A Glimpse of India: 8 Experiences for Your First Visit

By Roger Gabriel (Raghavanand) Roger Gabriel (Raghavanand)India is a total sensory experience; it’s a plethora of sights, tastes, smells, and sounds. The mundane or the bizarre, the chaotic or the silent, the profane or the profound, can be waiting around any corner. Sooner or later, those of us who study and practice the teachings of Vedanta get drawn to visit India. The Land of the Veda calls us home. Whether you answer her call or prefer armchair travel, here’s a small glimpse of what India has to offer.
Sacred Rivers
Rivers are the life-blood of India. As well as providing water for crops and village homes, they are used for bathing, doing laundry, washing animals, and performing sacred rituals. They are also the pilgrimage destination for devout Hindus, and become the final resting place for many a devotee’s cremated ashes.
India’s holiest river, the Ganges, descends from the snow-capped Himalayas turning westward to wind her way across India’s great northern plain. Ma Ganga, as she is known, is worshipped throughout India as the compassionate Goddess who flows from heaven bringing life, sustenance, and purification to all who are touched by her waters. The devout believe that bathing in the Ganges washes away the sins of hundreds of lifetimes. Having dipped in the Ganges many times, I now realize all the sins I must have washed away!
Temples and shrines of all shapes and sizes are found in towns, in small obscure villages, and on lonely hilltops throughout India. Many date back thousands of years, some having been knocked down by invaders and rebuilt by a later generation. Popular temples are often filled with pilgrims from all over India and beyond.
On your first visit to an Indian temple, you may be surprised by the amount of noise and activity—quite unlike the demure silence of Western churches and cathedrals. Priests will be chanting, making offerings at a variety of shrines, and breaking open coconuts. Bells will be ringing, hordes of pilgrims will be crowding excitedly in front of their favorite deity, and in the larger temples, you may meeting an elephant or two. Cows and dogs are commonplace in the outer areas and the monkeys of course go where they like. However, beneath all the hustle and bustle is a deep spirituality and, for the devotees, the temples are objects of adoration and the home of their gods.           
India has an ascetic tradition like none other in the world. For thousands of years, individuals have stepped out of the conventional norm to pursue their own inner search for the Divine. You will meet these holy people, known as Sadhus, wandering along a dusty road, making offerings at a sacred shrine or bathing in sacred rivers. Some have chosen this life from an early age while many others have ‘completed’ their family obligations and decided to renounce the material world only in their later years. Today there are between four and five million Sadhus in India, about 10 percent of which are women.
Most Sadhus still follow the codes …read more
Source: Deepak Chopra