an urban monk’s guide to rishikesh and haridwar

Are you an urban monk? I am. Or at least that is how I perceive myself. Ok, that is how I like to perceive myself—not unlike many others who love the city life and its dynamic vibrancy but are equally at ease with spirituality, restraint, and minimalism. Is that not the new order? And when we go to places that are hubs of spirituality, well, we just tend to experience them a tad differently. 😀 Continue reading

photo essay: the hidden graffiti of rishikesh

What do “Across the Universe” by the Beatles, “TM Song” by Beach Boys, “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan, and “Jesus Children of America” by Stevie Wonder have in common?

Okay. Let me rephrase it. What do Transcendental Meditation, an Ashram on the foothills of the Himalayas, the top pop bands of the 1960s, and Canadian street artist ARTXPAN aka Pan have in common?

Gotcha! 😀

The most fascinating permutations and combinations are often revealed in the most hidden places. Like the street art decorating the ruins of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ashram in Rishikesh where the Beatles spent the winter of 1968 in search of spirituality and came up with a whopping 48 songs, a bulk of which went into their “White Album.” Continue reading

india travel shot: hari ki dwar – doorway to god – haridwar

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How and why does one small patch of river and land spanning a mere few hundred metres become the holiest site in all of the country? The answer—faith. What else can explain the millions of Hindus from across the country who make the coveted pilgrimage to the brown placid waters of the River Ganges washing 2,100-year-old steps in a pilgrimage town nestled in the plains of Uttarakhand. Day and night. Hail or rain. Year after year. For thousands of years. Continue reading

delhi’s national museum bronze gallery: where bronzes sing tales of god and art

A babel of meditative Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist chants fills the gallery. Breaking the rhythmic loop is the tinkle of bells on a dainty anklet wrapped around a goddess’ voluptuous leg. Almost in competition, I hear the stomping of feet as Shiva, the destroyer, dances in passionate abandon, flames emanating in a fiery ring around him. Bharata, Rama’s brother from the Ramayana, a mere couple of feet away, holds up his brother’s sandals on his head to place them on the throne to rule as regent of the Ayodhya kingdom, accompanied by verses from the epic.

“Excuse me.”

The clipped British accent snaps me out of my reverie. And that of the deities too, who freeze mid-dance, mid-song, mid-chant, in sparkling glass cubicles scattered across the air-conditioned hall—lurching the room to pin-drop silence. And I wonder if I had imagined it all. Continue reading

beyond the unesco sites: what not to miss in ahmedabad

You have finished exploring the UNESCO-designated historic city of Ahmedabad. And combed through the sites to its north [Modhera, Patan and Sidhpur] and south [Lothal and Utelia] spanning a few millennia each in time. What now? Is there more?

There is in fact lots more, but if one had to pare it down to the absolute unmissable, what would that be? The one museum not to give a miss. The one restaurant where not eating at would be sacrilege. This post is about that—about the unmissables. Luckily, I was guided by friends who have lived in and loved Ahmedabad, with all its quirks and treasures. This is what they insisted I experience. Paying it forward, these are the top five experiences I insist you too have whilst in the city. 😊 Continue reading

36 hours in india’s only unesco world heritage city: ahmedabad

When Ahmed Shah I laid the foundations of his capital way back on 26 February, 1411, little did he know his legacy would earn the status of a World Heritage City six hundred years on. Nineteen years old at the time, Ahmed Shah I was the third Sultan of the Gujarat Sultanate (1407 – 1573). In July 2017, his city Ahmedabad beat Delhi, Mumbai, and Varanasi in the bid to become India’s first, and as of now only, UNESCO designated city. Continue reading