Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stay at an ashram: check

Do some yoga: check
Bathe in the Ganges: check
Sing Hare Krishna: check (well, technically we've been singing other chants here, but I sang Hare Krishna at Bhojbasa. check.)
Chill the heck out and catch up on internets: also check.

The last couple of days have been nice. I've been at the Santosh Puri Ashram near Haridwar. What's an ashram? I'm not sure, but it seems to be a temple, guesthouse, and yoga school rolled into one. This one has meals, yoga classes (hatha, pranayama, and ashtanga have happened since I've been here), and daily aarti/puja/prayer ceremonies. It's run by a lady sadhu (holy person) named Mata-ji, and she and the rest of the staff are super friendly and great.

The place looks like this:

And I've gotten a chance to explore Haridwar a bit. It's been called the Indian Rishikesh, or rather that Rishikesh is the foreigners' Haridwar. It's on the Ganges, people like to take baths, and it's holy. (the Kumbh Mela was here last year! I met someone who went!) It's also crowded and dusty. But it has some interesting things, including the Mansa Devi temple on a hill (it's really a temple complex, with bookstores, cafes, and big cage walls around so you don't fall out), a big statue of Shiva, and a couple of great lassi/kulfi shops. Ask someone for recommendations.


  1. So of course you know we'll ask- what's up with the mark on your head?
    Is it a tilaka? Who gets one and why?

  2. Good question, and maybe the sort of thing I should have asked someone.

    It appears to be a tilaka indeed. It symbolizes the third eye, or mind's eye, associated with many Hindu gods, and the idea of meditation and spiritual enlightenment. Oh, who am I kidding, I'm just copying from .

    But that's the official definition. Here's the "on the ground" answers to your questions:

    Who gets one? Pretty much anyone who visits a temple.
    Why? Because sometimes holymen with the red dye will block your way until they give you a dot. (I was once told, in a casual Indian voice that is perfectly representative of Hinglish, "It is absolutely compulsory.") Then they will badger you for some money.

  3. Badger, badger, badger. I knew it. The mark is a form of enlightened bamboozlement.

  4. Don't call me a geek yet. Here's my comment I posted today, but God knows where it went: "Been following you post by post. Walk on, My Man, walk on. Loving all your smiley pics. Makin' your Mama happy. Love you."

  5. Ah, it went here.

    Either way, glad to hear from you, Aunt Jan, and hope you're well too!

  6. That's a very large Lord Shiva Murti! Impressive! You look healthy and happy in all your pix, especially with the sun on your shoulders. How was the bath in the Ganges? I hope you enjoyed Haridwar! It's supposed to be touristy. The Ashram looks peaceful. Looking good sporting the tilak :) Oh wait, it's not supposed to be a fashion statement... :)

  7. I know, right? Haridwar was ... honestly, not my favorite place ever. Folks were telling me it's the "Indian Rishikesh", or rather that Rishikesh is the "Foreigner Haridwar", and I wasn't really all that fond of Rishikesh either. Too hot, dusty, and crowded. (lucky I wasn't there for Kumbh Mela!)

    But still, glad I went.