The Enchanting Discoveries of India

By Louise Wasserman, Protravel International Luxury Leisure Travel Agent

India is magical, mystical and intensely spiritual. I am fascinated by the diversity of religions and cultures, drawn to the colorful attire and décor, and enchanted by the warmth and caring of the people I have met there.

From my very first day in India, I was in awe. My husband and I were on a tour that did not include the Ganges River. Not wanting to miss seeing this most sacred and important river, after flying all night, we arrived in Varanasi in time for a private sunrise boat ride on the Ganges. It was spooky to be sure because there are cremations all over the river, but it was quite moving.

Our captain greeted us with a cup with marigolds and a candle and invited us to put it in the water as an offering. Along the river, we saw men — women do not participate in these Hindu death rituals — bringing the wrapped bodies of their recently departed loved ones. We saw the smoke of bodies burning on Ghats, platforms that dot the riverbanks, and mourners praying as they entered into the water to free their loved ones’ souls. No one was crying because according to the Hindu religion if your ashes are released into the Ganges at Varanasi, your soul will escape the cycle of reincarnation and go right to heaven.

Everyone sees pictures of the Taj Mahal. The first time I walked through the gates and saw it, tears came to my eyes. It is magnificent beyond words and should be experienced at sunrise and sunset for maximum effect.

Another thing that is hard to articulate is the warmth of the people. At one restaurant, I asked questions about the spices in the food. The waiter was so delighted that he kept bringing more items for us to taste and then gave us spices to take home. It felt very genuine and loving. In fact, everywhere we went, whether in a hotel or a temple, whenever we showed interest in something, our guides and the other people we met seemed proud to share their culture and they could not do enough for us.

I returned to India years later with my grown daughter and my 25-year old granddaughter to celebrate our milestone birthdays. It was wonderful to share India with them and we did a lot of different things.

One of the biggest thrills was riding on elephants up a steep mountain to the Amber Fort in Jaipur. Indian elephants are smaller and tamer than the African ones. They are obviously loved and well cared for and colorfully decorated; you sit in a basket and feel very high up, so it feels a bit daring. We also rode camels through a tiny village, a unique way to see how people live in that area.

People think of Africa for animal viewing, but India also has nature preserves with its famed tigers, plus leopards, Asiatic lion, and exotic snow leopards along with blue sheep, ibex, and even Indian rhino. The Monkey Temple in Jaipur, a Hindu pilgrimage site, gives monkeys free rein and people feed and pet them (although this is not advisable as they are not completely tame).

India is a destination that attracts people of all ages who have a desire to experience a very different culture. If you are interested in India, I would love to ensure your trip meets and exceeds your dreams.

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