By ARUN MEHRA
CEO, Talenthouse India
What is a journey? Most of us would agree that a journey goes beyond travel escapades. My travel has taken me to places involving some luxurious getaways. Two such journeys shaped my world view of religious practices. An amalgamation of the East and the West brought home to me the Indian essence.
One morning, I rose after a lengthy working week in Delhi, looking forward to a long weekend. Fortunately, my family was ready to accompany me on a trip and the best thing, we thought, would be to head out way beyond Rishikesh. The Gateway to the Himalayas is known not just for its religious connection, but also for its beautiful landscape. If you are one of those who love pilgrimages but hate pilgrims crowding the place, Glass Houses on the Ganges, 25- 30 km away from Rishikesh, is the place for you. The hilly terrain offers a serene experience.
Of the thousands of pilgrims that flock to Rishikesh every year, many are foreigners who come to India in a spiritual quest. The East meets West philosophy is best seen in this region, where most of the spiritual music available is mantras recited by foreigners in Sanskrit. It is something that I have added to my collection and the chants of Miten and Deva Premal in their foreign accent have now become a part of my daily prayers. Such is the charm of Rishikesh that even The Beatles could not escape its magic, having visited it in 1960 to meet their guru.
The West has picked up the best from the East, and Indian spirituality has gone abroad. I witnessed this on a trip to Glastonbury, a small town in Somerset, England, featuring St. Michael’s Tower of Celtic origin. Religious practices and elements remain constant for most parts of the world. On the way to the roofless St. Michael’s Tower, we visited shops at the High Street promoting Hinduism and Buddhism. Some of the commonly seen elements in each of these places were Nag Champa, essence sticks, books and DVDs on yoga, kundalinis and chakras, as well as photographs of Indian godmen and deities such as Sai Baba, Lakshmi, Shiva and Buddha.
The most striking resemblance between Rishikesh and Glastonbury was the importance of holy water. As a mark of remembrance of our visit, we collected Ganga water in the belief that this pond was saturated with God’s blessings. The Chalice Well in Glastonbury has sprung out of the same belief. India can also be seen at various other places such as Palo Alto, which hosts a Ganesh temple alongside Mountain View with the largest book shop selling Hindu scriptures. In Los Angeles, I witnessed a yoga centre at every corner. Deepak Chopra is the official ambassador of India in the US.
India’s biggest export is self-realization - the method and techniques which have been adopted by Julia Roberts, Santana, Ringo Starr and George Harrison while embracing Hinduism. Sting recently visited the Osho ashram and is reported to be a great fan of India, having also played the sitar by the Ganges.
For the adrenaline junkie that I am, with the intense high that travelling provides me, I am going to continue to explore the world with an open mind and find learning in travel experiences.