From Delhi to Jaipur to the night markets of Jodphur, all of the whirring, yelling, bright lights and chaotic streets made for quite the bustling adventure. Especially arriving to Delhi on independence day, I felt like a sardine, but a happy sardine none the less, how lucky to experience that, I even got invited onto a float and travelled down the street handing out little parcels of rice and waving to the locals, I felt like Kate Middleton!
The thing that struck me most about Northern India was the intricate architectural wonders that lay before me. The Taj Mahal being the most famous but there is an abundance of forts, mosques, palaces and havelis lining every hill top and valley. And the sheer mass of buildings piled onto and next to each other with no floor to be seen from above. Its quite spectacular
Next up was something that intrigued me as much as it disgusted me, a rat temple....yes that right RATS!
Legend has it that Laxman, Karni Mata's stepson (or the son of one of her storytellers), drowned in a pond in Kapil Sarovar in Kolayat Tehsil while he was attempting to drink from it. Karni Mata implored Yama, the god of death, to revive him. First refusing, Yama eventually relented, permitting Laxman and all of Karni mata's male children to be reincarnated as rats.
If being surrounded by rats wasn't bad enough you had to do it bare foot, but the most disturbing thing of all was a big bowl full of milk and water that everyone was sharing with the rats, an upmost privilege, regardless of the luck they said it would bring me I couldn't be tempted to take a sip...(vom)
Of all the fascinating and extraordinary places in Northern India, Varanasi had to be the most spiritual and awakening corner of the country, it sits on the banks of the Ganges and is considered the holiest of the seven sacred cities.
Pilgrims come to the ghats to wash away a lifetime of sins in the sacred waters or to cremate their loved ones (I found this out earlier in day after tripping over a dead body that was wrapped in colourful cloth, much to my horror they were lined up along the street ready to be dipped into the river and cremated)
Lastly we come to Jaisalmer, the golden city, placed around the breathtaking fort. I came here for the exotic camels and desert mystery.
This is where I got told by every traveller to try the infamous Bhang lassie, Bhang has been used in India since Vedic times, and is an integral part of North Indian culture. Sadhus and Sufis use bhang to boost meditation and to achieve transcendental states. Bhang or cannabis is also used amongst Sufis as an aid to spiritual ecstasy.
I opted for a banana bhang, within 15 minutes I was appropriately nonchalant, but the next hour was something of a lucid whirlwind, I remember laughing a hell of a lot and finding the bright lights, sounds and animals fascinating, this went on for about 12 hours. I awoke the next day pondering over the possible outcomes of how we made it back home and just how long had we been in this room!? Turns out you must be very carful where you get your bhang lassies from as a percentage of them will also include LSD extract, so there we have it, mystery solved.
If I could sum up India......intoxicating, squalid, overwhelming, devotional, dazzling, body soul and mind changing.