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A guide to a search for transcendance in present-day India

One reads about the various spiritual teachers from India, of the yoga, of the land where people keep their traditional culture, of people who look beyond money at personal relationships. The thirst rises to go wander the land and live amongst the people.

Either through personal experience during such travel or through hearsay we come to judging the land instead as being polluted. We feel that we meet people who cheat you for money, that it is unsafe for women travellers, that people throw plastic stuff everywhere and are often unclean. So some tourists leave disappointed.

However, beyond all of this, even those who are here have a hard time in sensing a deeper connection to the land. They might continue to stay on despite their difficulties and join bands of people who move to Goa or Auroville.

Where is the transcendance to be found in present-day India? Does any of the past glories, if they indeed existed, remain?

Certainly in the various gurus the country seems to give birth to and house, time and again. Be it the Buddha, Bodhidharma, Sankara or Ramanuja. Or the more contemporary ones such as the Mother of Auroville, J. Krishnamurti, Ramana and the Kanchi sage. In every age there are a few people who have transcended selfishness. It is under the guidance of these teachers that we as seekers have a hope of finding joy and meaning in our life. There are many ashrams, and to navigate them some accessible literature. Of course in the search for a teacher we are bound to meet difficulties along the way.

Another piece of culture worth exploring is to put ourselves in the presence of vedic chanting and the yagna. The sonorous hymns work on our body and mind to powerfully realign us with the essence of life. I am not sure how much of the vedic yagnas exist or are accessible to travellers. Due to the years of foreign occupation and the lack of patronage in independent India, they have all but vanished.

A third possibility of transcendence is through Carnatic classical music. Removed largely from the context of temples into the sabhas or private patronage in cities such as Chennai, the December season is not to be missed. Around mid-December in our winter is the Marghazhi season. It is a time of social celebration through dance and music. Our winter has temperatures of about 25 degrees and is largely dry. If you have not had the opportunity yet to meet a guru or veda vidwan, then you get a clue as to who you should be looking for in meeting some of the classical musicians. Many have spent a lifetime of discipline, singing about the gods while struggling to make ends meet. Their dedication is remarkable and their music transformational. Praise must go the sabhas for keeping up the tradition

What has lately brought a melting in me is my exploration into handloom cottons. Only of late I have started to wear sarees. A trip to Bali made me explore the more physical aspects of my cultural heritage; so far my interests had been confined to the more philosophical aspects. I found that handloom-weaving was the second biggest employment-provider after agriculture in India, providing work to close to two million weavers. These weavers are artisans with their craft handed down through generations. What they produce is a stunning variety (certainly in the hundreds) of hand-woven cotton cloth.

My heart melts not at the wonder that the craft survives but because of the nature of the woven cotton. To touch this light pink saree I wore was like touching the clouds and being gently wrapped in them.  

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 5:51:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/looking-for-high-culture/article22333950.ece

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