Who has not dreamed of going to India and experience the country of colours, spices, crazy driving and a thousand different Gods? As soon as you start following the path of meditation, India will pop up in one way or the other.
India is a fascination in itself. It is life in its totality, combining all the contrasts from breath-taking beauty to shocking poverty and crime. This is perhaps the very reason why it is the land of meditation. There have been so many enlightened beings in India, it is said that in some places the air is dense with energy, almost thick like honey.
Through the presence of Vasant Swaha in Dharma Mountain we already got a taste of these vibes and perceive the breeze of silence and celebration. And we learn that dreams can come true. Many of us are at the moment travelling to India to dive deeper into meditation. An adventure on many levels no one will ever forget.
Our friend Puja who has already spent a lot of time in India was helping some of us in planning the practical side of travelling to India for the first time. We captured a few travel tips to share with our readers.
The body is the temple – What to wear
Women Cover your knees, preferably all the way down to your ankles. Wear loose-fitting clothing, if you’re wearing tights, you need to wear a long shirt that covers your butt. Don’t show any cleavage, nothing too tight, definitely wear a bra. No spaghetti straps – you need to cover the tops of your shoulders.
Men Cover your knees and shoulders. Collared shirts are a good way to go.
General Appearance You should comb your hair. As a woman you might tie it up, although modern Indian women have it loose. Be clean in appearance.
Of course you can wear whatever you want, but people will stare, they won’t respect you, and they might treat you accordingly. There are a lot of hippies going there so they’re used to it, but they find it weird if you come to a country and dress like a bum, because they take a lot of pride in cleaning their temple – their body is their temple as well.
Hands, Feet and Mouth – Some words about Hygiene
Street food is the best You can see them making it, it is very transparent, and how many people are waiting in line outside. If you go to a restaurant it’s actually more dirty because it’s a closed area, nobody sees it and god knows what happens exactly.
The left hand is only for the backside business Don’t pay with your left hand, don’t touch people with your left hand – it’s dirty. At meals, you can hold the plate and serve with the left hand with the spoon, but you never put that left hand onto food or against your hand. Be also aware not to touch your face or bite your nails especially with your left hand.
Eating with your hands When you eat, always break off a piece using only your right hand, and then you use that morsel to mop up the curries. You don’t need a spoon to eat the food, you use the bread or rice.
Your feet are ‘dirty’ Don’t point the soles of your foot to anyone. If you accidentally touch somebody’s body with your foot, they will turn around and you have to apologize properly. Apologizing the Indian way is that they touch their hand to the same place where their foot just touched, and then they touch their hand to their heart, and that is like “I’m sorry.”
Drinking Water They have a very nice culture around water, where they’ll drink it from this huge jug. They don’t drink from glasses. It’s actually rude if you’re drinking from a water bottle, to touch your lips on the bottle, because then it means that you cannot share it with other people. So the way they drink it is they hold it up over their head, and let the water flow straight down into their mouth. So a water bottle is considered communal. A stranger might ask you, “Do you have some water?” and then you can give them the water because they’re not gonna touch it, and they assume that you’re not touching it with your lips either.
Face to Face – Interacting with people
Men & Women Physical contact is private business. If you’re two different sexes and you start touching each other, everyone is going to start staring at you. If you’re the same sex no problem, touch as much as you want.
Beggars If you want to give money, 10 rupees is a good amount. If you want to give coins to beggars it’s okay, but don’t feel like you have to.
You could also give them food, for kids especially it’s better to give food, because a lot of the kids are “hired,” or they give their money to some adult at the end. If you give food they might just eat it. There’s a business where they injure street children on purpose so that people feel sorry for them and give them more money.
Salesmen It’s normal in the culture to barter, so if they ask for 500 rupees for a shirt and you say “okay,” they’re going to be disappointed! They want you to haggle with them. It’s part of the communication, it’s fun. So if they say 500 then you say 150, and they might laugh at you but it’s part of the game. Always go super low first – depending what you’re buying, if it’s diamonds you don’t go that low. They might have signs saying, “no bartering.” Ignore those.
Taxi Drivers What might happen a lot in cities if you take a tukk-tukk is they can straight up lie to you to take you to a friend’s place and get a commission. Be aware that there also exist fake pre-paid taxis and fake tourist office! However, some of the nicest people I find are the poor people doing the bicycle rickshaws, they have almost no money at all, but if you’re going short-distance you can support them instead. You don’t need to give hundreds of rupees, but have some small money at hand because they might claim they don’t have any change. Ten-rupee notes are always good to save.
Uber works very well, and they also have Pick-me and some other apps for rickshaws. For that you need to have an Indian SIM, a wifi spot or some kind of roaming. Or just ask a person there to share their wifi with you. People are really nice, they treat foreigners really well, foreigners are guests, so they’re equal to god in their eyes culturally. They go out of their way to help you if you’re foreign.
Happy ending – The burning ghats
When someone dies, they celebrate a ritual called “Stairway to Heaven.” They are cremating the body publicly. You can go there and stand around just like the Indians do, they drink tea and talk, it’s not like a funeral, there’s nothing sad about it, it’s like a celebration actually. You see lots of burning bodies in India, it’s no problem. And if you see a body floating down the river Ghangha, it’s a holy body. But: Don’t drink the water of the river Ghangha!:)
Have a safe journey to the homeland of Meditation: Namaste!