Mystical India

March 21, 2006

Mystical India

India is situated in South Asia, between Pakistan, China and Nepal. It is bordered by some of the tallest peaks to the north, but further south there are plateaus, tropical rainforests and sandy deserts, not to mention tropical beaches. Keith Melton believes this diversity is one of the ways India is special. It’s amazing, at one end of the country you’re surrounded by 13,000 ft Himalayan mountains and at the other end, there are tropical beaches that look exactly like Hawaii. It is just incredible.

According to Keith, tourists generally go for the Golden Triangle which includes New Delhi, Rajasthan and the Taj Mahal. Although this certainly is an amazing journey, he recommends going a bit further a field. I definitely recommend people go to Pokhara near Nepal. In the morning you wake up and you see this range of hills and you think to yourself, you know those Himalayas aren’t as big as I thought. Then the clouds part and you see an immense towering range that is larger than you ever imagined and it’s an amazing experience.

It isn’t just natural landmarks that attract the tourists though. 24-year-old SheSaid reader Michelle recently visited India and found the Taj Mahal lived up to all her expectations. It is so magnificent and very romantic it was built by a Maharaja for his 2nd wife. They call it the palace of love! The story was that Emperor Shah Jahan was so heartbroken when his second wife Mumtaz Mahal died in childbirth in 1631 that his hair is said to have turned grey overnight. He built the marble monstrosity as a tribute for his love.

The culture and people are the main part of India that people love to experience. Due to its diversity in size as well as people, there are huge differences in religion, language, customs, art and cuisine. These were the things that really surprised Keith. Before I visited India, I had the traditional stereotype in my head about snake charmers etc… Like most of the world I didn’t know much about India. I was amazed at the depth and breath of the culture, architecture, language and costumes and I was surprised that different parts of the country can’t communicate with other parts because of their differing dialects! If it’s culture you’re interested in, it might be worth checking out the dates of various festivals around India. There are few festivals in May or June but the wedding season is between November and March so you’re likely to see a colourful parade passing through the streets. Michelle agrees that the culture of the various areas in India is amazing. The history and culture in Rajasthan in particular was fascinating. But every city we went to, the people had something new to teach us about India. Everyone was so proud of their state, and of their skills- the Rajasthani handicrafts are beautiful.

It was this diversity in religion, lifestyle and pride of their nation that Keith was trying to outline in his IMAX film Mystic India. Despite the difference in people’s beliefs, they manage to co-exist peacefully. Each festival is celebrated with freedom and understanding, and according to Keith this is because they understand the common link between the beliefs. Spirituality is so engrained in their culture and they’ve learned to believe in what they believe in but respect the beliefs of others as well. This is something India can teach us to help us find better equality inour own society. According to Keith, India taught him that just because another culture is different, it doesn’t mean it isn’t as good as your own.We need to learn that our way isn’t the only way. If we can instil this in generations to come, we may have a better understanding of other cultures and other ways of seeing things.

If making a trip to India is a little far off, you could whet your appetite with the IMAX film Mystic India. The film retraces the steps of a 11-year-old child yogi called Neelkanth. In 1792 AD, he walked continuously for 12,000 km over a period of seven years. Barefoot and bare body, he crossed the length and breadth of India, from the Himalayas to the southern sea-shores. Carrying no maps, no food and no clothing, how he crossed the roaring rivers, faced ferocious animals and survived the freezing winter of the Himalayas, is still a mystery. Seven-time Academy Award nominee Peter O’Toole narrates this spectacular epic.

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