Yoga Mail

By MonikNaturopata

“Traveling leaves you speechless, then it turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta.

A traveler at heart and a lover of challenges that take me out of my comfort zone, for my maiden trip to India, in April 2023, where I was invited to be part of a wonderful group of Malaysians to discover the vibrant state of Gujarat, in the Saurastra region and home state of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.

In this article I want to narrate my short experience of a few days of crossing through Gujarat, a state in western India that promised a captivating mix of culture, history, and amazing landscapes. Expectations were high and the journey began with the promise of unforgettable discoveries.

During my immersive journey, I discovered the wonderful Indian culture with all the nuances of colours, smells, and tastes, which I will try to describe in a few words.

As everything has a beginning, let’s start with its valuable people, I was surprised by their kindness, always friendly and smiling, attentive to help me in the best way so that I could take the best memories of their country. It is surprising to see so many people together and therefore living together serenely. It should be noted that not everyone speaks English on the streets and yet communication is established in a different way. This is not a barrier to receiving their attention. Also, appreciate its varied and delicious gastronomic dishes adjusted for all palates. And I learned about the different climatic changes in India that are given by its exceptional geographical location that further enrich its culture.

The preparation of the trip was relatively easy and with very good indications from the organisers, always attentive to my questions. However, you must apply for a visa in order to enter the country.

Finally, the day of the beginning of my odyssey arrived, after several hours of travel, my first stop was, Hyderabad, where I was only for a few hours to continue to our destination Ahmedabad, the largest city in the state of Gujarat, where I was welcomed by a chaotic whirlwind full of life, sounds and aromas.

A bus was waiting for me there because a large part of the journey is by land, there is so much to visit in such a short time!

After recovering a little, I went out to visit the surroundings, where I began to compose the mosaic of experiences that was being assembled before my eyes and that I will cherish forever in my memory. I came across the already well-advertised sacred and free cows of India where I observed how people decorate them, respect them and let them roam freely among cars and pedestrians without disturbing their passage, regardless of the city’s traffic congestion.

Already a little more acclimatised to the excessive heat of the season we went to visit some temples that left me perplexed by their decorations, structures, and history; at the same time, they gave me their inestimable freshness during my visit to finally arrive at the temple of the Sun in Modhera, which is not only considered one of the great icons of Western India, but also invites us to explore its exquisite labyrinths of contrasts. There you can watch a beautiful sunset and an unforgettable sound and light show.

After a restful night’s sleep, we begin our journey to the city of Dwarka, the golden city of Lord Krishna, where he lived for a long time. This city is located at the mouth of the Gomti River, which according to Hindu mythology is the daughter of the sage Vashist, and bathing in its waters can wash away sins. I, for one, appreciated the freshness of its waters and continued with the visit of the temple of Dwarkadhish, one of the four great Dhams (sacred city) of India and a famous pilgrimage site of the country. The temple is located next to the Gomti River and seems to have emerged from the waters of the Arabian Sea. It is believed to be 2500 years old and features a shikhara (spire), 43 meters high, which is adorned with minute carvings and a huge flag made of 48 meters of cloth.

Soon after, I embarked from the port of Okha to visit the Nageshwar Shiva temple which is one of the oldest temples in the country and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Where I saw the largest statue of Lord Shiva that I have ever seen in my life. The imposing 25-meter-high statue of Lord Shiva in a semi-lotus position is a spectacular sight and possesses impressive architecture. Its splendour is worth all the boat adventures of the trip.

Back on dry land I headed to Porbandar, a coastal city, to visit Kirti Mandir, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi and Sudama (friend of the Lord Krishna), to end the day at Somnath, another place of pilgrimage (tirtha) on the coast of the Arabian Sea, where the “radiant phallus” (yiotir linga) of the God Somanath (Shiva) is located. The site is less than a kilometer from the mouth of the Hiran River, on the banks of which the Lord Krishna had died. And where spirituality mixes with the sea breeze creating a serene and reflective atmosphere.

From very early in the morning and with boundless energy I set out to visit the Sasan Gir National Park, a unique place in the world apart from the jungles of Africa where you can find the majestic lions roaming freely. The entire forest in the park is dry and deciduous, making it the ideal habitat for the Asiatic lion. Lions and leopards are the park’s main attraction. In addition, you can also see species such as the sambar deer, the chowsingha (the only four-horned antelope in the world), the jackal, the Indian fox, the hyena, among many other animals. Spread over an area of 1,412 km², the park has a central area of about 258 km2. While lions were completely wiped out from other parts of Asia, the nawabs of Junagadh protected lions in their hunting grounds, and from a population of about 20 lions in 1913, numbers increased to about 523 in 2015.

During the day we also visit Shree Golokdham Tirth, where you can admire the footsteps of Sri Krishna before taking your divine journey.

Even though the trip was coming to an end and the fatigue was beginning to be felt, we stopped in Veraval to admire the slope of the sun and its beautiful shades of colours. Motivated and excited to explore Narbada, where she would go to visit the “Statue of Unity; a colossal masterpiece of engineering and artistry that celebrates the diverse unity of the nation. This visit was not a chance encounter for me, it is a journey into greatness and history. The statue depicts architect Vallabhhai Patel, the visionary leader of modern India, known as the “Iron Man of India” who helped unify the nation. Personally, that strategic place is not only the monument but a space for reflection and contemplation, its tranquil and well-designed gardens provide an ideal space for introspection.

Finally, my last night in India was spent at a glamping site in Garueshwar in front of the Narbada River. Where I was able to practice Yoga outdoors in harmony with nature. A magical experience.

At the end of my journey, I found myself satisfied by the diversity, resilience, and warmth of its people.

This first excursion was more than a geographical exploration, I lived a journey to the heart of India, where history, spirituality and cultural diversity were intertwined in a unique experience. Gujarat, from the bustling streets to the enchanting landscapes, wove an indelible tapestry of unmentionable situations that I will always carry in my mind. Every corner explored not only met, but exceeded my expectations, turning my first encounter with India, into an odyssey marked by such beautiful memories and images that it has become a recounting of adventures that I like to share with affection to friends and lovers traveling around the world. Gujarat will always hold a special place in my heart.

To conclude, I would like to express my gratitude to the MAYI group, which organised and extended its invitation for me to participate in this wonderful journey, which I received as an unexpected gift, and which illuminated my life this year in many ways. Your generosity in every kind and intentional gesture you shared with me added a special sparkle to this chapter of my life. Well, not only did I get to know a small part of India, but I learned more about the importance of friendship and human connection. That’s why I can’t fail to mention the richness of our coexistence during this trip, every smile shared, every story told and every discovery together, created memories that I will treasure forever. Thank you, dear MAYI family, for opening the doors of your friendship to me and may this journey be the beginning of many more.