The first urban foundations date the 3500 BC alongside the Hindo Valley, the same river that nowadays separates Pakistan and India. Harappan culture emerges and proceeds the Vedic period that is accompanied by an expansion of the civilization towards southeast. The Holy Scriptures, “the Vedas” were written during the latter period, also responsible for the implementation of the Caste system still in place. The epoch that follows is highly complex. Basically, traces of all empires can be found in what is now known as India: Maurya, Persian, Roman, Greek, Chinese and Macedonians (with Alexander the Great). It was however during the eighth century that society suffered major alterations with the arrival of Arabs and Islam – The Mughal Empire. The most influential period occurred during the kingdom of Akbar, who took a distinct approach to slaughtering Hindu people, allowing the mingling of Islamism with other religions. The subsequent era was dominated by the Marathas, a type of kings that still endures in the territory. All Europeans, including the Portuguese arrived to India with commercial intents, except the English, that decided to conquer the territory. In 1947, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru finally ensured the independency of India, without shooting a single bullet, giving rise to the greatest migration of human history that culminated with the separation of Hindus and Islamises and gave rise to two new countries: Pakistan and Bangladesh. India became the largest democracy in the world, bearing 1.1 billion inhabitants (although to be honest I have counted many more and no one knows the origin of such a number) and an economical growth of 7.8% in 2006 with attractive interest rates; it comes however with a high social debt and serious unsolved problems: insufficient infrastructures, rural poverty, high bureaucracy, illiteracy, corruption patronage and graft (clientelism).
Concepts and religion:
AHIMSA (literally avoidance of violence) – in 1947 Gandhi exposed to the world this (dangerous) secular concept- of kindness and no violence towards all living things including animals- “do not inflict pain upon another, nor threaten him with pain”.
HINDUISM (Luisa & Andre version) – Hindu religion is dynamic and diverse. The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduism in which the cosmic functions are governed by 3 main Gods, AKA Deva: Brahma – the creator; Vishnu – the maintainer or preserver and Shiva- the destroyer. Broadly speaking all other Gods are incarnations of these – avataras. The majority of Gods has its own Goddess (only one, which makes them monogamous) – a man should only be with his woman – and associated animal. 33.000 Gods have been catalogued, from which 1000 appeared in the last 20 years. There are Gods for almost anything one can imagine, which makes of Hinduism a non-judgemental, open and absorbent religion. The Cow is sacred because it supplies milk and work force. However, almost all animals are venerable, as the monkey (can you imagine why?); but also some rivers, the sun, mountains (and I wouldn’t be surprised with the appearance of a God holding a Holy computer).
Everyone should accomplish good deeds (which is related with a supposed good moral conduct, whatever that means) or have a good Dharma. Provided this requirement is fulfilled people will have a better Karma in their subsequent lives. The greatest goal of every living being is to reach the Moksha, or the end of incarnations. In practical terms, if, for example a fly performs an oustanding Dharma, it may incarnate in a better Karma, say, a Monkey, and if the Monkey does a notable Dharma it may reach the Moksha getting rid of the annoyance of having to be born and die repeatedly.
We got to India just after the Diwali, the equivalent of the Hindu Christmas, the festivity of lights. Houses and streets were decorated with lights and the skies illuminated with fireworks, displayed slowly and timing the minutes – the matrimonial season had started. In old Delhi, the processions to Krishna progressed at the rhythm of the axe manoeuvred by the chicken salesman, of the non-stop rickshaws horns and the tuk-tuk shouts! Embedded in a crowd of cars a policeman was lost, trying to pull them away by blowing a whistle desperately. The motorbikes and bikes minded the cows that Krishna enchanted with his flute dancing on top of a lorry. We tried to escape the confusion, by entering the geometric shoe factories that the donkeys transported, preventing the harassment of people trying to sell postcards washed out by the burnt oil of samosas. We negotiated rupias with a rickshaw decorated by time, and insisting in transporting us until the dirt road worn by cockroaches, where our Hotel Karol Bagh was located. It was there that we got some rest, eating a garlic Nan, a type of bread shaped as pizza, scented with new fragrances from the plethora of spices, and allegedly some potatoes as reiterated in Hindi (with an English accent) by the Hotel waiter. This was our first day in New Delhi.
Days went by, as we travelled kilometres of monumental mausoleums of imperators immortalised by the words of history or by palaces located in abandoned cities. These are now inhabited by monkeys and little antelopes and are an attraction where tourists are surrounded by improvised guides (from earring others), selling the myths of the 108 wives of a Maharaja and elephants sculptures in colourful marble. We reached Galta, a little place near Jaipur (Rajasthan’s capital), to see the Temple of the Sun, AKA Temple of the Monkeys. The Rathi spoke a poor English of carefully chosen words. We left the car and wondered a kilometre of a sacred way full of dust, rows of fabrics, and peanut gifts for the Monkey Gods Hanuman that thanked by eating bananas. I thought out loud that if I were a cow I would love to be in India, as I observed them laying down with gurus or yogi’s surrounded by circles of funeral ashes (Sects) showing their fifth leg to the photos that devotees paid with rupias or sweets or fabrics for the Gods. We continued up towards the Temple passing by ponds filled with the meaning of the colour of sharis where millions of women washed their naked breasts in the water polluted by the incense that perfumed a humid and hot air. We finally reached the Sun, in the Temple up the hill, where we were welcomed by its Brahmin, his wife and two sons. Our effort was rewarded with a Tilak, a mark in the sixth Chakra known by the third eye, a white sweet, a wire bracelet and endless courtesy. We stayed together, there in the sky, looking to the pink city of Jaipur.
We had just arrived from Pushkar, the sacred city, banned of alcohol, tobacco, meet and cars but not horses or camels. Over 20.000 camels awaited their turn to change owner in the mythic fair of Rajasthan. We washed our feet in the divine waters of the polluted river, and got the pass to the Holy in one of the 500 temples of the little town. We opt for an early morning in Todgarth investing in the promise of the most beautiful sunrise in the universe. So we had a generous breakfast in the terrace of the new GuestHouse eternally under construction, watching the promise while somewhere in the secluded town, deprived of roads, we assisted to a procession of no more than 10 people and a goat towards the old temple. The sun started to illuminate the water wheel pushed by the cows that served to supply water to the fields. We left to Udaipur using a GQ, a Golden Quadrilateral, the new highway that connects the 4 points in India, and which quality is cut out from a Kusturica film during the Second World War. It took us five hours to travel 200 km, that the Rathi meandered avoiding camel-drawn vehicles carrying straw bales; trucks travelling in the opposite direction; buses packed with natives inside and outside holding tight to the sides; and the wholes on the road that broke the car damper. Finally we got to Udaipur (the Indian Venice), from the famous Picchola lake together with the heroes travelling on top of the bus paying a full fare without any discounts. It was worth it, we got to the most beautiful and romantic town I have ever met. Two days later the car damper was repaired. It was Sunday, and as with any other given Sunday a goat was sacrificed in the village.
A Trip from Oporto to India:
From the 28 states in India (number increasing at the rate of one district per year since 2000) we met only one: the Rajasthan. We also crossed the Uttar Pradesh to get to Agra, where the majestic Taj Mahal, well worth seeing, is the single interesting attraction. We have also experienced the monumental Delhi, which I don’t really understand to which district belongs. Probably to none as in text books it is described as the Capital of the territory.
The Rajasthan is a district bordering Pakistan, and it is enriched with the history of commercial routes of silk and spices and of the famous and invincible warriors – the Rajputs. These, when not fighting invaders, would combat amongst themselves inspired by the courage of opium, used as a ritual prior to any battle. It is said that no army ever defected the Rajasthan, nor regulated it. Dominion was solely accomplished diplomatically, appointing the Rajputs as army leaders, strategy they accepted. This idea of invincibility and lack of rules, is nowadays still well represented, at least in the roads of Rajasthan!
The institutional touristic slogan for the adventurers wishing to visit India is Incredible India, so, if you cannot go there just imagine sounds and fragrances from this incredible India.