Varanasi, Agra, Bengaluru
For our first taste of India we spent two months there, nowhere near enough time to thoroughly explore the country but enough to provide us with plenty of fabulous experiences and sights and to encourage us to return at another time to explore further. We have tried to put together our top ten highlights but inevitably we went way past that mark. Following are some of our favourites memories from our visit in the order of our travel. Part One covers the beginning of our trip from our first destinations in Varanasi and Agra and then our visit to southern India to attend a very special wedding.
1. Most spiritual experience.
It’s no wonder we found our best spiritual experience in Varanasi, which is after all known as India’s holiest city. Spirituality pervades the whole area of the old town where we stayed and wandered around but the events which inspired us the most were attending the Ganga Aarti (river ceremony on the Ganges) which is conducted every evening at Dashawamedh Ghat, amongst others, and taking a dawn boat trip along the Ganges River.
2. Most awesome monument.
Ok we’ve all seen innumerable photos and it gets crowded with tourists but there is no going past the beauty and amazing accomplishment of the Taj Mahal. The symmetry, the fine detail, the beautiful materials used and the story behind the construction all contribute to create the whole experience. Along the river the Agra Fort was also very impressive and we would recommend it as well.
3. The Best of our Best in India
The primary reason we travelled to India was to attend the wedding of Paul’s son Sean to Vandana which was held in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru (Bangalore). It was great to be present at the joyful affair of the union of two such very special people vowing to spend their lives together and it was also fabulous to get an insight into the different traditions and rituals of an Indian wedding.
Indian weddings follow a different time-table to those we are used to. Different parts of the wedding involving different rituals and traditions take place over several days and the wedding ceremony itself is preceded by a reception where guests have the opportunity to greet the couple and to give them their best wishes, a meal is served and there is dancing. After a break the actual ceremony then commenced at 2.00am, the time found to be most auspicious for Vandana and Sean based on their dates of birth. The ceremony is conducted under a ‘mandap’, a temporary structure constructed for the purpose and a fire burns in the centre of the mandap. The couple circle the fire seven times with their clothing tied together and the bride offers rice to the fire on each circuit. Other rituals and traditions which take place before the ceremony include the adornment of the bride’s hands and feet with henna, the exchange of floral garlands between the couple, and the placing of a necklace of black and gold beads on the bride by the groom.
Following the wedding we spent a few days in Goa with the bride and groom and several other guests who had travelled from overseas to attend the wedding.
Afterwards we then flew back to northern India to continue our new adventure.