Don’t go to India simply to have a look. Switzerland is better for that. In India, dive right in. Leave behind your notion of how things ought to work.
India calls for heart travel, not head. In India, experience and accept.
Sightseeing’s spectacular, gloriously colorful and teeming with people steeped in religious stories far grander than the tales I’ve been taught.
It’s all holy.
“Show me anything in India which isn’t sacred,” epic storyteller Sanjay challenged my first morning of a two-week exploration of South India.
Coast-to-coast was my physical route in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, from the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean and on to the Arabian Sea.
Crossing the Western Ghat Mountains too, a breathtaking ride on steep, narrow switchbacks.
This world or another?
Crossing from this world to the next, or a previous one, was my emotional route.
Monuments, temples, altars on sidewalks, sculpture, festivals, candles, carvings in rock all abound at every turn, each holding faith-journey promises.
In India, people expect to find enlightenment. Helps to have that frame of reference when you go.
Impossible to recall the grand epics, but I figured out that everybody is venerating the many gods and goddesses, expecting inspiration and life lessons.
This is listening in India: incantations and instruments in worship places, plus in your inner ear once you learn that demons speak rudely, humans politely, and the gods speak in poetry.
I had to know and accept local truth like that to really experience India.
Otherwise cows on the sidewalk, fingers not forks to eat lunch, barefoot in the temples, elephants giving blessings and constant hustle and bustle might have been off-putting.
“If the silence is not in you, you will not find it,” Sanjay taught.
Places of worship here have many spaces—hallways, big rooms, little rooms, sections within rooms.
Don’t count on entering inner sanctums because a sacred vibration occurs through those with the faith, and those without might break the energy.
Colors are as remarkable as energy and silence, sometimes bold primary colors and sometimes pastels. Every inch contains a carving, a symbol, the potential for deep meaning to the beholder.
This isn’t about worshiping a carving or epic tale but rather about believing opportunity exists for inspiration and enlightenment.
When I got it, I transformed from sightseeing to simply being, from watching to participating. Present in the moment — that’s the way to do India.
Makes it vastly different from other trips.
“India adapts,” says Mark Hennessy of Magical Journey, the trip designer I selected. “Modernity is not new here; it’s just happening side by side with ancient wisdoms.
“Philosophy, science and religion share a life here while we separate them in the west. Westerners think truth can be found.
“Merging as one is India’s way.
Christine Tibbetts approaches travel with a mood of acceptance to learn truths other than her own to share within her blended family of many generations.