After meeting our group at an orientation meeting, we then headed off to explore this city of over 25 million inhabitants.
The grounds include the Gurudwara, a kitchen, and a large (holy) pond. As with all Sikh Gurdwaras , the concept of langar is practiced, and all people, regardless of race or religion may eat in the Gurdwara kitchen (langar hall). The Langar (food) is prepared by gursikhs who work there and also by volunteers who like to help out.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amer_Fort, a stunning 16th century structure, built on 4 levels. Traversing up the narrow winding road in jeeps as opposed to the elephants that some tourists used, we then enjoyed the many rooms throughout the fort. Another special eye into Hinduism was a visit to a temple to watch the evening ceremony performed by the priests. This is done daily and attracts hundreds of individuals to receive the blessings of the priests.
Later in the afternoon, we wandered the streets of the bazaar and then enjoyed a meal in the home of one of the upper caste Indian families as organized by our tour company.
Resuming our drive, our guide points out nomads and stopping the bus we are able to gain insight into their way of life.
During this day’s roadtrip to this famed Tiger Reserve, we stopped to visit a Thaba (truck stop) and enjoyed authentic Masala Chai tea. Later, we stopped at a rural village and walked along the roadway stopping to interact with many merchants gaining insight into their daily lives and chosen vocations. Finally, we reached at our luxurious encampment for the next two days - Nahargrah Hotel, reminiscent of the living quarters of the Maharajas residence of days gone by. Before dinner we toured Ranthambore Fort, a spectacular fortress built more than 1000 years ago, climbing 300 steps to the summit to view the stunning views.
Travelling overland to the home of the world famous, Taj Mahal,we pass an enclave of roadside prostitutes soliciting drivers,illegal but overlooked by authorities ,and then prior to checking into our hotel we visited Sheroes Hangout Cafe.
Run entirely by female survivors of the infamous acid attacks in India these women are attempting to show that they are still beautiful human beings while activists in protesting these abhorrent atrocities. blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2015/06/03/the-cafe-run-by-acid-attack-survivors/
The following morning we experience a journey by train to Jhansi, late due to the dense fog, and upon arrival there, then boarding a bus for a very long drive to Khajuraho. Although remote and small (15,000 persons) this community is in contrast to what we have experienced in India; clean and with far less traffic. In the morning we visit a magnificent group of temples (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) built between the 9th & 10th centuries by the Chanela Dynasty. Covered in erotic stone carvings symbolizing the important role of love and ‘paranoia’, a life giving force, when discovered by the British, they scandalized the Victorian era puritanical society.
We also drive to an ancient Buddhist learning center where Buddha supposedly preached his first sermon. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a facility dedicated to the ancient weaving of brocade silk - a dying art as manpower gives way to automation.
In the afternoon we again travel to the Ganges, by bus, and then manpowered rickshaws to view the cremation ghats, where the deceased are brought to the Ganges to be cremated and their ashes sprinkled on the water, and then experience Aarti a Hindu fire ceremony performed by Brahmin disciples to honor the holy river, Gods and deities.
*Varanasi is also called the City of Death. Hindus believe that Varanasi is the most auspicious place to die. They believe that having their dead bodies washed and cremated on the Ganges and their ashes thrown in the river will liberate them from the cycle of life and death (reincarnation) and allow them to move to a higher plane of being.
Once on our boats we find that they are modest to say the least, but have a/c (on demand) and the showers are cold water only. If needed, the crew will bring a bucket of hot water that you can ladle as needed. In this heat and humidity, the cold shower is most welcomed. Other than tying up to the river bank at night, we cruise leisurely through the bayous of Vembanad lake, viewing the abundance of greenery and people doing their chores, on occasion stopping to trek along hyacinth clogged inlets and stopping to talk to many of the locals. After two days we depart our home on the water, but before boarding our tuk-tuks to get to our bus, we watch a man climb a coconut treat tap the hard seed to get Toddy an alcoholic drink.