The Hindu American Foundation has been courageously pushing forth a campaign called “Take Back Yoga” suggesting “that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.” The Hindu American Foundation is not asking modern day yogis to become Hindus or for yoga teachers to teach more Hinduism, it’s just asking them to acknowledge that yoga originates from Hinduism.

Is yoga part of Hinduism? Of course it is.

The New York Times recently wrote an article on this stir in the yoga world. Here’s the article titled “Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul”.

 

Wagah, India-Pakistan border, November, 5th: It was midday in Amritsar as I was strolling along the streets weaving in an out of the maze of people and traffic when I was approached by a man who said to me “you want to see the border ceremony?” Sure I did but I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted him to take me there. After a short conversation I agreed to his “best price” and promise of one seat per person in his jeep.

Later that afternoon I came back to our meeting spot and sure enough he was there with a growing group of people. “Hopefully he has a big jeep” I thought to myself, but somehow I knew it was highly unlikely.

Before long there were 14 of us squeezed into a jeep that seated 7. Cramped in the back with my face almost pressed against the rear window we whizzed through the streets of Amritsar, slowing down only for cows on the road, and eventually made our way out of town to the border which is about 30kms outside of Amritsar.

Wagah is the only road border crossing between Pakistan and India. Dusty, desolate and lined with colorful trucks parked along the highway, it lies on the Grand Trunk Road and is located between the cities of Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan. Each evening the “lowering of the flags” ceremony is held. The humorous but highly entertaining parade conducted by the Border Security Forces of India and the Pakistan Rangers soldiers imitate a standoff of prideful cockerels.

Stadium like seating have been built on either side of the border to house the thousands of fans that come to cheer on their border forces. The atmosphere is almost no different than a crazed one-day cricket match. “Hindustan Zindabad!” (long live India) is the cheer resounding on the Indian side. On the Pakistani side a huge portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, can been seen. Here the crowd is split with separate seating for men and women.

The lowering of each country’s flags and the closing of the gates ceremony lasts little over an hour. Never a dull moment with military marching right out of Monty Python, deafening cheering on either side and colorful costumes, eer… I mean uniforms.

If you are ever in this part of the world I highly recommend you attend this ceremony. It’s well worth the trek out there. In my next post I’ll share some video footage that will give you a closer feel of it all.

The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

The 14 seater jeep….NOT!
The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

Indian Border Security Force
The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

At the border gate. The men in black are the Pakistani Rangers with the Pakistani crowd in the back.
The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

The crowd on the Indian side.
The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

On the Pakistani side, women have their own seating.
The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

The Indian flag has been lowered and is now being returned to a safe place for the night.
The closing of the gates and lowering of the national flag ceremony at the India Pakistan border crossing in Wagah (Attari border), north western Indian (close to Amritsar) in the state of Punjab.

“Hindustan Zindabad!” is the cry.

 

For sure one of the highlights of our journey, our group had the rare opportunity to bathe elephants in the middle of a sub-tropical jungle in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, during Vedic Odyssey’s spiritual adventures to the Himalayas of Nepal and North India in Oct 2010.

A special thank you to Arunachala of Monkbrother for the use of the soundtrack “Orange” in the video below. We appreciate it and love your music.

We spend the day in Chitwan National Park, in Nepal exploring the jungle on elephant back, jeeps and canoes, and hikes.

We spend the day in Chitwan National Park, in Nepal exploring the jungle on elephant back, jeeps and canoes, and hikes.

Our next spiritual adventure is to Kerala in South India in April/May 2011. More info.

 

We are happy to announce our next spiritual adventure, this time to the beautiful state of Kerala in South India in April/May of 2011. Kerala is a mellow and gentle introduction to India for all first time visitors.

Bright, colorful and saturated in sounds and smells to tantalize your every sense, with exotic foods to take you on a culinary voyage all its own, friendly locals with warm smiles, Kerala will charm and mystify you in every way. It is no wonder the locals call their state God’s Own Country. Click here to learn more or to sign up for this spiritual adventure.

Our next spiritual adventure is to Kerala in South India as we explore Hindu mysticism and the ancient practice of ayurveda on 14-day journey.

 

There was no holding back with the celebrations of Diwali at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on November 4th night. The festival of lights lived true to its name at the Golden Temple as tens of thousands of Sikhs gathered in and around the temple complex for one of India’s largest celebrations. The entire complex had been draped in lights and it was quite a sight to behold when the lights came on. It was a little after 7pm when the fireworks started going off and what ensued the following 30 minutes was a feast for the eyes.

I found a nearby building and made my way to the roof top to get the best view possible. The main fireworks display launched from the temple complex itself but all around the temple enthusiastic Sikhs set off endless rounds of deafening crackers. Though the main fireworks organized by the temple ended after 30 minutes or so, colourful explosion could be heard and seen above for at least another 4 hours at which point I decided to retire for the night.

After the main fireworks I made my way down from the roof top of a nearby building with an excellent view and entered the temple complex. The corridors circumambulating the sacred pond were filled with pilgrims. The entire edge of the pond was lit with countless oil lamps and candles, each offered by a pilgrim celebrating the festival of lights, the victory of light over darkness.

The Golden Temple of Amritsar is located in the state of Punjab, India, and is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. The temple was founded in 1577 by guru Ram Das (the fourth guru).

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

 

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, located in the state of Punjab, India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. The temple was founded in 1577 by guru Ram Das (the fourth guru).

I was fortunate enough to arrive this morning (4th Nov) in Amritsar. It’s Diwali day and this festival of lights is grandly celebrated here as it is all around India. The streets were quiet in the wee hours of the morning but as the sun made its way across the sky, thousands of people started to gather in and around the temple.

Here are a few photos from my morning visit to the temple. I’ll share shortly photos from the grand celebrations that took place later in the evening.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

A Sikh elder bathes in the sacred pool known as the Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Nectar), which gave the town the name.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

Pilgrims came from far and wide and many stay in and around the temple complex. This lady patiently waits for her sari to dry.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple as it is commonly known is called the Hari Mandir Sahib. Here the original copy of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib is kept.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Guru’s Bridge leads pilgrim across the sacred pool to the Hari Mandir Sahib.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

Entrance to the bridge. The bridge is filled with pilgrims patiently queuing to enter the Hari Mandir Sahib. Chants from the Sikh holy book can be heard broadcasted around the temple complex as four priests inside the temple continuously chant from the book.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab state in India, is the holiest shrine for Sikhs around the world. Thousands are gathering here for the Diwali celebration tonight.

The Akal Takhat. The Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously brought out from the Akal Takhat each morning and placed in the Hari Mandir Sahib then returned at night to the Akal Takhat.

 

Stacey Green's note to India and Nepal

NEPAL
Photo of a Nepalese child“Nepalese greet each other much in the same way as people do everywhere else in the world – i.e. with a cheery sign of recognition and a chat. The traditional Nepali greeting, and farewell, is to raise both hands gracefully, palm to palm, and close to the body, in what is known as namaste”. This comes directly from the little Customs & Etiquette of Nepal book I purchased pre travels.

To the author of that little book, Sunil Kumar Jha I have this to say. “Um, have you ever been to New York City? People barely greet one another period, let alone put our palms together gracefully, show respect and have a chat! Really, everywhere in the world, wouldn’t that be so very nice?.”

To Nepal, I say, “You had me at Namaste!”

I received my first Namaste from a young man on my fight to Kathmandu as we stepped off the plane. I say ‘given’ because it truly does feel like a gift, every time you receive this greeting. He clearly knew I was a foreigner (hmmm…maybe the hair?) and was excited to hear about where I was from and where I was going. He gave me the number of his family’s home and told me if I needed anything I should not hesitate to call. As he slipped through customs quickly he once again pressed his hands together at his heart, looked me straight in the eyes and with a slight sweet bow of his head forked over a namaste. I like this place. People are nice.

Namaste from the patient driver who had waited outside the Kathmandu airport for almost two hours past my estimated arrival time to take me safely through the crazy crowds and safely to my hotel.

Namaste and a personal escort from one of the hotel managers back to the airport to retrieve my luggage that decided to take a later flight that day.

Namaste as my new friend’s café owner at the airport handed me a cup of tea while we waited for my luggage to arrive (which I pretended to drink ,still being a little weary of the water on day 1)

Stacey Green meets up with young Nepalese kids in Bandipur, Nepal.

With the local kids in Bandipur, Nepal

Namaste from the children in Bandipur who wanted to take pictures with my camera., who not for one second wanted anything more, like the actual camera.

Namaste from the pashmina shop owner in Pokhara with the gigantic smile who’s floor we sat on for 3 hours as he unfolded scarf after scarf and offered us ‘best price’

One of my fellow travelers actually received a Namaste from an elephant in Chitwan.

A Namaste is free, you can get them anywhere in Nepal, and they come with absolutely no strings attached. They come from the men, the women, the young, the old, the poor, the poorer, the cows and the chickens seem to say namaste with their eyes. Okay, maybe not the chickens so much. It is the gift that the Nepalese people keep on giving. Wholeheartedly.

The Nepalese people also smile naturally, they are actually brought up to do so according to Sunil Kumar Jha. But I didn’t just take his word for it. I felt it every day.

For the next ten days, namaste from everyone, all day, every day. Thank you Nepal, I will cherish every one.

Stacey

PS: I’ll let you know how my little namaste experiment works out in NYC. So far, mostly weird looks. Wonder how the office is going to react when I show up at my new gig on Monday in my Sari with a dot on my head!