our tour across the country
- magnificent cultural treasures and bitter poverty...
exotic sound of Indian music from a tape which gave us our Indian
as well as the many beautiful photos and videos we took in India,
the flair of the orient and convey a vivid picture of all the
and conflicting impressions we had on our trip. Omnipresent and
are the pictures of the magnificent
Mogul- and Maharaja palaces,
and forts from white
red sandstone and other refined material with most elaborate stonemason
works and inlays of semiprecious stone and one feels,
nothing will ever surpass the beauty of this amazing cultural heritage.
Above all the legendary Taj Mahal
is an overwhelming sight and exceeds all you ever can imagine. It's
arises from the awareness, that it is a creation of love just as from
beauty, which lies in the boldness of its inception, the
architecture, the magnificence of the structure and the sense of
in all its components. The layout is superb, the setting on the banks
river Jamuna, amidst beautiful lawns and gardens, and the construction
in pure white marble are incomparable. The Taj is as beautiful during
as it is in the moon light. It is indeed the most magnificent monument
and memorial of love which mankind ever has seen!
marvelous Mogul- and Maharaja palaces, mosques and temples are the
one side and the real reason to visit India, however the real life
a very different picture from what the normal European ever can imagine.
Inseparable from the magnificent cultural treasures through our
dreams go the pictures of the unbelievable and unimaginable
so many people right around us everywhere and all day long. All
our lives we'll never forget those terrible sights. It is a very
thing to watch the misery on TV than to experience it in person. We did
not know what it means to be faced with living conditions of the
"third world". Beggars, misery and bitter poverty wherever you go. We
alms to handicapped people and pleased children with sweets, balloons
bananas ... however of course the single people can't help it.
There is a very wide diversity of economic status and education in Indian
society. Just recall, that about 50% of the Indian people are illiterates while
Indian computer scientists are appreciated specialists in the sophisticated
Western countries! By the side of palatial residences one can see the crowded
slums where people live in sub human conditions. In the cities imported
cars move side by side with rickshaws. Like in economic conditions there
is also a very wide variety in customs, languages and religions in this
amazing country. So despite the great diversity India is one Nation with
an amazing potential. However it will take a long time and need more international
help to create dignified living conditions for all people in this vast country.
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|Hinduism - religion is way of life
India religion is way of life. It is an integral part of the entire Indian
culture and permeates every aspect of life. Hinduism is the dominant faith,
practiced by over 80% of the population. But India is a secular state.
People of many religions freely live here. Hindu Religion is the most peaceful
religion I know. That's why Hinduism can be passed only by birth and thus
there are no missionaries who try to convert people to this religion.
Hindu religious thought is based on the "Vedas". In fact the name of
the religion truly is "Vaidic" religion and not "Hindu" religion. The name
Hindu came to be attached because the people practicing it were living
on the banks of river Sindhu then. The "Vedas" were written down in
Sanskrit about 3000 years ago and give a detailed description of customs and
belief of the "Aryas" who settled India in those days. They are considered to
be one of the earliest literary works of mankind. For Hinduism the "Vedas"
are the scriptures incorporating the science of living as revealed to the
sages in the state of deep meditation .
The Hindu believes, that each being has an immortal soul, which
migrate to another body after death. Rebirth (reincarnation) can happen
in form of any creature. That's why faithful Hindus are strict
The Hindu understands his present state - sickness and misery as
well as health and prosperity - as a deserved consequence of the good
bad deeds in his previous life. Thus he would not envy someone his
or complain about his bad luck . A handicapped Hindu said: "I don't
what I have done in my previous life but I have to suffer for it now".
This philosophy of Karma should encourage him to be virtuous.
The visit with our Indian friend and our observations in the
temples and especially at the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi (Benares)
gave us deep insides in the spiritual world of Hinduism and lead
us to a better understanding of this belief. It is unimaginable
how strongly Hinduism determines people's life with all the rites as
for example daily worshipping different deities at the domestic altar. The
domestic altar is a "must" in each home but as well in public
like shops, restaurants etc. Such an altar mostly consists of a board
which are placed small statues of the different deities, decorated with
flowers, an oil lamp and religious pictures.
hardly can get a true picture of Hinduism without having been to
(Benares), which is the most important place of pilgrimage for Hindus.
Countless temples and places of cult give the place an unchangeable
face. Each Hindu at least once in his life should go to Varanasi to take a
holy bath in "Mother Ganges" and to pray to Lord Shiva, the creator of universe
(see picture above). This bath is a spiritual act with special rites.
It will purify his soul from sins and is an important step on the way to his ultimate goal - to enter the Nirvana, which means the
salvation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth and ultimately to be
with the almighty God, the creator. Varanasi is also a favorite place
die, as Hindus believe, that one who dies at Varanasi gains salvation
such is the greatness of this place! There are ritual cremations on
(for affluent people from Sandle wood) and in crematoria each
night. All Hindus desire, that no matter where they die, at least their ashes
will be merged in the sacred waters of Mother Ganga, who in Hindu's
in her immense love for her children will bring salvation from the
of the cycle of birth, death and rebirthtop / bottom
Most impressive and charming is the colorful traditional clothing of all
the women, especially in the country Rajasthan. They wear their saris each
day, even while working in the field (see chapter "experiences in the
and related site).
The sari is a 6 m long and 2 m broad scarf and sure it demands
skill to dress oneself with it. It is available in different materials
(cotton, synthetic, silk...) accordingly to the intended purpose. For
occasions there are precious, elaborate, handmade saris from pure.
silk with golden threads in marvelous designs. The Indian women have an
amazing sense for tasteful clothing and pay attention that all
the accessories like bangles and the point on the forehead match in
color with the sari. The festive saris are incredible beautiful and the women
make a charming sight!
Such valuable handmade pieces are very expensive in relation to an
income in India. However men spend much money to dress their wives and
sisters accordingly to their social position.
The traditional clothing of men consists of long wide shirts and
from different materials, beginning with simple cotton up to fine pure
silk, according to the occasion. In Rajasthan some men by tradition
a great looking twisted mustache and sometimes a turban. However, men
like on the picture are seldom. To see a festive dressed family see
under the chapter "Diwali".
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the happiest festival in Hinduism
you ever go to India you should do it around Dusherba/Diwali in
We had the unique fortune to share Diwali with our Indian friends and
to them the happiest days of our trip as well as unforgettable
experiences. Diwali is the festival of lights, celebrated all over
to commemorate the victory of Lord Rama over demon King Ravana. The
denotes, that truth always triumphes over the evil. This is the
festival of Hindu calendar. At night countless oil lamps light Rama the
way home from his period of exile. Today the festival is also dedicated
to Lakshmi and to Kali in Calcutta. The picture shows the family of our
friend's son on Diwali in festive traditional clothing eating
All in all the festival lasts for five
On the first day The houses
are thoroughly cleaned and the door
steps are decorated with intricate rangolis [chalk design].
Day two is dedicated to Krishna's victory
over Narakasur, a legendary
tyrant, in South India on this day, a pre dawn bath is followed by
of new clothes. By custom you have to take a pre dawn bath because it
said, that angels, Gods etc. roam on earth in the pre sunrise
Day three is
spent in worshipping goddess Lakhsmi, the goddess
of fortune. Traditionally this is the beginning of new financial year
for the companies.
Day four commemorates the
visit of the friendly demon bali whom
Lord Vishnu put in his place.
On day five men visit their
sisters to have a tika put on their
head (tika is an application of red vermilion on the forehead.
Exchanging sweets has become a part of tradition as well as
of oil lamps. Diwali marks also the beginning of the New Year in North
India, which is welcomed with crackers and street fireworks like
in the world.
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traffic - an unimaginable experience...
Actual the travel agent and my Indian pen pals warned against the
rides by car through the country - they would be too stressing and
but they were next to the sights and the place of pilgrimage, Varanasi
(Benares), the most interesting and informative part of this trip. They
gave us unique experiences and unforgettable impressions of Indian
living conditions and culture.The
Indian traffic is the most incredible experience you can have as a
road user. No matter if you are in an old city or ride through the
you share the road with camel carts, hand pulled fruit carts, thousands
of bicycles, hundreds of rikshas as well as with free living pigs,
dogs and sheep. In this way the speed limits itself in the towns of
km/h and on the roads outside of about 45 km/h..... The picture shows a
view from the rear window of our car of the traffic in Varanasi. A
is used for as many as 4 people as we watched and so it goes for
for a family: behind the driver (father) a child and at the end of the
seat sitting across the mother, dressed with her sari holding a child
on her lap.
Except for the younger districts of the big cities we didn't see
traffic signs like for right of way. The cars as a whole have no
rear-view mirror and usually one does not use blinkers. There is only
simple rule: you have to watch the traffic in front and to show with
hand if you want to turn off to another direction - the drivers behind
you will realize this and be careful... The most important part of the
car is the horn - how else could the driver in front know, that
intend to pass and how else could you push him or get him to make way
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in the country
long way through the country by plain, train and more than 1000
km by car, we contacted many people and found them very friendly, no
where we stayed. English is understood almost everywhere and especially
the children and youngsters liked a small talk. Mainly they wanted to
where we came from and if we liked India and were happy to get a
villages are usually cleaner than the old districts of the cities and
were pleasantly surprised to see, that people in
the country were amazingly well dressed. With their colorful
clothing the woman decorate like flowers the countryside (see chapter
clothing"). The picture shows girls and woman cutting the lawn in
the temple garden of Sarnath (near Varanasi). It is the very normal way
to do this work - no lawn mower! It gives them the chance to earn some
more we penetrated into the interior the more we asked ourselves in
age we were stepping back. People live like centuries ago and time
to stand still there. The small houses often are made from loam with
roofs and small openings for the windows. The equipment is accordingly
poor and mainly consists of a kind of handmade camp beds from
and hemp. Often there is no water and no electricity. So the woman
water from a well and carry it in globular vessels, so-called "matkas",
from clay or brass on their heads to their homes as they carryeverything
on their heads. If you watch them as they walk in their beautiful saris
they truly have a kingly appearance (see chapter about traditional
We have the deepest respect for those people, who despite of their
keep their self-respect and sense for beauty. However, beggars are
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Most interesting for us was a stop
at the "Persian wheel", an irrigation
system which is famous in north India. At the wheel is fixed a long
with cans, which scoop the water out of the well into a duct . It works
with ox power.
an elementary part of Hindu social structure
A special social feature in Hinduism is the classification of people
through a system of castes, which was already described about 3000
ago in the "Vedas" (see chapter about Hinduism). Basically the castes
assigned accordingly to one's occupation. Through passage of time
the affiliation to a caste began to be irrevocably decided by
birth. The castes as an elementary part of Hindu social structure
the living together among people and in this way their entire lives.
The main castes and their original assignments in Hindu society
1. Brahmans (priest)
Hindu priests don't preach in the temples like one knows it from
Christian churches but have to enlighten the fellow beings and
religious functions. They are considered the Gurus or teachers and are
respected by all. Brahmins do not aim at riches. Theirs is a life of
,reflecting the principles of Hindu religion.
Warriors are the nobility. They are supposed to protect the
from enemies and to administer the state.
3. Peasants, merchants
4. Workman, Servants
Amongst these castes there are many sub castes, based on more
division of the duties. Thus in the servants caste, those who did the
work came to be "untouchables" though the religion does not deprecate
only because of their low occupation. They don't belong to any caste
form the lowest stratum of the society. In the past they were
without rights and had to suffer the hardest fate. Many social workers
fought for their justice including Mahatma Gandhi, who called them
of God" and tried to integrate them into the society. However only
the reign of Nehru the discrimination was abrogated by law, but
has not necessarily changed the traditional opinion among the
and thus most of them live under sub human conditions.
In the Modern society the social system has undergone
and the name of the caste not in the least has anything to do
the professional development of the people. Thus our driver and the
driver proudly pointed out to us, that they would belong to the caste
the warriors, which is to make out by the word "singh" as a part
of their name. Even if the castes were officially abolished by the
republic many years ago they form the Indian society still today, at
on the personal side. Sure this system will survive still some further
generations as for the Hindu it is a question of the ritual purity and
now as ever parents choose for their marriageable children a partner
within their caste (see chapter
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