(2) To Haridwar, the holy land of the upper Ganges - The holy land of Hindu pilgrimage was a deeper world than I had imagined.

Buddhist Columns & Dharma Talks

*The following is a table of contents for the current series of articles. It is updated as needed.

1.Why I don't want to go to India, why I still have to go to India, that is the question!
2.To Haridwar, a holy place on the upper Ganges
3.Experience Haridwar Prayer Ritual Puja
4.Why don't Indians care if the holy Ganges River is dirty?
5.Mansa Devi Temple in Haridwar feels like a theme park of the gods
6.The day I became convinced that Buddhism would never spread in India
7.To Rishikesh, the holy land of yoga
8.The baptism of India finally arrived. Down with severe vomiting and diarrhea
9.Kentucky in India is spicy! I don't like spicy food, but India was spice hell for me.
10.The last day of the event, the driver of the car accident that happened right in front of me took me by surprise.
11.Why am I, a Buddhist monk, learning about Hinduism?
12.Beginning of the Second India-Sri Lanka Expedition
13.The "gentile's eye" makes the trip interesting. I tried to be thoroughly gentile in India...
14.Visit to the World Heritage Site of Khajuraho - Thinking about Sex and Religion
15.India's Shiva Linga Beliefs: The Hindu View of Sexuality, where Phallic Beliefs are Still Venerated
16.Why have the Buddhist sites in India been buried in the ground and forgotten?
17.Visit the Great Stupa of Saanchi, a World Heritage Site
18.Impressed by the huge statue of Shiva at the Elephanta Grottoes off the coast of Mumbai!
19.40% of the population are slum dwellers⁉Mumbai's skyscrapers and slums
20.Visit to Dhoby Ghat, Mumbai's Giant Laundry - The tour of the sacred sites of "Slaughterhouse" finally comes to an end.
21.The Buddha statue at the Ellora Cave Temple was such a shock that my whole body was electrified!
22.The Kailasanatha Temple in Ellora is astonishing! What is the marvelous sculpture architecture that took 100 years to carve out of the rocky hill!
23.Enjoy the masterpieces of Indian Buddhist painting at the Ajanta Grottoes!
24.We will visit Sri Lanka, a Buddhist country, and spend three weeks touring the sacred sites of Buddhism!
25.How is the climate in Sri Lanka? A thought on the relationship between climate and religion.
26.Sasserwa Big Buddha and Awkana Big Buddha - Visit the masterpieces of Sri Lanka's Big Buddha that few people know about.
・・・・ and below is long, so I won't go into it here.

(2) To Haridwar, the holy land of the upper Ganges - The holy land of Hindu pilgrimage was a deeper world than I had imagined.


Arriving at Delhi Airport from Haneda Airport, I was suddenly surprised. It is true that I was taken aback by the huge hand monument in the airport, but above all, I could not smell anything Indian. This is completely my own prejudice, but I had assumed that one would smell spices when coming to India. However, there is no such smell at this airport. It is odorless. Does the smell of spices no longer exist in India, where development is progressing? Or is there no such smell in the first place? However, it is still too early to know the answer. It has been less than a few hours since we entered the country. Let's take our time to find out.

Even though it is the rainy season in India, it does not rain every day. On the day I arrived, it was sunny.

However, the humidity is quite high and it is obviously steaming. It is hot. Is this the rainy season in India? However, I feel that the rainy season in Tokyo is much hotter and drearier than the rainy season in India.

At any rate, this is where my India begins.

After staying overnight at an inn near the airport, I headed the next morning for Haridwar, a Hindu holy city on the upper reaches of the Ganges River.

When most people think of a holy place on the Ganges River, Varanasi is probably the first image that comes to mind.


But India is a big country. There are many sacred places on the Ganges River in India.

I was headed to a holy place called Haridwar on the upper reaches of the Ganges River. It is located less than 250 km north of Delhi Airport, and it takes about 6.5 hours to get there by car. Varanasi, by the way, is in the middle reaches of the Ganges River.

All Japanese must have already heard about the filthiness of Varanasi through some medium or another. There is no shortage of anecdotes about people getting sick just by dipping their fingers in the water or being hospitalized for weeks after taking a bath.

This is no wonder, for in the middle reaches of the Ganges River, wastewater from various cities flows into the river. Moreover, the sewage system in Varanasi is so devastating that the sewage is just dripping down the river. In the river, people wash their clothes and do other necessary things (I dare not write about them here). It is frightening to imagine what would happen to Japanese people who have become accustomed to sterility and deodorization if they were to take a dip in such a place and even a little bit of that water were to get into their bodies.

Recently, however, the government has been working on a project to improve sewage treatment, and a Japanese company is involved in the project. In other words, the pollution is so bad that even Indians are getting sick to their stomachs these days. That is what our guide said.

So much for the dirtiness of the Ganges in Varanasi, but what about the Ganges far upstream in the foothills of the Himalayas? It is so clean that one can see the bottom of the river. It is said that because of this cleanliness, in recent years, Indians prefer to visit Haridwar rather than Varanasi.

Well, if that is the case, I thought it would be a good idea for me to visit here first. I thought that seeing the beautiful Ganges would be more mentally reassuring than suddenly seeing the harshness of India. (I would soon learn that this was indeed a naive idea.)

The road construction around Delhi airport is progressing at a furious pace. The roads to Haridwar are also much better than they used to be, and travel has become much easier. This is due to the improvement of India's road infrastructure, a key policy of the current Modi administration. India is now undergoing a continental transformation, not an archipelago transformation. Everywhere you go, road construction and huge infrastructure projects are being carried out. Scenes of India's momentum were everywhere.

Now, we arrive at the outskirts of Haridwar. A statue of Lord Shiva welcomes us. It is a very typical Indian performance in the land of the gods.

As we were finally approaching the center of town, I was surprised by the view I saw from inside the car.

What is this...?

There are crude tents lined up and garbage everywhere as far as the eye can see.... Is this really a sanctuary?

According to the guide, these tents and cars all belonged to the pilgrims....

Wait a minute... I came here thinking that Haridwar would be cleaner than Varanasi and somewhat more comfortable for an Indian novice. This can't be...

I was finally getting anxious.

I got off the car near the Ganges River and walked from here. The inn where I will be staying is also along the Ganges River. The road is narrow and no cars can pass through from here.

At last, I was face to face with the Ganges River. This is my first visit to the Ganges.

The sight I saw when I crossed the bridge was shocking.

The current was extremely muddy. The bottom was not clear. It was such a roaring current that one might have thought it was a flood.

And the Indian who dips into it with great vigor and dives to his head.

And above all, it is this "people, people, people"!

So many people walk here that it is difficult to even walk down the street. Most of them are Indians. I could hardly see any foreigners, let alone Japanese. When I asked the guide, he said that even this place is empty. He said that this place is always overflowing with people regardless of the season.

And the road is also very wet, as it had been raining just before I arrived. The puddles of water were mixed with various other things, some gray, some brown, and it was frightening to walk in them. And speaking of India, cows. They were there as a matter of course.

Continue on the road and cross the bridge. The main ghat (bathing area) of Haridwar is just ahead.

However, within five minutes of starting to walk in this manner, I saw a great variety of people. Pilgrim Indians, merchants, vagrants, and beggars, of course, but what particularly impressed me was the presence of ascetics. The orange-clad man in this photo is one of them.

Among them, the most conspicuous was a naked ascetic. I couldn't help but be a little taken aback by the sight of him with nothing on, ashes smeared all over his body, a long, unkempt beard, and long, wispy hair. I was also surprised to see such an eccentric person walking around as if he were a normal person. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I was surprised at the fact that everyone here tolerated his presence as if it were a matter of course. Such naked ascetics are commonplace here. There is nothing surprising about that. This is India.

Photo from the bridge. It is truly a muddy stream. The rippling surface of the water is flowing at a tremendous speed.

The main ghat is around the tower in front.

I would like to draw your attention to the plastic container in the photo on the left. These are plastic tanks used to bring back water from the holy Ganges. In Haridwar, you will see piles of such plastic tanks everywhere in the city.

At the ghats, men dip into the river in their underpants and women enter the water in their saris.

I feel horrible even touching the rain-soaked ground, but I guess it doesn't matter a little rain or muddiness to them who are wet all over. Besides, this holy Ganges washes away all dirt. This is a world where my concept of hygiene is out of reach.

But still, this hustle and bustle, this chaos, is so open. And please watch the video below.

What a muddy stream the Indians are flowing through!

Is it good! Is this good!

I could not help but be stunned by the sight.

I know that this is a Hindu holy place. And I know that Indians dive into this river all over their bodies. But what is this spectacle of Indians floating in the torrent? No, it is not that simple. You will die if you do that!

I don't know... I don't know, India...

Upon closer inspection, there is something that looks like a rope hanging under the bridge. What is this...

I quickly realized. Oh yeah! This is where I'm going to hold on! I thought. It's a lifeline to keep me from drowning.

And you get the idea. What action these boys might take after this.

India in the rainy season was more formidable than I had imagined. I am already dizzy from the chaos, the waves of people, the smell of the rainy season that makes me want to pinch my nose, the hustle and bustle...and above all, the strange heat of the holy city of Haridwar. My head hurts. I returned to the inn early and lay down for the night. I cannot overdo it here. I was going to see a Hindu prayer ritual, puja, later.

In the next article I will talk about such a hot night in Haridwar. I am now completely knocked out. India showed overwhelming destructive power in the first game.

Next Article.

Click here to read the previous article.

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