Brandon Davis, Travel Counsellor
Coming towards the end of my time in Rajasthan I found myself in the beautiful City of Lakes, Udaipur. The city came completely as advertised and the sites were just as mind blowing as those in Jodphur, Jaipur and Jaisalmer, but something unexpected happened (which I probably should have been expected by this point!)
May 22, Udaipur, India
We all travel for different reasons. For some it’s an escape from everyday life; immersing themselves in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a different culture. For others it’s coming face to face with the great monuments of the world, both manmade and natural, to awe in their splendour and beauty. Others still a simple break from their hectic big city lives, even if just for a week of life in the slow lane. No matter what the reasons for leaving our own shores it goes without saying that at some point in your journey there will be a moment, very rarely planned, that it all hits you and you find yourself overwhelmed by an experience that challenges your pre-conceived notions, and sometimes, changes your outlook on life forever.
I had one of those moments today.
I had just finished a tour around the stunning City Palace in Udaipur when my guide suggested I have a look at the local temple. At first I’d declined, the temperature starting to hit the mid-forties, my thoughts only of the roof top pool and frosty kingfisher waiting for me at the Udai Kothi. Then that little voice in my head said ‘you may never be here again’. I bought an offering from a young lady outside, took off my shoes and started up the steps.
The temple itself wasn’t especially remarkable, well not especially remarkable once your eyes have adjusted to India – If you stumbled across it at home, it would probably stop you dead in your tracks and have you reaching for your phone to tweet your discovery to the world.
Before heading in to the main sanctuary, I casually strolled (you don’t rush when it’s 46 degrees) around the temple, enjoying the detail in the ancient carvings of apsara girls and holy images that adorned the temples exterior. As I came to the entrance the familiar wafts of incense and the sweet perfume of fresh blossoms filled my nostrils, but instead of the expected peace and stillness, there was singing – blissful, joyous singing – the kind of sound that can only be made by the truly devoted. Running like a river though the temples pure white pillars was a sea of women in saree’s of every colour imaginable, sat on the temple floor extolling the virtues of Krishna in unison. It was then and there that it hit me; the pure uninhibited joy of the moment, the harmonious sense of community, the absolute and total belief.
I did the only thing I felt I could do; I sat down cross-legged on the floor and started to clap along with the rhythm. As the others started to notice me, the outsider in their midst, there were no quickly adverted eyes or scowls of disapproval, only welcoming smiles and gentle hands on my back, letting me know I was welcome without a word spoken. I stayed there on the floor for what turned out to be twenty minutes but felt like two. It was only when my guide came in to the temple – I think he was worried he had lost me, try explaining that one to the boss – that I remembered that we had places to be that afternoon. I hastily took a couple of photos on the way out, trying to capture the scene that had so overwhelmed me.
We met Raju in front of the temple and carried on to lunch – I still got my swim and kingfisher, all be it just a quick dip – and I spent the rest of the day with a smile from ear to ear.