Saturday, February 18, 2006
More on Travels North--and South
After visiting the Taj Mahal, we drove to Jaipur, where we toured a famous fort (a letdown after the Taj) and visited the market, a several block area lined with shops selling textiles, gems, jewelry, and tons of other stuff. It is filled with colorful scenes of local people (see the picture) also shopping for foodstuffs and clothing. Harry managed to buy most of the jewelry so there wasn't too much left over for the rest of us! We enjoyed one of the two hotels we stayed in, the Raj Mahal Palace which is a converted palace dating from British times, displaying pictures of visits by Jackie Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth (also photographed on an elephant, which was a hoot). We stumbled onto it after a miserable night in another hotel called the Jaipur Palace, which was anything but...
Arriving back in Delhi we had only a couple of hours before nightfall, and decided to visit the Bahai temple located on the ring road on the same side of town as our hotel. You may recall Bahai from the 70s, when they did a fair amount of proselytizing in the States (not to be confused with the airport jinglebells of Hare Krishna, which is a whole different group). Bahai is an offshoot of Sh'ite Islam, and preaches universal brotherhood--somewhat similar to Unitarian Universalism. The temple, in the form of a lotus, is open to visitors but you have to deposit your shoes before entering. It is a peaceful place and conducive to meditation---no talking is allowed once you enter.
Harry and I tried to fly to Trivandrum at the very south of India on the western coast the next morning, but Delhi was socked in by fog and altogether we had a 7 hour delay arriving at our destination, Somatheeram. Somatheeram is one of a series of ayurvedic resorts in Kerala and Goa, and it was beautiful. The entire resort is made from restored Kerala homes, which are ornate wood structures using interlocking boards instead of nails. (The picture below, which doesn't really do the place justice, is a shot to the entrance of one of our rooms.)
An observation o f Somatheeram is that it is something of a European enclave---the place was filled with Germans, French, Italians, and only a very few Indians. I talked to a co-worker when I returned and he said that the situation was similar at another resort he visited in the same area. The couple that shared the room next to mine was from Belgium---he was a retired director of European Parliament, and he and his wife, who were in their late fifties, had come to Somatheeram for three weeks of Ayurvedic treatment. Most of the other guests were there for a similar duration--we were among the few weekend guests.
Part of the philosophy behind Ayurveda is healing through the removal of toxins from the body and the methodology classifies people into three body types, Vata, Pitha, and Kapha. In reality most people are a combination of the three, and an Ayurvedic doctor will prescribe different dietary measures, massages, and herbal medicines to adjust the balance and do healing for whatever type you are (and the nature of any disorder). There is not much they can do for you in two days, but both Harry and I had massages and I had a treatment called Shirodhara, where they drip warm oil on your forehead for 30-40 minutes. This was very relaxing and almost put me in a trance, but also turned my hair into butter--it took several washings to get the oil out.