Tag Archives: Stinophoto

Caste: Warrior

20140422- (232)The caste system in India has been around for thousands of years and probably hundreds of varying books have been written on the subject.

These days article 15 of the Indian constitution states that discrimination between the castes is illegal.

I have encountered numerous instances in which the reality shows itself a little more harsh than the best intentions of the constitution ; after all, this is India and nothing is what it seems to be which for me has always been a great fascination but also a tremendousfrustration at times in this most amazing country.

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Coming from a ‘casteless’ society (if that exists at all) I tend to equally interact with anyone crossing my path. A nice connection is a nice connection after all.

I would walk the streets of a city with someone from an ‘upper’ caste and come along another new friend from a ‘lower’ caste who invites me for tea in his place upon which the other friend would have to decline as he cannot enter the house. Even though he might be the most generous and friendly person around it’s deeply ingrained in his behaviour to do so.

The caste system is all over the place still but for an outsider it is very much hidden, it is between te lines of life. Indians know their place in the scheme of things and most often the continued segregation of castes has something smooth to it. In an overpopulated country knowing your place often helps in funny ways.

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Me and my French travel buddy were walking the streets of the very funny town of Bundi in Rajasthan. Suddenly  I was not feeling well from the heat and leaned down against the wall of a huge and beautiful Haveli mansion. The owner immediately invited us in very eager to show us around  but i said I needed to take rest so he showed me a bed in the middle of a courtyard which I took to while my friend was sucked into the man’s office as he turned out to be a lawyer, and a very proud one…

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I knew this was not just your average place and still being drained of my forces I joined into the lawyer’s office just in time of being shown a picture on the wall of a naked holy man. Then a tour started from room to room, to room, and then yet another room! Many spaces filled with pictures of ancestors and the stories around it concerning his lineage of the warrior caste.

Father and son exhibited an interesting interaction: where the father was acting fiercely passionate and proud, his son would be smiling and even mocking his father as if to deflate his posture  a bit and bring lightness to the seriousness while the mother would turn on the television  and stare at the screen in every room we entered.Caste_Warrior1

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Badrinath Yatra

Badrinath is one of the holiest and definitely one of the highest points of pilgrimage for a Hindu to go to.

Located only 24 kilometers from the Indo-China (Tibet) border, at an altitude of 3000m up in the Himalaya’s the pass to the sacred pilgrim town is only open during the summer months.

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‘Town’ really is a big word for a bunch of barracks which serves to temporarily house the summer pilgrims on their way to the real deal which is the beautifully decorated Badrinath temple itself

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Reference to the lord Badri-Nath has been made in the Vedas. The mountains around Badrinath are mentioned in the Mahabharata, both amongst the main Hindu scriptures.

The Pandavas were said to have expired one by one, when ascending the slopes of a peak called Swargarohini (literal meaning – the ‘Ascent to Heaven’). They passed through Badrinath and the town of Mana, 4 km north of Badrinath, on their way to Svarga (heaven). There is also a cave in Mana where Vyasa, according to legend, wrote the Mahabharata.

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The pilgrims take holy baths in the ice-cold riverwater in front of the temple before queuing to enter the sacred site to perform worship and thus fulfilling the Badrinath Yatra, the pilgrimage

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According to the amazing accounts brought forth in Yogananda’s classic ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ the deathless saint Babaji is living in a remote valley in the vicinity of Badrinath

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And as I was contemplating my existence in the surroundings of Badrinath suddenly a mysterious figure dressed all in white appeared  seemingly out of the blue…
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Welcome Summer Snow!

Summertime in India means soaring hot temparatures in most parts of the country. I was visiting the Taj Mahal at the end of april when temperatures went up TajMahalto 45 degrees celcius. As soon as I could I would vanish into the Himalaya’s. First immersing myself in the cooling Ganga water of Haidakhan and then making my way further up.
Moving higher and higher I noticed how a population that has been getting richer over the years is taking more and more holidays. In summertime when the plains around Delhi get unbearably hot people move up to cool down.  The remote Himalaya’s are getting more heavily packed with Indians longing for the summer snow.
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An Indian tourist is a species in and of itself I have learned over the years  in this endlessly fascinating country. They adore noise, either by producing it themselves ‘en masse’ or by soaking fully into it.
I am staying in a quiet hamlet called Vashisht just near the city of Manali.  Indians prefer to stay in Manali as Vashisht is too quiet for most.Summer_Snow_14 Even though every now and then Indian tourists on their way
to the snowline tend to arrive at 1 am screaming and shouting while smashing the staircase loudly under their feet on their way up.  Some would leave at 4 AM again overly excited and totally oblivious of the much needed quiet rest of me and the other guests.
It is similar to school children who are affected by the weather and who simply are not able to hold themselves.  Why so crazy?
It’s the promise of the snow, the Indian summer snow!
The Rohtang pass on the road between Manali and Leh provides the first ‘real’ patch of snow to engage in and mess with. Along the way up the road is an endless line of numbered  shops selling the appropriate clothing and attributes to enter the scene further up. And Indians tourists with the appropriate coverage behave even more like funny Indians.

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Dressed in costumes that hold the middle between bear skins and fluffy skiing suits the journey goes up  to Rohtang where the play would break loose !

Welcome Summer Snow!

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Moving over the white patch of ice, falling down, getting up, falling again, laughing all along, simply having a blast sliding from side to side appearing in many a color of the spectrum.
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in between, if at all it comes to their mind, people can go worship their favourite idol in the temple which is adapted to the location, probably the only hindu temple in the country and even the whole world that is igloo-shaped!
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Rabbits are present for people to pose with, tires to slide over the snow, sleds to be pushed forward and even skis not for skiing but to pose properly for the photoalbum, an art  which Indians master  like no other…
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