There’s a lot you need to consider before just jetting off to India, saying you want to be at an ‘ashram,’ and you want to ‘meditate’ ; ‘do yoga,’ and ‘attend the Holi One Festival of Colors.’
Firstly, make sure you know what The Holi One Festival of Colors really is and why it is celebrated. It is so much more than just a festival to chuck colored powder (gulal) all over each other!
The festival is symbolic to the victory of good over evil - this is the more ancient, religious belief on Holi.
The night before Holi, bonfires will be lit which correspond to a story about a demon king called Hiranyakashipu and his evil sister, Holika.
Hiranyakashipu demanded that everyone worshiped him but his own son, Prahlada, didn't agree. He worshiped another, Vishnu.
This, of course, made Hiranyakashipa furious. He subjected his son to endless cruelty but nothing deterred Prahlada away from his faith.
Then, one day, Prahlada's evil aunt, Holika, deviously tricked Prahlada to sit on a pyre (a build up of combustible material that is often used to burn corpses,) with her. She had a shawl wrapped around her that made her immune to fire while Prahlada did not.
Even so, once the fire was roaring around them, the cloak was suddenly ripped from Holika and encased Prahlada, protecting him from the fire.
Inevitably, Holika died in the fire and Prahlada survived.
Vishnu then appeared and killed Prahlada's father, Hiranyakashipu - hence the festival and bonfires being symbolic to the victory of good over evil.
By throwing the powder over each other an opportunity to forget people's differences is formed.
Race, sex and religion are forgotten; discrimination broken.
It celebrates Spring by letting go of the gloominess from Winter and embracing the new colorful season.
Holi is also a time to rid yourself of all mistakes, mend relationships, forgive and forget.
It takes place in the backpackers hotspot, 'Paharganj.'
Tickets for this particular festival range from 1500-2000 Rupees (R272.79 - R363.71) or alternatively for a more luxurious experience (welcome drinks, private lounges etc,) you can expect to pay up to 3000 Rupees (R545.57).
A few lovely things you could do while in Delhi is visit the upscale Khan Market, which is in the center of New Delhi. This is very close to a beautiful green park called Lodhi Garden which you can picnic in after a stroll through the market. There is some wonderful history to be seen in the park such as the tombs of the Lodhi Emperors. There's also a restaurant there where you can have tea and lunch - this is a lovely break away from the hustle and bustle.
In Delhi there is also an abundant amount of cultural centers where you can attend art exhibitions, live-music and so much more. The list is endless on the delights that await you in Delhi. All you have to do is look past the intimidating and admittedly daunting demeanor.
I guess if you're lucky you could travel around and experience as many places as you can - but as much as that would be fabulous, I am only interested in a day or two at the festival. The rest of my trip to India (the first of many, I hope,) will be spent meditating and stretching in awkward and painful positions (hey! I'm new at this...) in an ashram. Perhaps devote myself to silence for a while - I don't know. I just have this force driving me to India to grow and learn, to discover and gain inner peace.
You'll never be able to see all of India in one trip... not even a long, extended one. So my advice to you would be to make a list of the things that are the top priorities for you while you're there.
For instance, a huge tourist attraction is The Taj Mahal.
This is in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. It costs about 750 Rupees (R134.00) to see and this is one of the most expensive attractions you'll find. From Delhi it's about a 2 hour train ride. There's a morning train called the 12002 Bhopal Shatabdi that costs 370 Rupees (R66.00) which included air conditioning (score!) This train departs at 06h15 and arrives in Agra at 08h15. The only day that this train doesn't run is on a Friday.
There are other popular trains too, I've just mentioned the fastest morning train for you to consider.
After your visit to Agra, you'll need to catch a train back if you aren't planning on staying. The 12001 NDLS Shatabdi is the quickest train from Agra to Delhi and leaves at 20h30, arriving at 22h30.
Again, there are other modes of transportation available to you - but the trains are wonderfully air-conditioned, seated and convenient.
There is a wonderful guesthouse called Thikana in South Delhi, should ashrams not be completely your style then this is a marvelous place to book into. With the incredible decor and friendly hosts, you can't go wrong.
If you’re like me though and want to experience an ashram for yoga, meditation and spirituality, then it’s important to know what type of yoga and meditation you either do or are interested in doing.
Guided Visualization is often done while listening to a CD, helping you imagine a certain image or an imaginary setting. This form of meditation is fantastic for optimizing your creativity.
It does not focus on the breath is any certain way but rather to create a stress-free, blissful place to 'visit.'
I find that this kind of meditation helps a great deal to slow your thoughts down, allowing you to really focus something else instead of letting all the other jumbled thoughts in your head in. Another great benefit is that it makes you focus on a positive thought or place.
Most meditations help relieve stress from you mind, body and spirit where as Heart Rhythm Meditation is intended to help you DEAL with it.
This exercise requires you to become conscious of not only your breathing but also your heartbeat.
"Kundalini" refers to a type of energy that lays dormant at the base of the spine, in the first chakra of the body.
This energy can be released during life-threatening situations. It is an explosion of power surging throughout the body and can give you the strength to do what you need to do in life-threatening situations.
It can also be released by having an orgasm.
The goal of Kundalini Meditation is to become aware of that specific energy rising, and to ride this stream of energy to infinity.
Kundalini Meditation and Yoga is a combination of posture, breath and chanting. It is not a heart-based meditation.
This Chinese form of meditation has a powerful healing system involving a combination of slow, graceful movement and breathing techniques. It involves focusing on circulating, cleansing, and strengthening the life energy (Qi).
People often call this kind of meditation, 'Chinese Yoga.'
It is important to know that there are thousands of different types of Qi Gong meditation.
You do a lot of inner work on yourself when practicing Qi Gong.
As it teaches you to control your reactions to stress in particular, it is a wonderful way of finding a very tranquil state of mind. Stress leads to many things such as high blood pressure, anger, anxiety etc so this is a great preventative.
Stress can also age you - so this anti-stress meditation is also proven to be anti-aging!
Avoid eating for a half hour before practicing Qi Gong as this can weigh your system down.
In the style of meditation, your state of mind is completely induced by someone else and you have little to no self-control.
This style is often guided by music, drugs and hypnotism accompanied by a more shallow breathing technique.
If you are searching for spiritual growth, I would strongly advise against Trance-Based Practices.
This is a non-religious practice that requires you to sit comfortably, close your eyes and use a silent mantra twice a day.
No life-style changes are needed to practice Transcendental Meditation.
Instead of focusing on breathing, in this form of meditation you are told to focus on the mantra.
It is said that this form of meditation can improve not only your focus on a whole but also your job performance too. It can increase your overall calmness, creativity and so much more.
You can treat anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder with this form of meditation.
It is taught one-on-one by a certified teacher.
If you're South African and are looking to find the closest teacher in your area, take a look HERE to see where you can go.
It is a study of the self.
At Sai Baba's Ashram it is only 100 Rupees a day (R20.00)
|View from the Amritpurri Ashram|
While we're on the topic of cash.... you should get used to bartering before heading off to India. I was lucky enough to learn how to barter while staying in Phuket, Thailand a years ago. Almost everything in India is up to negotiation. Don't feel guilty about it because it is in their culture to barter. Be firm. If the price doesn't lower to one that you're happy with then take your business elsewhere because there is NO doubt that you will find the exact same thing elsewhere for half the price, whether is be clothing, food or even taxi fares and accommodation costs. Nothing is a fixed price unless you're in a real store that has the price printed beside the product.
Now let's move on to fashion, ladies! We all know how important style is to us - but it's important to the Indian culture too. Make sure that you cover your shoulders and legs, especially when entering a sacred place such as a temple. The temperatures are high there so buy a few loose fitting, cotton clothing because although this covers you up, they also keep you cool more than your tighter fitting items. You can really have some fun getting Indian-style clothing too, this shows that you are embracing the culture and it also makes it easier for you to blend in.