Western backpackers and Hindus walk in the pre-dawn darkness to the Sangam differently. We carry our burdens strapped to our backs; they keep theirs resting on their heads. We think we’re so clever to have dressed in layers of high-tech quick-dry wrinkle-free fabric. As the sun comes quickly up the temperature rises just as fast so we have to stop, take of the daypack and strip off another layer, put the layer in the daypack and put the daypack back on every 10 minutes. The Indians just keep on walking. I realized that I’d learned something, however trivial, when after leaving my sandals off as required, I stopped myself, despite the biting cold at 4 in the morning, from putting on my fleece and down vest over my t-shirt for the procession with the naked sadhus.
If I learned anything from the Mela it’s that the spiritual path is first and foremost a physical path.
At Swami Thana Pati’s camp I was given a set of beads and shown how to count the beads with my middle fingers as I repeated, “Om Namah Shivaya” (Oh my God, you are everywhere, I want to see you in my life) for each bead.
As one of Swami Thana Pati’s devotees is explaining as the above picture was taken:
“Do this after you bathe every day and your third eye will open. You will be connected to God and your life will be in balance.”
|A joyful harmonium player performing at the Mela|
I was also instructed on how to eat quickly and efficiently with my fingers and, of course, this sloucher was told about the importance of sitting up straight. As difficult as it might be to achieve this last improvement at this point in my life I think Nietzsche was on to the truth when he wrote:
“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”
Boys dancing in my dorm-mates’ wedding procession
I wouldn’t go so far as to say there is more wisdom in a Bollywood dance routine than in a Nietzsche aphorism. However, I think my friends will know how happy I am to end this blog with a wedding rather than a ponderous quote.
I was astonished with delight when I found out that Oliver and Suyin, an Austrian couple staying in the same Kumbh Mela dorm room as I, were having “a real Indian wedding, with an elephant” on the last night of my stay. Oliver and Suyin have been experiencing the joy and the difficulties of making their relationship work for several years. They are in India following their spiritual path as well as their interest in exploring this incredible country. Tonight Oliver and Suyin are celebrating their love for each other and their love for India. Everyone is invited to the wedding.
Readers of my earlier posts know that in real Indian weddings the groom gets to the wedding by riding a white horse behind an impromptu troupe of young Indian male dancers, and if a horse isn’t available, a white car. Clearly, the elephant would be a better choice for a tradition that makes, for one night, every man a maharaja.
Faithful readers will also know how wonderful it is for me to return with delight, rather than angst to the women holding the flower table lamps in an Indian wedding procession.