An Ashram, A Temple, A Bazaar

Drive to Sri Ram Ashram

Ona Musoll-Buendia

The first thing I noticed about India I saw even before we landed on Indian soil. Through the airplane window, as we were descending from the air into Delhi, I saw many buildings painted in beautiful reds, greens, and yellows. Immediately, I knew what a bright and beautiful country India is. Throughout the city of Delhi, there were walls full of paintings, bright colorful cars, and beautiful flowers embellishing the sides of the roads. From the green and yellow tuk-tuks, to the tulips, to the orange sun, these were but a few of many pops of color against the grey sky. 

We soon embarked on a five-hour drive from Delhi to Haridwar, where the Sri Ram Ashram is located. As we drove farther from Delhi, the scenery changed. The big colorful buildings turned to agriculture fields growing sugar cane and wheat. On the sides of the road, little shops were buzzing with business, their roofs consisting of tarps of various colors. Statues of gods like Shiva and Vishnu were scattered around Haridwar, a holy city where many people do pilgramages.  Women wearing beautiful Kurtas with colorful patterns walk up and down the bustling streets. My eyes, although stinging from the smoke, could not be kept from looking through the bus window. As the orange sun set, changing the sky to a dark grey, the bus lights flickered on. The bigger store’s neon lights did so too, illuminating the street with bright vibrant colors. 

Our arrival at the Sri Ram Ashram did not come fast enough. Pulling up through the red and blue metal gate, a large group of children awaited our arrival to welcome us into their home. As soon as I saw them, I couldn’t stop my smile from forming. Off of the bus, the children immediately came to hug me with big smiles. I look around and see everyone together, their cheeks rosy from smiling. It was a beautiful start to our trip and I cannot wait to spend time with the children of Sri Ram Ashram this week.

Hindu Temple of Mansa Devi

Emma Monclus

Due to an unexpected turn of events, we got to visit the Sri Ram Ashram earlier than expected. It was a very welcome surprise, given that it was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to. Today, we visited the Hindu temple called Mansa Devi, which overlooked the city of Haridwar. The temple is known to be a place of worship for the goddess Mansa Devi. The term “Mansa” means wish, and it is believed that this goddess fulfills wishes, if you are a sincere devotee. To get to the temple, we had to take a short but steep walk up a windy path. In the temple, Shmuel, one of our chaperones, explained to us that through the temple, we’d be able to fulfill our mind’s desires. I found this very odd at first because I was wondering how it was possible to have our mind’s desires fulfilled by just walking through the temple. However, that’s when the self-reflection began. It’s not often you sit and wonder what your mind’s desire is. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the temple actually could fulfill my mind’s desire. The mind does not desire materialistic things, because it will never fulfill us, so the only thing that’s left is the epiphany that you can fulfill your mind’s desire by recognizing your thoughts and changing your mindset. The whole temple experience was contemplating what your desire is, and how easily you can achieve it through acceptance or taking internal action. After our voyage through the temple, I asked some classmates what their mind’s greatest desire was, and I was happy to know my hypothesis was correct. They had not wished for materialistic things, but instead for self-improvement or connections with others. I am very grateful for this experience. It made me realize how powerful the mind is because it is not a physical thing, but very abstract, so it is capable of anything we decide to believe.

Haridwar’s Moti Bazaar

Erik Howley

Today we took the bus from Sri Ram Ashram. We got to drive through a lot of the city of Haridwar, see the river Ganges, and go to a Hindu temple up in the mountains with some very enthusiastic priests. 

My most favorite part of the day was getting to shop in the street bizarre by the river Ganges in Haridwar. As we walked down from the Hindu temple, Devin, one of our chaperones, led us across the street down a set of stairs into a completely different world: streets lined with shops selling shiny knockoff Lamborghini jackets to intricate and colorful depictions of the god Shiva. 

As we walked down the streets, bicycles, rickshaws, and tiny motorbikes with their horns would weave through the packed street. First, we walked down through the crowded bazaar to the river Ganges. At the Ganges, we were encouraged to dip our hands and feet in the water, but I was the only one who took that opportunity. As I walked down the steps to the edge of the river, I dipped my hand in and put the water on top of my head. Writing that, I feel I should take a shower now.

Then began our grand shopping adventure, walking through the street bazaar back the way we came. We were told to shop in groups no smaller than two, and I initially wanted to shop with one of our chaperones, Chelsea, who has shown herself in our previous shopping experiences to be a master haggler. But in the massive sensory overload that was the bazaar, I lost her and her group. Luckily, I used my 6 foot 5-inch height to find my classmates Ethan, Wyatt, Anya, and Peter in front of me. I worked with that group for a little bit until Ethan and I doubled back to take a closer look at brass shops. I hadn’t found anything in my walk in the bazaar that really caught my eye until I saw one of the most gaudy but fabulous pieces of clothing I’ve ever seen: a shiny iridescent silver puffer jacket embroidered with a sequin Lamborghini bull on the back. I immediately tried it on, and as Ethan and I laughed at the absurdity of this garment, we laughed even heartier after finding that it fit me and looked quite good! Sadly, with a price of 1250 rupees, I decided not to get it, a decision I now realize I will regret for the rest of this trip. But I did not leave the bazaar empty-handed! Towards the end of the bazaar, I found a tiny hat shop where I bought a small square cap to keep my head warm for the following adventure to Dharamsala. Then, at the very end of our adventure into the bazaar while waiting for classmates to catch up to the meeting point, I did some light shopping at a shawl shop where I bought a patterned cotton shawl for my bed back at home. But I have yet to tell you the funniest part.

The funniest tidbit of the day was people being in shock at my height walking around Haridwar. As I walked through the bazaar, my friends walking with me would say everyone was looking at me, and that they could tell because they would look way up and then way down. Throughout the street, shopkeepers would shout “Model! Model!” as I walked past. Overall, it was an incredibly fun day spent experiencing Haridwar and being at the Sri Ram Ashram.

Burger King Lunch

Ethan Lee

Today, our class went to the Mansa Devi temple, which overlooks the city of Haridwar. After a medium-sized trek up a mountain we reached the temple, and I was immediately struck at how colorful it was, and all of the ambient sounds around me. After receiving blessings from quite a few people, we descended the mountain to shop in the Moti Bazaar, which lies in the heart of Haridwar and sprawls for almost a mile. Regrettably, I left my wallet at the ashram today and I sadly couldn’t purchase anything, but it was still a beautiful sight walking through the bazaar and smelling all of the different spices and perfumes coming from all of the different stands. After that, however, was arguably the highlight of the day. We decided to stop for lunch in a Burger King, I think just to give us a little taste of home. Although it was vegetarian, as everything in the city was, it still gave me the little security blanket I had hoped for. After sitting down and getting all of our orders, the workers must’ve realized that almost all of us (being as childish as we are) were wearing the crowns that they hand out with their meals. Right before we left, the manager and some workers asked us to take a photo together, and it was genuinely hilarious. They seemed so grateful to have such a big group in their restaurant, and they were more than courteous at every possible interval. I hope to one day see all of our faces on a billboard, advertising the best Burger King in all of Haridwar.