As Thanksgiving approached I was wondering if I could find a turkey dinner anywhere in Mumbai. I searched the newspaper and found several places offering the holiday meal.
Tonight I’ll be going out to Indigo Restaurant in the Colaba section of Mumbai for the evening treat. I’ll let you know how it goes. Hopefully the bird won’t be spiced like masala…hahaha.
I was pleasantly surprised tonight. I had an excellent meal, topped off with a glass of wine and a chocolate raspberry torte. The meal was baked turkey, dressing, small spiced potatoes, green beans and cranberries. There was a nice bread basket with assorted breads.
I was even more surprised to see large Indian families and friends coming together for Thanksgiving. Greeting each other with hugs and kisses they started the meal with a prayer of gratitude.
So many times we export the bad part of our culture. It’s lovely to see a good part of the American culture being honored in India too.
The city of Varanasi is also sometimes called Benaras or Kashi. It is the Hindus holiest of cities, situated on the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) River. The name Varanasi comes from the convergence of the Varuna River (on the north) and the Assi River (on the south) with the Ganga.
Here you will find pilgrims from all over the world, coming together to pray, meditate, study and tour the city’s sights. Spend the afternoon wandering through the narrow lanes, passing the sounds of sitar music and saadhus (Hindu ascetics) of every variety. Stop at the market for offerings of fruit, flowers and tiny oil lamps to set afloat on the river.
This place is said to be the site where Lord Shiva appeared as a radiant column of light, splitting the Earth and extending into space. After a thousand years of trying to find the base and the source of the column, Shiva was acknowledged as preeminent here. Lord Shiva then shrank the column of light and it took the form of a small linga, which is still here to this day. The city has predominately Shiva temples, but all Hindus, Sikhs, and some Buddhists take pilgrimage here at least once in their lives.
Along the river are about 100 ghats, which are large stone stairs leading down to the water. These were constructed around 1700 AD.
The best way to view these ghats is from a boat. Many boatmen line the river offering rides to pilgrims and tourists.
Some of the ghats are used for common things like bathing, swimming and washing clothes. Others are for holy dips in the water and for meditation. Other prominent ghats are the Manikarika Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat, where about 80 cremations are performed every day. It is considered extremely auspicious to be cremated on the banks of the Ganga River, India’s holiest of rivers.
Every evening a group of priests perform a fire pooja at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. This is a worship of the whole universe, including the sun, this river, fire and a special dedication to Lord Shiva. This is really something to see! You must plan to attend this nightly event.
Right in the midst of chaotic Amritsar is a peaceful enclave called Jallianwala Bagh. It wasn’t always peaceful. In April of 1919 Brigidier-General General Reginald Dyer of the British Army ordered his troops to open fire on thousands of unarmed and non-violent people, resulting in a massacre of up to 1000 people, most of them Sikhs.
Among the beautiful plants and paths of this park you will find areas that still have the bullet marks of the guns used to assassinate people as they were pinned against the brick walls and unable to escape. You’ll also see the well where 120 people jumped to their deaths in an attempt to avoid the bullets.
The park has a museum with photos of the people responsible for the massacre and pictures of the dead corpses strewn over the lawns, sometimes two or three deep. It makes me very sad to see such carnage. Each one of those people had a family. I am sure this massacre spread massive sorrow in Punjab.
It is said by many, that the massacre turned the general public against the British and was a catalyst for the end of British rule of India.
To see a reenactment, check this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE9_zB8k_lk
One of the moist beautiful temples in Delhi is the Lotus Temple of the Baha’i Faith. It is listed as one of the most visited buildings in the world, surpassing even the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal.
The structure has won many architectural awards for it’s design, which depicts a lotus flower. It is surrounded by nine pools of water and the interior is very cool, even on a hot day. Each Baha’i temple has nine sides and nine doors. The cavernous interior is 40 feet high and can hold up to 2500 worshipers. On Hindu holy days the attendance surpasses 150,000 per day.
The temple is closed on Mondays, so please plan your visit accordingly.
The Baha’i faith is from Persia and they welcome everyone into their meditation sanctuary.
When my friends Nitin and Richa told me we were going to pick up their new Honda I had no idea if would be so different than buying a new car in the USA.
They were excited about the new car because it’s still a very big deal to purchase new vehicles in India, where most people don’t even own a car at all.
The dealership makes a very big deal out of the purchase. Upon arriving they presented Richa with a dozen roses and a box of chocolates. They put bows on all the doors and the hood, and covered the car with a red covering to be taken off when the customer is ready to drive away.
Photos are taken of the transfer of the keys and then a priest comes and spends almost an hour blessing the car, to ensure that no harm comes to those that occupy the vehicle and to offer gratitude to the Gods for the ability to buy a new car.
He draws a swastika on the hood with sindoor as a sign of auspiciousness, luck, and good fortune. Then he scatters marigold and flower petals all over the inside and outside of the car. He also blows incense smoke over the car to bless it. Finally he lays lemons under each of the tires so that when they are smashed they scare away bad spirits.
I think I was very lucky to be there to witness this very different delivery of a new car. Congratulations to my friends Nitin, Richa and Nitisha!
By the way, most cars here run on diesel fuel which gives them very good gas mileage, since petrol is more expensive here than in the States.
By far the most unusual looking temple I have visited in Ahmedabad has to be the Vaishno Devi Temple. It is devoted to Maha Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi, and Maha Kali, the three incarnates of Goddess Vaishno Devi. Devotees from around the world visit this replica of the original shrine, located in Jammu-Kashmir.
The temple is built to resemble a stony mountain and represents the cave dwelling of the girl named Kumari, later known as Vaishnavi. Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, visited the forest and mountain where Vaishnavi lived, and she pleaded with him to allow her to merge with the Supreme Creator Lord Vishnu. Rama told her it was not the right time for her but directed her to set up an ashram at the base of the Trikuta Hills. That shrine is located in Jammu-Kashmir. She was instructed to elevate her level of spirituality and to bless mankind and alleviate the sufferings of the poor and destitute.
People came to receive her blessings and Bhairon Nath, a disciple of Tantrik Gorakh Nath, was sent to determine at what level of spirituality Vaishnavi had ascended to. He fell in love with her and attempted to steal her away for himself. The Goddess forgave him and told her followers that from now on they must have Darshan (worship) with Bairon after they had Darshan with the Goddess, in order to receive yatra (a Hindu pilgrimage). Vaishnavi then left her human form and fused with the rock and entered a meditative state eternally.
Today I stopped at a beautiful temple which was constructed by the followers of Dada Bhagwan (Lord of the whole universe). The sect was started by A.M. Patel, who professed he received enlightenment in 1958 while sitting on a railway station bench in Surat, Gujarat. This one hour epiphany supplied him with all the answers to all of life’s big questions, like: who is God?, why am I here?, who created the world?, what is karma?, who oversees the management of the world?
This sect believes their philosophy and their manner of worship can bring happiness and enlightenment to all those that take part. Their aim is to provide permanent happiness to all those that follow them. They claim this can be done within two hours. I’m not here to editorialize so I won’t give you my opinion on this.
I met some very nice and seemingly happy people at this temple.
They also have a nice cafe for lunch.
This sect has mandirs (temples) all over the world and one under construction in New Jersey. Their official website is: http://www.trimandir.org