“Where are you in India?” I’m asked. Well, right now I’m sitting on a camel named Shanti.
Shanti and I are gently bouncing through the soft sand of the Thar Desert (also known as the “Great Indian Desert”), a section in northwest India which serves as the boundary from Pakistan. The Thar Desert takes up a good portion of Rajasthan, India’s largest state by land mass (132,000 square miles). Still, I’m told, Rajasthan comprises only 10% of India, yet it’s population comes in at a total greater than all of the country of Germany. Big place, India.
Big, colorful and fascinating place, too, I’m learning during my first week in India.
Perhaps it is the vast desert landscape of Rajasthan that makes vibrant colors all the more important here. For example, in one of the temples at Shri Jasnath Asan, the yoga center I am working at for the next six weeks, I took these photos (above and below) showing women praying among the pink columns, dressed in beautiful, rich colors.
Shanti, by the way, means peace, calm, bliss – a perfect name for this sweet camel content to trudge mellow through the desert sand at a pace I figure will get us to Pakistan by 2046.
But we’re not going to Pakistan! We’re spending the day in Bikaner, a bustling city a couple hours away from our yoga center in northern Rajasthan known for the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings surrounded by markets, vendors, traffic, people and revered cows. More on the cows later, but for now I want to visit the spice market in the old city part of Bikaner.
I love the markets of every country I visit, and India offers some of the most interesting and certainly colorful. In Bikaner’s spice market my nose led me to the aromatic merchant’s stall pictured above. He sold me three containers of saffron threads for 500 rupees ($7.80). Back in my neighborhood New Hampshire grocery the same amount would cost over $80. Looks like I’ll be making a lot of paella when I get home.
The red water flowing down the street alerted me to this merchant in the photo above. He was out in front dyeing long sections of cloth and then drying them in the late morning sun. More colors around every corner!
And then there is the special hue of the Rajasthan January light whether it is a cool early morning (above) or peaceful dusk (below).
Early evening’s golden haze offers a wonderful time to stroll the streets of the cities and villages in this region. I stopped to watch a cricket match in a Bikaner park. Next thing I know I’m playing what I guess is second baseman. I have no idea what the rules are, so it was a huge surprise that after I made an error on a ground ball making it fly high in the air my team yelled we won the match! In the team photo below we all chanted “We’re number one!” This game is easy, man :-).
I’ve also been asked to be in about 30 or more selfies in just my short time here – also a new mystery to me. Sometimes a car will make a u-turn in front of me on a hectic city street and everyone will jump out, race over and out of breath politely ask for a selfie. Sure, why not?
After nightfall, more colors, such as the bright oranges of the fire dance (below).
The dancers at the fire dance not only kick and pounce barefoot through the embers, but spit them out as well. And to think I get nervous just doing East Coast Swing.
This is Kapil (above). I took this photo of him when he was giving me a tour of the Shri Jasnath Asan’s organic garden on my second day in town. Kapil is just 20 but has been working at the ashram for two years already. He is my go to guy when I have a question, and does nice things such as surprising me with this chai tea plate at 4:30 in the afternoon while I am working. I am doing a five month stint as Marketing Manager for Shri Jasnath Asan.
The mission of Shri Jasnath Asan is to deliver yogic wellness practices, education, and spiritual upliftment to all, in the pursuit of a world that is harmonized by love and peace. Yogeshwar Siddh Surajnath Siddh (pictured below greeting a child), otherwise known as Guruji, serves as the director. His programs are many and advanced, especially in the area of yoga for everyone (including a girl’s empowerment camp) and ecological development for the region. Read about them all here.
My role is to develop marketing programs for their Yoga Lifestyle Workshops and Yoga Teacher Training programs. I also will translate into English some of Guruji’s thoughts on Yoga and Ecology. Each morning since I’ve been here we start our day with yoga practice. Most days Guruji leads our group – which is a rare and great learning experience for me – but I have been honored to be asked to teach the past couple mornings. As I walk around the grounds during the day with Guruji I can see just how much he means to everyone here. He is often approached by people with challenges ranging from cancer to losing loved ones and more, and has time for everyone.
And here is the porch to the building I am a guest in. A beautiful entrance in a colorful, fascinating place I’m just getting to know. Look for more posts coming soon.
Love and Peace,