India will always have a special place in my heart. It is such a magnificent place with everything happening around you. I love the vast variety of colours, the differences of smells, the massive monumental temples to so many gods, the many religions and the way this influences how people live their lives and all the wonderful unique traditions that I wasn’t familiar with. Looking back over photos for this blog post, it brought me back to India with such fond memories. I think maybe some tales and pictures of India might shine a different kind of light on the way people see the country. Personally, I can’t wait to go back for another adventure in India. Enjoy!
1. People Watching
This was taken in Pushkar the holy city, a sacred city where alcohol and meat are banned, so it took me by surprise to discover Ketamine was available in most pharmacies. It is a small place where I saw more tourists than anywhere else on my whole trip, apparently because of the price of Ketamine. With no interest in trying the local “Deal of the Century” Ketamine, I spent a lot of time people-watching. I watched locals live out their daily lives, lives that are so much different to mine. I watched women wash their silk clothes in the lake, children running away from the mischief they have caused and men giving Hindu blessings and spreading the love. It was amazing. I never thought just sitting and watching people could be so exciting.
2. Border Parades
Further up north close, to the city of Amritsar, I visited the Indian-Pakistan border. Every evening, the Wagah border ceremony takes place. This is a daily military practise which takes place on both sides of the border and consists of rapid dance-like manoeuvres and raising of legs as high as possible and parading and ends in a coordinated lowering of both nations flags. It was a fantastic display which shows the rivalry and comradeship between the two nations that have had a complicated relationship, it attracts thousands of visitors every day.
3. It’s not just a photograph
Are you bored of looking at this iconic image? I knew I was, this could be the most famous image of all time and the Taj Mahal is definitely the biggest tourist attraction of the whole of India. This was probably the reason why when it got to the day of seeing the Taj Mahal I wasn’t really that excited, in fact, I was considering not even bothering going at all! It is hard to explain, you may have seen the photo a million times, but when you are there looking at it with your own eyes, at different angles, inside and out, close up and far away, you see a fresh perspective, you see a different kind of beauty than you would see on the front page of the National Geographic. Once you are there looking at it, it truly is magnificent, a true wonder of the world!
4. Go off the beaten track
Going off the tourist trail and exploring a place you would never have dreamed of going to is something you have to try at least once, it’s part of the adventure, you never know what you will discover. I visited Lucknow somewhere most travellers I had met had never really heard of. It was a good job I went to this city because I would have missed seeing many beautiful temples, festivals and monuments like this beautiful mosque. I am so glad I visited Lucknow.
5. Photo? Photo? Photo? Selfie?
Photos like this are what I will always remember about India. During my journey, hundreds of people came over and asked for a photo with me. All were very kind and curious about my adventures and what it was like in England. Over time this got rather annoying, continually having to take photos with people like I was famous. Yes I am also fully aware that everyone only wanted to take a picture of me because of my extremely pale white skin, but I felt this was more curiosity and wonder of what this weird Englishman was doing in the middle of India by himself than it was anything else, I definitely prefered photos being taken of me rather than bricks being thrown at me.
6. What is this Health and Safety you speak of?
Walking through Jaipur, I was looking both ways looking for a pathway through the chaotic Indian roads almost like I was playing a real-life version of the vintage game Frogger. As I was looking across I saw a family on the back of a motorcycle. In between the father who was driving and the mother who was perched on the edge of the seat was a child of about ten wedged in between them. The mother was holding an infant wrapped up in silk in her arms while the father swerved in and out of traffic rushing to get to the place they needed to be.
As I sat on the train travelling through the Thar Desert, I gazed out of the window looking at the blank and empty landscape. The train eventually came to a stop at a station in the middle of nowhere. My heart jumped, someone jumped from the top of the train onto the platform right outside my window, scaring the life out of me, he must of been on the top of the train for hours.
When I took the photo I was sitting on the back of a tuk-tuk and was looking back at the mad chaotic roads, motorbikes swerving in and out of vehicles, as the tuk-tuk overtook a tractor pulling a cart of wooden logs with four teenage kids sat on the top.
Indian health and safety, what is that?
7. Not another Fort!
India has so many forts, but this was the first that I visited and the one I will always remember. I was in Jodhpur, the blue city and it was probably the first day where I started to adjust to the initial culture shock that I first felt. I visited Mehrangarh, a fort built in 1459 that towered 400 feet above the city, inside are several palaces known for their carvings and vast courtyards, it was worth the visit. Later I met a German photographer, after sharing some travel tales over dinner (dinner with a slingshot provided just in case monkeys pinched our food) we decided to go back up to the fort and take some night photos. She gave me some tips on photography (as was a novice) and this was one of the best photos I had taken all holiday.
8. More animals than a zoo
It was never boring walking down the road with an elephant, a monkey or a goat casually walking past me. The only time I didn’t see cars squeezing past other vehicles was when a cow was in the middle of the road, no one wants to hit a holy cow after all. One day I was watching life go by and I saw a monkey, a goat and a cow all walk into a holy temple (it was starting to sound like the beginning of a bad joke), no one blinked an eye. India at times felt like one big massive zoo.
India has a vast range of religions, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, they all live in one country and worship many gods. I am not a religious man, but I do enjoy learning about different religions, while in India I walked into many various temples, churches, mosques and learned many aspects of religions that I had never fully understood. This photo was taken in Amritsar during Baisakhi, the day Sikhism was born. Made out of gold the Golden temple is Sikh’s holiest site and it is thought that every Sikh must visit the golden temple at some point in their lives, during Baisakhi over half a million people came to visit the Golden Temple.
10. The craziest place I have ever visited
Varanasi is a beautiful city that sits next to the Ganges. It has many different ceremonies take place there and it could be the craziest place I have ever been to. Many Hindus are cremated at one of the burning Ghats on the shore of the sacred river, the Ganges, their ashes are then thrown into the Ganges, as it is believed that this will purify their souls. There is such a great demand to be cremated at the Ganges that multiple burnings take place 24 hours a day. The issue is that not everyone can afford enough wood, so on many occasions, the body is thrown into the Ganges despite being fully cremated. It is very common to see a half-burnt limb or body part floating about in the water. The Ganges is the holiest river in India, and it is believed that bathing in the Ganges frees a person from all their problems, so it is common to see plenty of people bathing, washing, swimming and praying, as half-burnt bodies float past them.
11. Festive Celebration
Everywhere I went there were many celebrations and I thought this was great. It gave people an excuse to let their hair down, it brought so much happiness. I saw parades to one of the Hindu gods in Delhi, I ate with worshipers during Baisakhi, a celebration for Sikhs. In this photo, I was travelling in Lucknow. Still to this day, I am not sure what they are celebrating but they sure as hell look like they are having a good time throwing red paint at random vehicles.
12. Crazy taste in clothing
When it comes to colour India does it best. India is associated with the many colours used in its festivals, clothing and food. People wear brightly coloured silk clothes in so many different shades of colours that you could never imagine. There were so many different ways people dressed. Like this cool guy!
13. Unbelievable Beauty
It was my last day in India and I had to do as much as possible. I visited Humayun Tomb, a stunning monument, such a lot of artwork and precision carvings went into creating a resting place for Mughal Emperor Humayun (I wonder if anyone will create such an architectural masterpiece for me when I die). Visiting places of beauty is the reason I have fallen in love with travelling, it’s the reason I have fallen in love with India. I hope these photos have made you do the same.