Tag Archives: religion

An Indian Odyssey – Sacred Cows

An Indian Odyssey – Sacred Cows

Rishikesh, June – July, 2011

It would be remiss of me not to have a section on India’s ‘sacred’ cows (which often die a slow painful death due to ingesting plastic bags of food left for them by devotees – no-one ever said they were particularly smart, just ‘sacred’).

Shiva, The Destroyer (in order to create anew), and Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu (‘Preserver of the universe’), helped the cows’ popular rise to fame. Shiva’s vehicle was a bull, representing the brute and blind power, as well as the unbridled sexual energy in man. Krishna was (or perhaps ‘is’) a cowherd…and amorous lover (he apparently had 16,108 wives!).

I grew quite fond of these imposing yet generally gentle beasts during my time there. On one occasion I was repeatedly licked by a cow. It was a very strange sensation – like a thousand cats’ tongues in unison.

Just hangin’ out and chewin’ the fat with some of the locals.

After lunch I usually take a stroll through town to work off some of the calories.

A brahmin bull looking for treats from a holy man.

Oi! What are YOU lookin’ at?!

No-One, Um, I mean Nothing…just absent-mindedly staring at the grass.

I can feel a suede jacket coming on! This fur felt so good.

Some impressive but delicate bits…

Not sure if the cow in the background is more impressed by the substantial gear traveling alongside or simply by the fact that she can lick her own nostrils.

No shame here – you take it where you can get it.

What’s the goss girls?

Refugee from the fashion world.

But Oh, I am soooo cute.

I was once too, but not so anymore – notice my battered and broken horns…and the lovely bit of onion sitting in my nostril, on purpose of course – I keep it there as an ayurvedic nasal stimulant.

Mexican stand-off?

A massive bull with a necklace of money passes through town with curious onlookers in tow.

Just walking along and sudd…

The girl in the background knows I’m up to something.

Oh yeah, tear of joy.

If I stretch my neck any further it’s likely to break.

Hold on, I’ll lift my leg to make it a bit easier for you.

That scene above was too hot…somebody, anybody, get me some water…pleeeease. Quickly.

Hangin’ by the Ganges – doing our daily prayers.


Pepsi Girl.

Surely there’s something other than plastic in here worth eating?

Ah yeah, here it is on the tip of my tongue. ‘MMmmmmm.

The Hand of God – I always wondered what the body looked like that was attached to the hand in that famous painting. Looks like he’s in good shape for his age.

Feeding the bull on the Laxman Jhula bridge.

An Indian Odyssey – The Beatles Ashram

An Indian Odyssey – The Beatles Ashram

Rishikesh – June/July 2011

The abandoned Maharishi ashram where The Beatles stayed in the 60’s and wrote the White album. It’s a massive overgrown complex with astounding architecture – a real shame that it’s falling into ruins although the abandoned atmosphere makes it pretty special.

The main entrance.

Atop one of the multi-storey accommodation blocks with the forest slowly advancing over the years.

Destroying to create afresh.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Some of the very funky meditation domes. The acoustics inside are very impressive when you bang out an "Om".

Meditation dome and sleeping quarters # 19.

A shrine to Shiva, God of Destruction (in order to create anew)


All you need is Love.

The encroaching forest.

Frayed electrical cord.

Below, the Bat Quarters…

The bats hang out in the extremely dark meditation cells which are not dissimilar to solitary confinement cells.

‘Om’ – the sound of the universe

An Indian Odyssey – Rishikesh

An Indian Odyssey

Rishikesh: May 22 – August 1

Ahh, Rishikesh…home of the Western seeker and occasional genuine guru. Yoga Capital of the World. Spiritual Supermarket of the Universe!

Ganga Ma passing through town one evening.

I love this high quality ad offering ‘galactic chronicles’ and ‘once in a lifetime experience’…

and this one asking if you are feeling ‘lovely’…but I’m sure it meant to say ‘lonely’…funny either way…

and this one offering what looks like a course in ‘Tour Guiding’…although no doubt s’posed to be ‘Study Your Guide’.

But enough on yoga and spirituality for the moment, let’s hang with the cheeky monkeys…

Check out this little gremlin – there’s plenty of them about…and they’re very good thieves as well. One girl had her glasses taken clean off her face. She instinctively grabbed them back and the monkey then slapped her across the face. Another girl had a monkey lean over her shoulder and take a single bite form her apple before leaving her be again.

A lean Makak racing across the bridge 70 kms up the river at Devprayag.

They are extremely feisty buggers. My guesthouse owner used to fire his sling-shot at them regularly. I had several stand-offs with them at the guesthouse where they would gang up on me and try to take over the terrace. Mimicking their aggressive style (teeth bared, hissing and growing tall) just seemed to make them contemptuous of me and they would make sudden lunges even closer towards me. So eventually I added some lion-taming tactics with chair in one hand combined with the above and that helped me regain the terrace! But generally I felt a little self-conscious after this circus act and would retreat into my room hoping none of my neighbours witnessed my antics. 🙂

One of my neighbours, desperate for sun, took to sun-bathing bikini-clad on the unfinished top-storey amid reo-iron spikes where she hoped to escape the disapproving eyes of the locals. But I don’t think the solitary construction worker on the adjacent rooftop disapproved. He was unable to peel his eyes off her and get back to work for more than a minute at a time. 3 glances, dig. 3 glances, dig. 3 glances, dig. etc etc. Oh, the poor man, it must’ve been heavenly torture.

On another hot afternoon, policemen escorted two young western women off the river beach for smoking and being in bikinis.

Correct bathing etiquette for women – fully clothed on one of the public ghats in town. It was a beautiful site to watch how groups of women worked together to prevent prying male eyes while they changed from their wet clothes. A group of women would surround the bather and encircle her with a long sari to act as a screen and create a mini changing room.

And now to a common scene, above. Indians would often, without asking, turn their camera on westerners to record the novelty of seeing us fair-skinned, light-haired aliens. Many-a-time they would also ask to pose with us and sometimes, strangely, when they didn’t have a camera they would still ask/demand to pose with us for a photo on our camera but were not interested in receiving a copy of the photo – they seemed to just want the novelty of the experience.

This shop owner was a ripper – every time sometime walked passed he would call out ‘Everything is Possible’ of ‘Fantastico’. He was a bit ‘out there’ or perhaps a bit enlightened – one day I saw him sitting in his shop with multiple dried red streaks running down his face. He had earlier been walking in the rain and his tilaka (which symbolises the third eye) had run all down his face – he felt no need to wipe it off and left it for many hours. He looked like a very relaxed head-injury victim ! 🙂

The Third Eye

Streaks of green fungus grow around this spiritual advertising mural.

One of the many riverside yoga schools.

The Chakras

There are several varieties of yoga schools and spiritual courses around Rishikesh. On one occasion I had a reiki session. Part way through the practitioner abruptly stopped and ran outside to attack monkeys that were attacking her precious cat amid a frenzy of screams, hissing and spitting. Shortly after we resumed the cat jumped suddenly onto my stomach and began preparing a place for its siesta. Tres relaxing!

Yoga aspirant, teacher or neither?

Hanuman, the ape-llike deity, tearing open his chest to reveal Rama and Sita residing in his heart. Hanuman was an ardent devotee of Rama (an incarnation of Vishnu, ‘Preserver of the Universe’). A beautifully tacky sculpture, about 4 metres in height.

Shiva sitting atop a tiger skin at the Ram Jhula ghat – if you’d like to know why you can visit here…


Laxman Jhula (Rishikesh) at night.

An Indian Odyssey – Haridwar


An Indian Odyssey

Haridwar – Fri May 6th

I quickly headed for Haridwar and the Shivalik Mountains, the foothills to the Himalaya – about 250 kms NE of Delhi.

Hit by car today – side-swiped by a four-wheel drive and reeled back in shock, the weight of my backpack making me wobble like a bouncy-clown, while the onlooking Indians laughed heartily. Not nastily, just heartily. All I could do once I realised all limbs were intact and in their proper places was to join them in laughing and continue on with life, satisfied I had survived. But in truth, this sort of occurrence made me impatient to reach the Himalaya.

Haridwar’s main strip/road is a 3 km stretch lined with with merchandise, souvenir and religious shops, tea stalls and restaurants. But the closer you got to the river end the more it was lined with religious paraphernalia. All in the name of God – but which god I wasn’t sure. Shiva? Hanuman? Ganesha? Vishnu? Or was it just The Dollar?

Why this profusion of religiousity? Every night of the year thousands of people file along this street as sunset approaches to Harkipuri, the town’s main ghat, to witness the famous nightly aarti ceremony on the banks of the world’s most well known river, the mighty Ganges. The ceremony is a puja (religious offering) in which tiny boats made from leaves and flowers are released into Ganga’s waters. Each boat carries a lit candle.

As you approach the three km mark on the main road it rounds its one and only bend and comes face to face with the river. She flows swiftly here, faster than one would expect, carrying the rainfall and snow-melt from the Himalayan peaks 250 odd km to the north. It is about 400 metres wide and on the western side, separated from the main flow, lies a 30 metre wide concrete channel, lined on both sides with steps down into the water. This is Harkipuri Ghat.

In part, it’s like a carnival atmosphere …but with a strong religious air. Novelty salesman roam widely spruiking glo-sticks and glo-helicopters. Plastic water container salesman push plastic so folks can take Ganga home in a screw top pvc container. And tikka (a religious mark placed on the forehead) salesman swoop unexpectedly, make their mark right between your eyes without invitation, then promptly demand payment. At dusk, by which time the ghats are packed with seated, standing and bathing spectators, the official ceremony begins, broadcast over loudspeakers to the audience here and beyond. Mantras are chanted, prayers offered, fires lit and the official aarti boats are launched.

A pujari (Brahmin priest) coordinates a puja ceremony for pilgrims.

The aarti boats packed with flowers and candles await purchase by the pilgrims.

No, he’s not a nazi – the swastika symbol is one of the 108 symbols of the Hindu deity, Vishnu and one interpretation says that it represents the sun’s rays, upon which life depends.

The PVC ‘Pushers’ – selling ‘beautiful’ containers in which to collect the sacred water from the Ganges.

A couple says prayers before sending the aarti on its way downstream.

A mixture of frivolity and profound worship occurs as pilgrims bathe in the sacred Ganga.

The carnival atmosphere prevails for this brother and sister duo.

An aarti floats by on its journey down the Ganges.

An in case mayhem breaks out amongst the pilgrims, never fear, there is an army officer with machine gun up there in the guard tower!

Pilgrims line the ghat as an aarti is swept by in the strong current.

Rajaji National Park Safari – our driver’s assistant asked if we minded if he drove. "No, of course not." He failed to mention it was only his second time at the wheel! Bunnyhops and swerving ensued as we continued down the already rocky road. I dropped from my standing position to the relative safety of the seat.


A Black-faced Monkey (Langur) takes a break from the monkey madness.

An Indian Roller swoops by as it comes in to land.

A Sambar Deer caught in the lens.


Haridwar – Sat May 7th

Someone’s throwing up in the restaurant where I’m eating. ‘Mmmm, really adds to the flavour of my dahl. It’s a tad off-putting.

10 pm and work goes on.

An Indian Odyssey – Old Delhi

An Indian Odyssey

Old Delhi – Thurs May 5th

Breakfast on the rooftop terrace. The weather is cooler but more humid today. A light but refreshing breeze passes through occasionally on its way to somewhere. Soon I  will be on my way to Rishikesh, and then somewhere too.

Showers and a small thunderstorm passed through last night. Lighting cut the night air. Bulbous raindrops fell heavily and continuously for some time, scattering the homeless sleepers who had set up on the median strip. All bar one who simply rolled over, wrapping himself in his cloth and quickly getting drenched, the cloth like a second skin, outlining every curve and jagged edge of his form.


Leaving Delhi by train I see shanti towns with rooftop TV satellite dishes.

Old Delhi – Wed May 4th

6.40 am, Hotel New City Palace: the sun rises over the Jama Masjid and immediately countless beads of sweat erupt in a unified response across my body.

Poverty and suffering are visible on many streets here, but not so complaints. Although totally unfair, the superficial scene at least is one of acceptance.

And now it’s time for some food…

Chapatis being cooked.

One of the oldest dhabas in Delhi – photos in background of Indira Ghandi dining here.

The Pulse-wallah

The Chai-wallah

The Bread-wallah

The Grain-wallah

A meal at Karim’s muslim restaurant.

Baking naan in the tandoor.

Other random scenes from Old Delhi…

‘mmm, somehow I don’t think this’ll be my first choice for dental work.

Public washroom

Muslim Prayer Time

Human Workhorse

Public Bathing

The Kite-Flying Game: kites armed with glass-coated string cut the opponent’s string. The cut kite dances forlornly on the breeze, uncontrolled, and is carried away to be plastered on the principal minaret of India’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid; an out-of-place red diamond flattened askew against the beige onion minaret.

Overlapping waves of wailing as multiple ‘calls to prayer’ converge from all corners of town.

Old Delhi – Tues May 3rd

For two days running someone has pickpocketed my banana from my backpack. So on day 3 I just handed it over to the person of my choice. Actually, he really chose me and I couldn’t say No.

He was one of dozens of impoverished and/or ill men sitting patiently underneath the chef’s position in dhabas (street-front restaurants), waiting for someone to buy them a meal.

Other kindly folk I met along the way…

The Chai-wallah – I love this guy!

Sadhu or sufferer of mental illness? it wasn’t clear to me.

After-school antics – let’s hassle the white guy and be silly 🙂

Sitting on my bed at the New City Palace Hotel looking out through the grilled window to the Jama Masjid, India’s superlatively largest mosque. If it wasn’tfor the industrial sized fan-box sitting oaf-like in my window, I’d be able to see a hell of a lot more! Then again, I could get up off my bed perhaps.

Not suprisingle the New City Palace ain’t that new…and it ain’t no palace. But it does have ‘character’, that wonderful universally useful euphemism. The poster on the wall assures me, “God’s voice is heard in many ways.” If that be true, currently he’s speaking in tongues via incessant and annoyingly high-pitched car and motorbike horns, with a background garnishing of ceiling fan hum. And I think his message is, “Get the fuck out of Delhi before you lose your bleedin’mind, an eardrum or a leg.

Of my three days thus far, it’s definitely the horns that I hate the most. They are unforgiving, arrogant and violent. But I like it up here on the 2nd floor, above the two-way stream of hassling, haggling humanity.

Apparently "God’s voice is heard in many ways."

The New City Palace Hotels’ tagline reads: ‘A Home for Paltial Comforts’. ‘Mmmm, maybe that needs revising – of the 39-odd holes in my shower rose only 6 tried to do any work, spitting pathetically at me as I scrubbed away today’s layer of Delhi masala. This tagline I noticed under the splay of blinding light from the palatial flouro above, which lights the clean yet permamently stained bed sheets (I’m just thankful it’s not one of those CSI-style forensic lights which detects old semen stains).

Ah, perhaps somewhat appropriately the Islamic call to prayer is underway across town, but is somewhat marred by the street din below and blaring Hindi TV from the next room.

Lesson 1 of 1 on ‘How to Negotiate Delhi Traffic’:

Hold your line. Hesitate and Die. It’s a game of bluff…although the big vehicles do tend to hurt quite a lot when they hit you.

Old Delhi – Mon May 2nd

I hide in the cracks and crevices that are the lanes and alleyways of old Delhi to escape the searing sun which manages to cut a path through the heavy pollution. Around midday I slink along the walls in the narrow strips of shade.



Old Delhi is full of bazaars selling all variety of goods and producing all manner of things. It is in your face – you get to learn things you would never expect. And people love getting their photo taken – it is impossible not to take a good portrait – like shooting fish in a barrel!

I forgot how sore one’s arse gets from riding in a rickshaw!

 The Meat Bazaar

The Paper Bazaar…

Putting the gluey bits on envelopes – fun, fun, fun!

Guillotining folders.

The Car Bazaar…

The Metals Bazaar…

These guys spend hour after hour banging in the design into these brass plates with a hammer and small metal chisel.

Alley cricket is a popular past-time with children and teenagers.

…and just hangin’ out is popular with the older folk…

…while more popular still are serious sleeping sessions. ‘Ad hoc Sleeping Reaches New Heights’.

After a day out and about in the pollution, dirty, filthy black boogas clog my nostrils. And a layer of grime coats my skin. Looking forward to clean mountain air.

Old Delhi – Sun May 1st

It all came flooding back as I took that first step outside the airport terminal – petrol fumes mixed with dust, heat and noise. And then there was the driving – chaotic, jam-packed, frantic and horn-filled. Exhausted workers sleeping on the 2’ wide median strip, stripped bare to their grimy skin except for tattered shorts.

Offered a fake beard today, not sure why.

Monkey traversing the street on the powerlines like a tightrope walker.

Old delhi is a maze of narrow alleys and what looks like DIY powersupplies. Power cables run every which way and dangling cables, with their frayed ends, look like aerial roots trying to earth themselves.

My eyes feel like they’re drying up layer by layer from the outside in due to the heat and dust.

….’mmm, somehow I don’t think so DTC!

Cataract Gorge Residency: Day 19

Cataract Gorge Residency: Day 19

Fri Dec 19, 2009

19:19 – at desk

a few more shots of this wonderful house on the hill

Kings Bridge CottageKings Bridge Cottage Kings Bridge Cottage and South Esk RiverKIngs Bridge Cottage Kings Bridge Cottage, South Esk River and KIngs BridgeKings Bridge Cottage through Trees

…and a few of Lonny’s CBD architecture – all captured within the space of 30 minutes

Launceston Fire Station BuildingThe Examiner Nespaper Building Launceston ArchitectureLaunceston's Civic Building - Bastardisation The National BuildingLaunceston Architecture reflecting The National Building Foot & Playsted BuildingFoot & Playsted Building The National BuildingF & W Stewart Building The Portmans BuildingMonaghan's Building The Block BuildingMcKinlay's Building AD1939 Building - Charles StGazman Building - Charles St The Dots Building - Charles StThe Balloon Building - Charles St The Schoolwear & Footwear Building - Charles StThe Beaumont Pharmacy Building - Charles St Launceston Architecture
…pretty damn impressive for a town of only 100 000

And then we have a few words on behalf of The Grand Master …

A Message from GodChristian Reformed Building           
NB – I like the ‘Hart Alarm’ system just above this
billboard.            And this one, above – a kind of oxymoron perhaps?