No adventures but lot of culture. I'm getting old.
Everything we define as oriental today is born in India, thus I found my place in the shadow observing and studying history, millennium twisting in Hindu, Buddhism, Islam and Hi-tech.
I Started from Ellora and Ajanta, where the first Buddhist monks came here few centuries after the teachings of Siddarta Gautama aka Buddha up north.
Here the monks dug caves and meditation places, where they could detach from the outside world and follow their guru’s teaching without distractions. These caves soon became places of worship and Buddhists followers start pouring offers looking for earthly salvation.
Big Buddhas hidden in the caves, with little sun light, enhance the mistery of the research of these monks, highlight the thankfulness to the planet, looking for answer to impossible questions.
As time goes by Buddhism and Hinduism mixed up and I need solid basis to understand what happened.
Nothing more solid than this massive temple totally dug in the rock, a huge hole where an amazing temple spurs out in honour of many Hindu deities, first of all Lord Shiva, his sons and wives in many avatars and reincarnations.
Thousands of Indian tourist perfom amazing pilgrimages and school trips to learn that long ago their civilization was over the top in the global ranking.
Most of them is making offering to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and money, but still Ganesh with his elephant head is well respected.
After this travel in time I jump off Goa with its sandy beaches and full moon parties and I land in Kerala, deep south.
All of a sudden I'm in the world of theater and Teyyam, spectacular performances in the middle of the night where ancient rituals are still carried on with amazing colours and huge masks.
People jumping into fire, weird and amazing tattoo all over the body, never ending drum beats and and hypnotic chants...
The atmosphere is quite magical and while I’m asking myself how and why this people is so much into it, a huge red dancing mask gets in front of my eyes and surrounded by yells of the crowd he jumps over the fire to show that pain and evil can be destroyed with the power of the mind. Pretty cool man!
After some more dancing I get to Tamil Nadu, where Hindu temples are so beautiful, colorful and full of deities that it looks like a modern card game where every 8 years old boy knows everything about the hundreds of characters.
Here pilgrimages are serious stuff, or at least is fashion because for every statue there’s a festival and for every festival there are thousands of pilgrims that cross the state to pay tribute to be part of the thing, from newborn babies to over-ninety elders everybody is wearing amazing colours.
It’s Pooja-time, or time of prayer, and a long queue of hardcore Hindu is pushing at the entrance of the temple looking forward to get Darshan, or blessing, and earn some Karma-point for the future.
The moment is quite important for everybody, a small mistake might fuck up the whole pilgrimage, and I can see some tension in the rounded dark faces with big black eyes of these Tamil, whose hairstyle is constantly perfect, I do envy them.
We’re getting closer to the center of the temple, we put some rupees in the trunk of an elephant (true!) who, full of flowers and body painting, bless the pilgrim by touching softly his head with his long and funny nose.
Finally in front of the main hall, where non-Hindu are not allowed, I see from outside the offerings to the Brahmin: flowers, milk, coconuts and cash, people buy their credits; Shiva thanks and wink his third eye.
Once outside everybody is more relaxed, barefooted and happy we all get a nice lunch Indian-style, we eat with hands over palm leaves, we drink hot chai made by acrobatic bartenders and we share every inch of space, with a super-loud music adding some exotism and positive mood.
Once again I notice how many religions live all together: for every temple there’s a church or a mosque, in a loop of prayers and worships
As usual the foreigner is welcomed, and thousands of times I answer same questions: ‘Which country do you belong? – Where is your house? – What place? – Good name sir? – You America? – Africa?
Hilarious discussions of every form with funny italo-indian accent, this is a sample between Marco and Ramesh:
R: What is your name?
R: Which is your country?
R: Oh very nice, what is your age?
R: Are you marriage?
M: No, not yet, are you married?
R: No, not yet, I will get marriage in 2016
M: How do you know this?
R: Because... Oh yeah i know in Europe you believe in love marriage and you don’t believe in arranged marriage... (giggling) my family knows me very well and find a good wife for me and I will marry her when I will be 26, and I know she is be my perfect wife because my parents choose her for me, because they know me very well, and they know what is good for me, so I don’t have to worry!
M: Wow, are you sure about this?
R: yes yes for sure, and you? How do you believe in love marriage? If you find a girl and you tell her that you love her, how do you know that she loves you? How do you know that your marriage will be succesfull if you don’t know this girl?
What is the percentage of succesfull marriage in your country? Eh? Eh?
I’m puzzled, technically numbers are on my friend side!
Actually south Indian women are a misterious topic, hidden behind sarees and shiny jewelry, their tender figures are mimetized in an over-coloured ambient.
The heritage of Hindu and Muslim history puts walls between men and women, and arranged marriage are as common as chapati, hence my indian coeval in gangs holding hands live their day hoping for the glory to come, listening Bollywood music from cellphones, drinking sweet fruit juices and samosas, waiting for the day their father picks up the right wife!
India is land of messiah and among hundreds of peoples some distinguish for wisdom and savoir-fare: the well known Sri Sai Baba, Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Osho bring their name to communities where global hippies come looking for a world that outside is not even in the dreams of people anymore... who would be happy in 2010 of only spirituality and harmony?
It’s nice to see that in a small context these experiments work, more or less, well, keeping alive the flame of the soul.
After Madurai and other holy spots in Pondicherry i smell french air and in Chennai I can’t even breathe, then i move northbound, Andra Pradesh.
Hyderabad is the Hi-tech capital of new India.
The old city center is a muslim twine of nice mosques, full black burkas, punjabi, goats and street business.
Anupam brings me with his bike to the new city and everything changes: streets become wide, clean, new buildings all around, gigantic billboard ads, bars and clubs western style with people dancing and pretty girls yelling their eagerness to modernity.
The new India, in the little space leftover, has its good card to play.
Funny to notice that we, westerners, come to India to know what we are losing: the past, the history and an ‘unplugged’ life, traditions on the edge of oblivious that were the center of past civilizations, lifestyles that now we call hippy just because they crush against the fast-esponential-modernism sponsored by the west.
New Indians here are born, sure they won’t forget what they’ve seen for so long and they've learnt the lesson pretty well: eating books of trigonometry and e-marketing they are building the other side of India, the one who looks ahead, that wants to be n.1 in the world, that leaves the past in its place and builds the future somewhere else, keeping the two world separate but linked.
Poverty is wide spread on the streets, but new indians are thirsty for revenge and their dreams come before everything else, now that everything is possible.
India and China are defining the new globality that no more can be called westerner, because in their being indian and chinese lays what sounds exotic and old to a western eye.
Thus our asian brothers are born with oriental traditions and grew up with western televisions; in the contrast lays the energy... I have no clue about the final result but I feel that the new man has to be re-born in Asia to find new boosts.
Everyday is heaven and hell, from amazing smiles to deathbound inermi, India won’t leave you aphatic. Life goes on.