Hippie Kushi Dreams of India
May 15, 2020
The sky was a misty orange as I walked through the cramped alleyways of Varanasi. I suddenly came to an opening that led to Mother Ganga. I slowly walked down the steps to the water’s edge. Behind me were beautiful old buildings stretching for miles and either-side of me were colourful sadhus sat crossed legged meditating on the day. Once I had reached the water a long wooden boat moved close to the shore; it appeared to be full of hippies. Join us they said, so I did, climbing into the boat I took my place amongst them. Then, as we cast off I noticed a disturbance in the water; was it a crocodile?
Suddenly a large elephant’s head surfaced from the river and Ganesha, sitting crossed legged and seemingly floating above the water, reached out towards me with his trunk….
…and then I woke up. I was not happy at this as I had been enjoying this vivid dream. I had been dreaming of India again.
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
― Dr. Seuss
The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdown have churned up a lot of stuff for me; mostly how much I prize my freedom. I have always loved to travel and recently I have been paving the way to travel long term in Asia and India.
I love India especially and I think about it a lot, I had been making plans to go on several long trips there in order to visit as much of that huge beautiful continent as I can. But of course the coronavirus came and we were put in lockdown. The affect on me has been quite powerful psychologically, because I feel like a mouse in a trap struggling to get free. I feel that my world, my whole existence has been locked in a cellar and the key is being tightly held by our government and those of the countries I wish to visit.
“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
― Oscar Wilde,
All I can think of night and day is travelling around India. This obsession is probably fuelled by my love of Jessica Savano’s vlogs on YouTube, her intimate stories of her life in Goa have me desperate for this Covid-19 horror to go away, and soon! But even if this country gets to the point where we can travel abroad again, countries like India may be six months or more behind us and for me that is extremely frustrating.
This has resulted in something very strange, every night I have been having vivid dreams. I read a lot about Hinduism and so some of my dreams have been around Vishnu and Ganesha but the most common dream I am having is of my beloved, beautiful India.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
― John Lennon
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
― Paulo Coelho,
Here is an interesting article from the Guardian newspaper:
So you’ve been having weird dreams during lockdown, too?
“Since the coronavirus lockdown started, many have been having vivid dreams – but is there any point in analysing them?
‘I tend to think all dreams are on our side, even the nightmares, because they are trying to tell us something we can get done.’
Since the worldwide coronavirus lockdown started, many of us have been having vivid dreams. Google searches for “weird dreams” have doubled since this time last year, and there is a spate of articles on the topic, that seem to be asking: “You too, huh?”
I asked the psychotherapist Philippa Perry to explain this phenomenon. “Normally our dreams are processing ancient memories, or things that have just happened,” she says. “We have so much more to process right now in terms of experience and feelings.” Most people who claim they usually don’t dream do – they just can’t remember them. So pandemic dreaming could be as simple as people remembering dreams more often, due to being in a new situation.
Is there any point in analysing your pandemic dreams? Perry says it is useful to be curious, particularly if they are bothering you. “The Gestalt method [suggests] every aspect in your dream represents a part of you because you dreamt them,” says Perry. So you could analyse your pandemic dreams from the perspective of the other objects and characters in your dream: the person chasing you perhaps, or from the perspective of your tooth that keeps falling out.
Perry adds that in sleep, we often dwell on unfinished business: “I tend to think all dreams are on our side, even the nightmares, because they are trying to tell us something we can get done.”
So what do these weird dreams of yours look like?”
As I said, I myself have been having constant recurring dreams of India and have been visited several times in my dreams by the elephant god Ganesha.
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
― Edgar Allan Poe,
Ganesh: The Mudra, the Meaning and the Story of the Elephant-headed God
By EMMA NEWLYN
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Traditionally, this chant is used at the beginning of a new venture, a journey, or a new year, to clear the path ahead of potential difficulties. This chant invokes Ganesh, the well known deity and ‘lord of obstacles’.
Also known as Ganesha, Ganapati, The Lord of Beginnings, The Remover of Obstacles, and The Deity of Good Fortune, Ganesh is perhaps one of the most well known deities. He’s the son of Shiva and Parvati, two of the most prevalent and powerful gods and godesses, but despite the famous depictions of his elephant’s head, he wasn’t born that way….
The story about how Ganesh got his elephant’s head varies as you travel across India – as most things do – but one of the widely-told stories goes like this:
The Story of The Elephant-Headed Boy
A long time ago, Shiva and Parvati lived happily together upon Mt. Kailash, until Shiva was called away and had to take a long journey, leaving Parvati alone.
As time passed, Parvati grew more and more lonely, wishing she had a son to cherish and play with. Using her powers, she created Ganesh from sandalwood, turmeric, and from the flesh of her own body. She gave him life by sprinkling holy Ganges water over him, and was overjoyed with her new companion.
After some time, Parvati wanted to take a bath, and asked Ganesh to guard the door of the house for her. She told him not to let anyone pass him, no matter who they were.
Coincidentally, as Ganesh was guarding the door, his father Shiva returned from his journey, and was surprised to see someone standing at the door of his house.
‘Let me pass’ he ordered, but Ganesh refused, telling him that no one would be allowed to enter without his mother’s permission.
Shiva – being quite a quick-tempered god – was enraged that an impostor was preventing him from entering his own house, and proceeded to cut off the head of the young boy. The head flew far into the distance, and the body fell to the floor.
Hearing the commotion, Parvati ran to the door and let out a cry as she saw the body of her son lying on the floor. In floods of tears, she told Shiva that he had just killed their only son, and ordered him to revive the boy.
Dismayed at what he had done, Shiva agreed to bring their son back to life, and vowed to use the head of the first being he came across to replace the one he’d cut off.
As Shiva made his way deep into the forest, the head was nowhere to be seen. Running out of time, Shiva was worried he wouldn’t be able to bring their son back to life and make his wife happy again, until he heard loud crashing footsteps behind him.
An elephant appeared through the trees and as Shiva remembered his promise, he took his sword and swiftly cut off the elephant’s head. Picking up the large and heavy head, he took it back to his house and attached it to the body of their son. Giving him life once again, the boy awoke, this time with the head of an elephant.
Parvati was overjoyed, and although her son now had the face only a mother could love, she loved him as a mother would nonetheless. To further please his wife and as a mark of respect to his son for the loyalty and bravery it must have taken to guard the door for his mother, Shiva declared that Ganesh would be worshipped first, before any other gods.
Lord of Beginnings, Remover of Obstacles
Today, it’s common to see images and statues of Ganesh at the entrances of temples and sacred buildings, as a way to protect them from anyone who wishes to enter. Before any festivities or sacred rituals, Ganesh mantras are chanted as a way to bring protection, luck and power to all those involved, and remove any potential ‘obstacles’ that may lie ahead.
As well as removing obstacles, Ganesh is known to place obstacles in front of us, so that we may overcome them, in order to learn and grow as people. This is one of the reasons Ganesh is revered before any journey, teaching, or project, as a difficult relationship with the deity can cause problems along the way….
All deities are extremely representational, with their various markings, colours, faces and objects surrounding them holding deep significance and sometimes abstract meaning. As Ganesh is all about protection and power, much of his symbolism is related to safeguarding us from life’s physical and subtle obstacles.
- His elephantine head:The elephant is a symbol of strength and power, and is an animal native to India. Whilst many wild elephants are not dangerous, the ones that are found alone in the wild are extremely dangerous and often destructive. In this way, we can understand that there is a somewhat fearful yet respectful relationship with elephants in some parts of the world, and whilst they often come across as gentle and calm, they have the potential to wreak havoc if they’re treated badly.
- His large ears:These show that he listens to those who ask for help from him, with the largeness of them representing his ability to listen to many people.
- His large head:This symbolises his intelligence and thinking ability – as the patron saint of letter writing, it helps to have a big brain!
- His small mouth:This indicates that he listens more and talks less.
- His one broken tusk:This represents retaining the good but throwing away the bad that we do not need. Other stories tell that Ganesh broke off one of his tusks when the moon once laughed at him for being fat.
- His small eyes:These re for concentrating and one-pointed focus.
- His large stomach:This shows that he is able to consume and digest all the good and bad in life
In Ganesh’s four hands, he holds various objects, as do many deities. These objects are particularly important for symbolising how each deity can help us progress throughout life.
In one hand he holds a rope, which represents Ganesh’s ability to help pull us up towards our ultimate goal of realisation and liberation. Another hand holds an axe to cut all attachments with the impermanent and material world we continually grasp for. In his third hand, he holds a bowl full of sweets, which represents rewards for spiritual development. His fourth hand is often shown in a mudra, with the most common depiction of him showing the blessing mudra, which looks almost identical to the Abhaya or ‘fearless’ mudra. This hand gesture is taken by many deities as a way of blessing those who worship them.
Mudras are various gestures often made with the hands in order to focus the mind and direct subtle energy towards a certain place. They are highly symbolic and are said to be very powerful in the Yogic tradition.
The Ganesh mudra represents strength and power, and is also thought to be particularly strengthening for both the physical heart, and the heart chakra. The position of the hands clasped in front of the chest with the elbows wide, represents protection, but also symbolises that our biggest obstacles are often caused by ourselves. Our own doubts, fears and insecurities are often the only things holding us back, and by knowing this, we may realise that instead of seeking outside of ourselves for the answers to life’s problems, the real work lies in removing our own obstacles.
Perhaps if we ask nicely though, Ganesh will lend a hand….
I have been obsessed with India for many years and for so many reasons. I have read multiple books about its history, its religions and its never ending array of amazing places to visit. Sadly, so far I have only visited Mumbai and Goa (on several occasions) but I very much intend to change that next year (Covid-19 willing). I am so looking forward to, even dreaming about, travelling all around India over the next few years.
What attracts me is the feelings it brings out in me, its a deeply spiritual place but that’s not all. India is beautiful! The nature and wildlife in that amazing continent are breathtaking; India has mountain ranges, beautiful rivers and waterfalls, jungles full of life and deserts just as spectacular. It has some of the most diverse wildlife on earth; from its many species of birds, to it’s amazing array of ocean and river life; crocodiles, sharks, tropical fish, stingrays and turtles. Monkeys are everywhere, not only in the jungles and forests but also living alongside people in the cities.
You can also see tigers, elephants and even bears. There are many snake varieties as well as some rather nasty insect life (I hate snakes by the way). And lets not forget those wonderful beach and street dogs; personally I love them but not everyone does.
India’s beauty isn’t only natural, man made structures can be equally mind-blowing. India boasts some of the most incredible colourful Hindu and Sikh temples as well as some breathtakingly decorated mosques. Statues of Hindu gods are everywhere and many houses are painted in bright colours topped off with some lovely flower arrangements.
Then there are the people themselves. Women in colourful saris, men in brightly coloured robes and those amazing holy men; the sadhus, swamis and yogis, dressed in orange and yellow robes and bedecked with multicoloured jewellery and bright colourful face paint; all this colour makes me smile and it makes me feel ALIVE!!
The people are so generous, affectionate and friendly. If only all nations were like them; its one of the main things I love about India. They are interested in who you are and keen to get to know you and this goes hand in hand with their religion.
I am very interested in in Hinduism and find it fascinating; all that stuff about karma, togetherness and family. The beautiful temples, holy men, parades, festivals and celebrations. Hinduism has millions of gods, all representing different parts of life but all of them are manifestations of the one god: Brahma.
The Hindu trinity consists of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. Their feminine counterparts are Saraswati, the wife of Brahma, Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, and Parvati the wife of Shiva. The followers of the last two form two major sects.
Cults of goddess worship are ancient in India. In the Rigveda, the most prominent goddess is Ushas, the goddess of dawn. In modern Hinduism, goddesses are widely revered. Shaktism is one of the major sects of Hinduism. Followers of Shaktism believe that the goddess (Devi) is the power (Shakti) that underlies the female principle, and that Devi is the supreme being, one and the same with Para Brahman. Shakti has many forms/manifestations like Parvati, Durga, and others but there are also goddesses that are parts of Shakti such as Lakshmi and Saraswati. Devi is believed to manifest in peaceful forms, such as Parvati the consort of Shiva and also in fierce forms, such as Kali and Durga. In Shaktism, Adi Parashakti is regarded as Ultimate Godhead or Para Brahman. She is formless i.e. Nirguna in reality, but may take many forms i.e. Saguna. Durga and Lalita Tripurasundari are regarded as the Supreme goddess in the Kalikula and Srikula systems respectively. Shaktism is closely related with Tantric Hinduism, which teaches rituals and practices for purification of the mind and body. Some different parts of Shakti (Devi) the Mother Goddess:
- Parvati and her Navadurgas, Matrikas, and Mahavidyas
- Kali (form of Parvati) as Bhadrakali, an auspicious form of Kali and Bharavi/Chamundikeshwari often known as Chandi, as a ferocious form
- Bhumi, the mother Earth known as Prithvi and second wife of lord Vishnu
- Lakshmi and her Ashtalakshmi, goddess of wealth and first wife of lord Vishnu
- Saraswati , the goddess of wisdom and music and also first wife of lord Brahma
- Gayatri, the supreme life giving goddess and second wife of lord Brahma
- Ganga, the goddess personification of the Ganges River, she later married King Shantanu as his first wife and gave birth to Bhishma Pitamah in the Mahabharat era.
- Narmada, the daughter of Shiva, also goddess of river Narmada
- Annapoorna (incarnation of Goddess Parvati), the goddess of food
- Nindra, goddess of sleep
- Yami, the sacred river Yamuna and goddess of life
- Santoshi Mata, considered to be the goddess of happiness and long life
- Sati(first wife of lord Shiva), a goddess of boons who is considered to be the incarnation of Goddess Shakti who is widely worshiped in south India.
Main article: Shiva
Shaivism is one of the major Hindu sects. Adherents of Shaivism believe that the god Shiva is the supreme being. Shiva is the destroyer god among the Trimurti, and so is sometimes depicted as the fierce god Bhairava. Shaivists are more attracted to asceticism than adherents of other Hindu sects, and may be found wandering with ashen faces performing self-purification rituals. Some alternative forms of Shiva (and Bhairavs) are listed below:
- Sri Manjunatha
According to Hinduism, Brahma is the creator of the entire cosmic universe. Although he is the creator, he is not worshipped in Hinduism. According to common lore, once Lord Brahma & Lord Vishnu wanted to find who is the best of the two and went to Lord Shiva to settle the argument. Lord Shiva advised the two that the first one to find the start and end of his celestial body would be considered the greatest. Lord Brahma & Lord Vishnu accepted the challenge and started their journey from the centre of Lord Shiva’s body. Lord Brahma travelled towards Lord Shiva’s head & Lord Vishnu travelled towards the feet. The two gods travelled for ages across the universe, but couldn’t find the head or feet of Lord Shiva. On his journey, Lord Brahma came across an aloe vera flower falling from Lord Shiva’s head. On querying the distance to Lord Shiva’s head, the flower said it had been falling down from his head for eons. Lord Brahma thus realised that it was impossible to reach Shiva’s head and decided to cheat. Lord Brahma asked the flower to testify that she had seen Lord Brahma reaching Lord Shiva’s head. Lord Brahma went back to Shiva and informed him that he had visited his head (with a testimony from the flower), and requested he be declared as the greater of the two. As an eternal being, Shiva realised that Lord Brahma was not truthful and cursed him that he would not be worshipped by the gods or mortals. Lord Shiva also decreed that aloe vera flowers should never be used for Shiva puja.
Some alternative names for Brahma are:
Main article: Vishnu
Vaishnavism is the sect within Hinduism that worships Vishnu, the preserver god of the Hindu Trimurti (the Trinity), and his many incarnations. It is a devotional sect, and followers worship many deities, including Rama and Krishna both the 7th & the 8th incarnations of Vishnu respectively. The adherents of this sect are generally non-ascetic, monastic and devoted to meditative practice and ecstatic chanting. Some alternate names of Vishnu the Preserver:
- Adi Narayana
- Venkateshwara, as Vishnu is known in parts of South India
- Vaikuntha Chaturmurti
- Vaikuntha Kamalaja
- Lakshmi Narayan
- Dasavatari, the 10 incarnations of Vishnu
- Ananta Shayana
- Upulwan, another name for Vishnu In Sri Lanka
- Yamuna, the life energy, the daughter of lord Surya and the goddess of kindness, humanity, beauty.
- Ganesha, son of Shiva and Parvati and was also called Ganpati, the Ganapatya sectary worshipped Ganesha as their chief deity. He is the god of wisdom and remover of all obstacles. He is worshipped before any other devi or deiti.
- Kartikeya, son of Shiva and Parvati and was also called Muruga, Karthik, Kumara or Shanmukha, the Kaumaram sectary worshipped Subramanya as their chief deity. He’s also the brother of Lord Ganesha.
- Ayyappan, son of Shiva and Mohini and was also called Kartikeya or Skanda
- Hanuman, is one of incarnation of Shiva and devotee of Rama (incarnation of Vishnu) and was also called Anjaneya, since his mother is anjana
- Ganga, holi river in Hinduism, as third wife of Shiva after Sati and Parvati
- Hansa, the devoted swan who acts as the vahana (vehicle) of Lord Brahma.
- Garuda, the devoted eagle who acts as the vahana (vehicle) of Lord Vishnu.
- Nandi, the devoted bull who acts as the vahana (vehicle) of Lord Shiva.
Visiting India is like visiting many countries; each state is different to the next. Different climates, languages, and peoples. As far as I’m concerned India has some of the greatest cities on the planet; here’s an article to introduce you to just a few:
10 Most Beautiful Cities You Should Visit in India
India is famous for its incredible culture, tasty cuisine, scenic beauty and heritage sites. We show you the most beautiful cities countrywide with stunning urban landscapes, and a thriving cultural scene which you should visit.
Jaipur is commonly known as the ‘Pink City’ due to its stunning buildings which were painted pink in 1876 to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria. Jaipur is also the biggest city in the state of Rajasthan, and its capital. Together with Agra and Delhi, it is part of the famous Golden “Triangle” which attracts thousands of Indian and international tourists every year. The most-visited sites include the mesmerising City Palace, a couple of impressive Rajput forts and the many temples.
Varanasi is one of the most beautiful, historical and spiritual cities in northern India. The first settlements date back to the 11th century BC, making it one of the oldest inhabited places in the world. A sacred place for both Hindus and Jains, it is also home to a varied range of vendors, sadhus, entrepreneurs, priests, pilgrims and families. The scenes of devotion in the river, set against the backdrop of stunning temples, are certainly some of the most impressive in the world.
Most famous for its stunning lakes, forts, temples and palaces, Udaipur is another city located in the state of Rajasthan, and is certainly not to be missed. Lovers will be delighted to hear that this is a city filled with romantic spots, as well as beautiful gardens. Over the years, it has been a favorite setting for many movies, including James Bond-title Octopussy (1983). The city is filled with colour, as locals opt to wear vibrant clothes, and fairs and festivals happen year-round.
In one of the latest surveys, Bangalore was established as India’s most livable city. In the past, it used to be referred to as the “Pensioner’s Paradise” and the “Garden City of India” because of its large, green spaces. While in recent years, development has meant that the city’s green areas have been affected and reduced, it still has enough to make it one of the most beautiful cities in India, and lush green forests can still be found in the outskirts. Bangalore is also the main center of the IT industry, commonly known as the “Silicon Valley of India”.
It is true that Delhi is the capital of India, home to the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of the Government. But Delhi is much more than that. It is a creative hub—a large metropolis with many arts and culture-related activities to offer. Travelers can head there for the best dining experiences and nightlife, but also for sightseeing as the city is home to some of the most stunning temples, mosques and forts. These include the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and the Baha’i Lotus Temple.
Chennai is a beautiful city serving as the gateway to the south of India and has a distinct culture based on Tamil traditions. At the same time, the city is a modern cosmopolitan city with a very diverse population. The architectural landscape, for example, comprises beautiful ancient temples just as much as modern high-rises. Besides the thriving local arts and culture scene which attracts visitors from across the globe, Chennai is also an important medical tourism destination.
Located in southern India, Mysore is by far one of the most well-planned cities in India, the second cleanliest countrywide and the cultural capital of Karnataka. What Mysore is most famous for is its yoga centers; in fact, it’s where Ashtanga yoga originated. To find the best yoga schools, the Gokulam suburb is your best bet. The area is home to some of the most renowned schools in the country, including the famous S.K. Pattabhi Jois’ Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute.
Agra is home to what is arguably the most beautiful and revered building in the country, the Taj Mahal. This stunning marble mausoleum is part of the Seven Wonders of the World. Agra also has two other UNESCO World Heritage sites, namely the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, which are also worth a visit.
A charming city for the unsuspecting traveler, Kolkata has long been known as the country’s cultural capital, and continues to be home to some of the best poets, film producers, writers and Nobel Prize winners. It is a city of contrasts, where you’ll encounter run-down but beautiful British Raj period houses, historical colleges and stunning gardens.
Located along the sea, Mumbai is the most cosmopolitan metropolis of India, and was once known as Bombay. It is also the biggest city in India, and, without doubt, the country’s financial center. With endless opportunities for exploration, the city’s most notable attraction is the Gateway of India, built in 1911 to commemorate a royal visit.
I love India and I really want to fully explore it.
‘The New Normal’
I hate this new expression: ‘The new normal’. The news talks about how in the future we will always keep a distance from others, no longer kiss or hug. Working from home with no social contact; BULLSHIT!!
This is a temporary thing, a vaccine WILL come and these strange times will be a thing of the past. We will hug and kiss again and go back to how it was socially. We can keep up some elements of this lockdown, especially those around the enviroment and saving the planet but not this cold anti-social isolationist behaviour.
Its not the ‘new normal’, its the new normal ‘for now’ and if its not, if the British people do keep up this horrible behaviour after the coronovirus has passed; then I’m not only going to be dreaming of India; I’m going to be living there…
…because the Indian people are warm and friendly, affectionate and helpful, tactile and happy souls, spiritual and enlightened. They would never go for a ‘new normal’ of social distancing; they would simply carry on as always, carrying on being…well, Indian.
I love India and I would love to live there one day but I suppose for now, I will just have to continue DREAMING OF INDIA.