa has a significant historical influence from Portugal, which, for us, felt like visiting a different Portugal in the Fontainhas area.
As if it was not enough, India still allows you to get lost in the greenish tea plantations and trekking paths with majestic landscapes in Munnar, Kerala. It was one of the best places for sightseeing we have been along this trip of ours.
The green tons will take a remarkable tonic when touched by the shiny sun resembling any nature painting. We were blessed with relative good weather and the experience was impeccable.
Despite the immense variety, with one and a half month of travelling across India, we had the opportunity to experience and see just a tiny part of what India has to offer.
Mountains, trekking paths, religious places, majestic forts and palaces, spiritual locations, beaches and party environments, greenish landscapes and never ending tea plantations.
Nonetheless, we could not finish without mentioning that India's must see are its people. We were absolute amazed by their kindness, honesty and curiosity.
It was more than 45 days in India and we absolutely loved it!
Thank you to everyone that made this experience so enriching. We will be back!