One reads about the various spiritual teachers from India, the Yoga, of the land where people keep their traditional culture, of people who look beyond money at personal relationships. The thirst rises to go wander the land and live amongst the people.
Either through personal experience in such a travel or through hearsay we come to judging the land instead as polluted. We feel that we meet people who cheat you for money, that it is unsafe for women travellers, that people throw plastics everywhere and are dirty. So some tourists can leave disappointed. However, beyond all of this, even those who are having a hard time sense a deeper connection to themselves in the land. They might even continue to stay on despite their difficulties and join a similar band of people like in Goa or Auroville.
Where is the transcendance to be found in present India? Does any of the past glories, if they indeed existed, remain?
Certainly in the various Gurus that the country seems to birth and home, time and again. Be it the Buddha , Bodhidharma, Sankara or Ramanuja. Or the more contemporary Gurus like the Mother of Auroville, J Krishnamurti, Ramana, Kanchi Sage; in every age there are a few people who have transcended selfishness. It is under the guidance of these teachers that we as seekers have a hope of finding joy and meaning in our life. There are many ashrams and to navigate them some accessible literature. Of course in the search for a teacher we are bound to meet difficulties on the way.
Another piece of culture worth exploring is to put ourselves in the presence of Vedic chanting and the Yagna. The sonorous hymns work on our body and mind powerfully realigning us to the essence of life. I am not sure how much of the Vedic Yagnas exist or are accessible to travellers. Due to the thousand years of occupation and the lack of patronage in independent India, they have all but vanished. In Chennai, I go my alma mater, DAV Gopalapuram school on Sundays for the Agnihotra Yagna.
A third possibility of transcendence is through Carnatic classical music. Removed largely from the context of temples into “Sabhas” or private patronage in cities like Chennai, the December season is not to be missed. Around mid-December is our winter season of Marghazhi . It is a time of social celebration through dance and music. Our winter has temperatures of about 25 degrees and is largely dry. If you have not had the opportunity yet to meet a Guru or Veda Vidwan, then you get a clue to who you should be looking for in meeting some of the classical musicians. Many have spent a lifetime of discipline, singing about the Gods while struggling to make ends meet. Their dedication is remarkable and their music transformational. Praise must go the Sabhas for keeping up the tradition in an unhelpful political situation. This year the Chennai music season has also been recognised by the UNESCO.
What has lately brought a melting in me is my exploration into handloom cottons. Only of late I have started to wear sarees. A trip to Bali rejuvenated me to explore the more physical aspects of my cultural heritage whereas so far my interests had been confined to the more philosophical aspects. I found that handloom weaving was the second most employment giving profession after agriculture in India employing close to two million weavers. These weavers are artisans with their craft being handed down through generations. What they produce is a stunning variety (certainly in the hundreds) of handwoven cotton cloth. My heart melts not at the wonder that the craft survives but because of the nature of the woven cotton. To touch this light pink saree I wore was like touching the clouds and being gently wrapped in them.
I hope you enjoyed reading so far and the writing gave some clues on what to explore in India. Like they say traditionally, I hope your seeking bears sweet fruit in the end.