Tuesday, July 8, 2008

India II (June 27 - July 4)

Although we didn't intend it, almost three weeks passed since the last post. Time goes so fast on the trip:)

As already mentioned in the previous post, we visited quite well known places in India during second week. We went by bus from Jaipur right to Agra, where we stayed for 3 days - including a whole day trip to Fatehpur Sikri - and of course not missing out the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and the Baby Taj. Going by rickshaw turned out to be really cheap as soon as we allowed the driver to take us to local shops and manufactures (where they received a commission). This way, we not only enjoyed many hours of ride for less then €0,5, but also learned a lot about carpets, marble, jewelery, local dresses (mostly sari and various scarfs) etc.

A mysterious site of Hindu temples in Khajuraho was the next place to visit. In spite of making our journey to Varanasi a little bit longer (going through Jhansi), it was definitely worth visiting. Based on what we have read in our guide book, even the scientists don't know why so many (around 17, grouped into 3 main groups) giant temples were built in a short period of time, quite off the main roads. There is only 20,000 people living in Khajuraho, however, the village was very vivid and "western-style". On our way to Mahoba (from where we set off to Varanasi) we joined Steve, an English guy, who is already traveling for 2 years... really wonderful stories were shared.

Varanasi surprised both of us. We expected a small village situated along the coast of sacred river Ganga, being invaded by Buddhists from all around the world. Varanasi, similarly to Agra or Delhi, is actually quite a busy place - it has more than 2 millions inhabitants and 1 million rickshaws (our sensible guess:))... and is polluted accordingly. The coast of Ganga is luckily different, you can feel the religious spirit! Stairs going down to the river (called ghats, and being half-flooded at these monsoon times) are commonly dedicated to specific religious events. We couldn't miss the Puja, a one hour long ceremony, that is performed on the main ghat twice a day. The purpose of the Burning ghat is obvious, and definitely requires to feel the atmosphere, rather than to write about it.

Varanasi might have been the last city we visited in India, but fortunately we decided to visit Bodhgaya as well. On the one hand we had to spend 12 hours in a train (plus 2-4 hours of waiting for the train, as usual), but on the other hand we had a chance to meditate under the Bodhi tree, on the same place where lord Buddha reached the highest spiritual level of nirvana. Besides, related to the religious importance of the place, there is around 15 wonderful monasteries dedicated to various Buddhist nations.

Then we took our last Indian train, bus and rickshaw on our way to Sonauli (Bodhgaya > Gaya > Varanasi > Gorakhpur > Sonauli), where we entered Nepal on Friday July 4th. Actually it wasn't the last time in India - we are coming back to Delhi at the beginning of September to catch our plane to Vienna:)

On behalf of the fatal crew :)

Taj Mahal, Agra

Western group of Hindu temples, Khajuraho

River Ganga, Varanasi

One of many ghats on Ganga, Varanasi

"Second class sleeper" - our favorite train:)

Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya

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