Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Journey and Sacred Pilgrimage into the Soul of India
Yoga Lifestyle: If you love yoga as much as I do, eventually you have to go on this sacred journey or pilgrimage into the soul of India.
2020 has been taxing, no travel, no holidays, so I take you through my experience about 25 years ago (or more) when I first travelled to India and how I came to take a Yoga Journey to the Birthplace of Yoga.
India was not at all on my bucket list of places to go. Still, then I got addicted to yoga and who at some point is not getting curious about the birthplace of a passion you share, especially if teachers cite verses out of the Bhagavad Gita or the Sutras or tell you about their own experience with a guru in India. It is like playing the Blues but never wanting to go to the deep south of Mississippi.
So here I went. To be on the safe side, I went first to Goa, but it became obvious after only a few days that this could not be the authentic experience. Even thus Goa is a nice place to rest for a few days and get acquainted with the colourful quirkiness India offers; it became obvious to me that I had to move on and discover the real India. So here I went booking an overnight bus ride to Hampi. A tip: it can get very chilly in the buses so take a little blanket with you! Mind you that was over 25 years ago. :)
Unfortunately, I have no pictures. It was just not on my mind to take pictures at that moment, so you have to imagine the scene yourself!
Hampi - an ancient city
Hampi is amazing, and I remember arriving in the early hours seeing lots of women painting mandalas on the pavements. Ancient temples, civilization and a stop worth to explore this amazing area. A little street child became our guide, and as a thank you, we invited him for lunch. As we were eating our Thalis, he proudly ordered, guess what- Pizza!
By the way, there was definitely no vino served.
In the footsteps of holy saints
From Hampi, the journey continued to Bangalore to visit, the land of the new Sai Baba and his miracles. It was a bit of a struggle to find the right bus stop. There seemed no bus coming at all, so at the end, we ended up taking a taxi (not before having gone from bus stop to bus stop) to his temple. We were accompanied by a salesperson who works in Bangalore selling curtains who also happened to wait for the bus. For me, this little man, who was so patient waiting for his bus to go home (not at all like me who was like a headless chicken), felt like an angel. I remember halfway the journey stopping for chai and people coming to us who seemed to have Lepra asking for a donation. When we arrived, he paid his part, and we thanked each other for the little journey of our lives that has put us together.
The city o Sai Baba was amazingly clean and felt rich. They have their own hospital, school and of course lots of hotels who cater to all the pilgrims who do not want to stay at the ashram. In actual fact, that was where I saw one of the biggest cockroaches ever.
The journey continued on a train direction south where we met a guy telling us about the hugging mother who lived somewhere in the backwaters in a temple and where thousands of pilgrims flood each year to receive a blessing and guess what a “hug”.
By then the intensity of my first experience of India quickly convinced me that I needed, exactly this, a hug (just remembering my first experience of entering an ordinary train with little kids in rags cleaning and people shouting on the platform, the different colours, the smells, all this overwhelmed me), so here we hopped out the train before our destination to take yet another crazy taxi ride with our new found friend (who meditated in the train mitten all this chaos) to be driven to the banks of a river where a boat took us to the ashram at Amritapuri on India’s south-western coast.
As soon we sailed off silence ruled and even the insisting beggar who followed us onto the boat became silent, and all we heard was here and again a bird chirping.
The closer we came to the shore again; people’s chanting became more and more audible, and the mystic spell of yet another ashram with its rules took us in for a few days.
The hugging happened all very quickly, and a funny story is that day after I discovered in my backpack a little white powder. Shockingly thinking somebody put some drugs into my bag, I flushed down the toilets, only to realise later that this was the holly ash given my Amma to me.
I can see how people like to follow a guru and how the atmosphere encourages us to feel we belong somewhere, but I decided it was not for me. Years later, once more in India staying with my lovely Indian family, I remember nevertheless wanting to go again to see Amma. As I was waiting in the queue for my hug, my Indian friend called me "Claudia come home, we all give you a hug"!
Kerala and its beautiful backwaters
The ideal location (we were right in the backwaters) invited to take a backwater tour on a boat, and I will never forget the fact that after months being back in London a little parcel arrived with a tape which was sent by the owner of the boat tour. I told him as we were floating in the waters that I forgot to buy a tape of the chanting. The whole parcel was more expensive than the two tickets we bought for the tour, and you cannot even imagine how emotional this kindness was for me.
After the backwaters, we enjoyed a few days in Kerala and then had to head back to Goa, whereby now the owner of the three-week apartment surely must have wondered where those two tourists were. We felt all grown up and full of experiences as we enjoyed our last few days chilling out on a wonderful beach in Goa.
My second experience of India was about 5 years later after redundancy, and this time this continent would have me for 6 months and then again for another 6 months!!
Read the next Blog:
Yoga Lifestyle: Journey to Rishikesh - the Yoga City of the North at the foothills of the Himalayas, Bali - the island of Gods and Yoga Destination Number 1, Nepal - Pokhara
Asturias - Yoga and Trekking, Walk and Yoga on the Camino de Santiago
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