Travelling in India as women alone – including some tips

In India there are mostly more men than women on the streets (Jaipur)

 

I took so many good advices with me to India – about right behaviour, being chatted up and the status of women. All this might help to alleviate the culture shock, but it does not prevent it. And although you can for example read everywhere, that wearing Indian clothes is the better choice, I was still astonished which difference it made – in the perception of my counterpart namely.

And of course it is then difficult to retrace, that a free belly under the loose sari goes absolutely without saying, while the free shoulders or a wider decollete often trigger more than lecherous eyes. Many female tourists don’t realise that, others adapt and some enjoy that also.

Especially at the beach this is striking. Wherever a foreign women wears swimming clothes outside from the main tourist ghettos, it will attract a bigger or smaller group of men (well at least two in any case). These guys are looking, passing by and holding each others hands or shoot photos without any embarrassment.

 

Tip 1 – Wear appropriate clothes (really) – and use a scarf

It sounds so simple and old fashioned, but it is true. You are simply perceived in another way and you meet people on “eye level”.  I felt even better, when I bought my first Indian blouse (kurta) and combined this with soft trousers. In these clothes I always felt well and “dressed”. A light scarf is a good friend for all kind of situations – protects against the sun, looks and sometimes from air condition – I always had one in my day pack.

It is not foreseen to be alone

There is something additional for women traveling alone. I’ve often been asked, during my bus and train rides, where my companion is. Many Indian men ( and I suppose women too, but they usually do not start a chat) cannot imagine a woman traveling alone – without male protection. This can sometimes evoke a very helpful protective instinct.

 

Tip 2 – Ask for help actively

I often asked for the right bus or the right address, which had as consequence that the addressed person took me under his wings until I sat in the right bus or until I was on the right place. With time you get a feeling to ask the right persons, speaking a bit English and willing to help without hidden agenda.

Completely different gender relations

Women in India have a complete different status than in western countries. The female image is traditional and the genders are separated in a stricter way. To get to know each other better, or to touch each other before the marriage, is not foreseen, while at the same time the gender gap is increasing. That means because of targeted abortion and negligence, there are less women. This hinders the battle against children marriage (which is still widespread in the economic weaker North). And in many states there are almost no women on the street. Detailed information about the situation of women in India is available on Wikipedia.

All this can explain, why women travelling alone are often looked at, as if they came from another planet Additionally family has in India a much higher significance and importance than in European countries. Nobody is left alone – there is always someone from the family present, for most people the only available safety net.  To leave someone alone, is not foreseen. I met for example in the train a young man, whose parents moved to his city after he managed to find a job far away from home in the south.

 

Tip 3: Sometimes it is helpful to have a story ready.

Because of all this reasons it can be helpful to have a “story” ready. I told for example, that I am a widow. This had a huge impact on my conversational partners, and I was left in peace then in a different way and with respect.

Many tell about husbands or parents, which stood in the hotel just on that day. The clou is for sure to relate to an Indian husband, whereupon I would suggest to know a bit the country, its people and to speak one language, if you do that – it could be embarrassing otherwise. But I did not always talk about myself being a widow. This has to be appraised from case to case, because for many people the western lifestyle is not a closed book. Sticking to the truth can be the start of interesting conversations.

 

Differences in cities and tourist regions

In big cities you find a different picture. Here I met many young women, well educated and fluent in English, with western clothes, who even might drink a beer in the evening. These women transport a picture of a changing country, and I am very grateful for these contacts and experiences.

It makes also a difference how far the travelled regions are in their touristic development. The more touristic a region is, the more the relation between solo traveling women and male residents is changing. The interaction is more open and informal. Nobody is going to be surprised that this leads to one or the other affair – but this is another story.

 

Tip 4: Search the women

At a cooking class in a private household next to Hampi

 

In some states like in Kerala it is easy. Here the women are more self-confident, can be seen more often on the streets and many of them speak English. This makes an exchange quite accessible (Have a look at my article about Kerala). I made also good experiences with cooking classes. They enable fascinating and authentic insights in female living environments and a special intimacy arises via the common work and eating. I also had a unique encounter in Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), where I met an inspiring women. She byes the crafts from the surrounding villages and sells them in her small shop in a narrow street. The chat I had in this shop, sitting on a beautiful carpet, has reconciled me in a way, as I started to get really angry about the obvious discrimination of women in Rajasthan.

Conclusion

I met in India way more women traveling alone than in South-East- Asia. The question why this is so, is interesting, but would go beyond the scope here. It is remarkable that many travelers are in some search of themselves, of their path of life and understand their trip as spiritual search. And in comparison to South East Asia India is a more direct and intuitive experience. Here people stare at you and often you will be in the middle of attention – so you may experience yourself in a different way. The right blend between open acceptance of interesting opportunities and due caution is in my opinion one of the biggest and most interesting challenges, India can give you.

 

Further reading:

My top tips for women traveling to India: A good and extensive article, full with tips from one of the leading travel blogger about India.

Happy, safe solo traveling – India by yourself: Detailed and full with information, not only for women – worth reading!

Five reasons why travelling in India is not so scary: A  beautiful article – I especially like the focus on how amiable and helpful many Indians are.

The women traveling solo question: An excellent article, showing that staying at home is way more dangerous, as most of the violence against women take place in their direct social environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five months in India – a small personal summary

Full Moon rising at the southern tip of India – Kanyakumari

 

Prenote: This article has been written in spring 2012 after my return to Austria from India. Unfortunately I found the time only now – almost five months later – to translate it in English.  This translation is also the first step towards a revival of my website – watch out!

 

India is like a lucky bag-. One – no, endless numbers of new worlds are opening up. Each city is different, where ever you go, there are always new and fascinating landscapes, and friendly people everywhere – at least in most places, Indians and loads of  travelers. I cannot count the number of nocturnal and sometimes very profound conversations I had.
This country attracts different travelers than Southeast Asia, there is less drinking and many people who stay longer, look for far more than running through the attractions. Through these many conversations I not only learned a lot about the country; I also saw a variety of different lifestyles and the search for it. Sometimes, however, I had the feeling that this country is just a projection, a playground for travelers to experience themselves – and I was no exception as well.
These encounters, the traveling around by bus and train – an impressive, tight, friendly and colorful experience, the variety of smells, noise, colors, dirt and dust – an assault on the senses (I know it’s a cliche but it’s true) , this incredible and touching experience nature in Hampi (of course) but also in the mountains of Western Gats, or the desert in Rajasthan or the sea in Kerala. All this and much more were the source of five brilliant months, I had in India.

 

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Wedding in Bikaner

 

The entry was gentle – relaxing on the beach, instead of a metropolis to start with, like so many other travellers suffering then weeks under the culture shock – and the idea did pay off. I wanted to like the country and did so from the very first second, with all its contradictions. Nevertheless, there are always those moments where you can just palm your face – dirt and pollution, incredibly dusty bureaucrats, antediluvian attitudes to gender issues, poverty, diseases and more. And then again the variety and colors, these full and dirty streets, the immense number of merchants and small businesses, the narrowness …… but also a fascinating nature in all varieties and shades, temples in all shapes and colors and and and and and … I think of India not as a country but a continent which can explain this diversity a bit. And each state with its own culture, language, gods and landscapes is a country. And yet there is a common cultural basis – as in Europe. India was like a grab bag – an attack on all the senses, sometimes positive sometimes negative.

 

The Indian everyday life (of course, with the luxury of a western tourist) became normal for me in these five months and the culture shock when returning home seems almost greater than five months ago, when I entered India palefaced and very excited. I now enjoy the luxury of warm water, drinking water from the tap, heated homes and broadband Internet. And yet all seems a bit anemic and clinically. Why is everything so perfect and clean but yet so gray and empty? The colorful life remaining on my computer’s hard disk with its nearly 35 GB of photos.

 

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Lonely beach in Kerala

 

I also intended to practice yoga during my stay in India. After a few hours of internet research, I realized that the offer is too confusing to find something reasonable without concrete tips.But what I did find is a renewed and deeper access to Nature . In some places (especially Hampi and Kodaikanal in the Western Gats), I felt a very deep connection with nature. I formally merged in it, admired the richness and incredible details. And not to forget sunrises and sunsets, full moons in incredible colors or just deep dark night, in an unprecedented intensity. I took this back home – during my walks here, I realize that I experience the nature around me in a different way, with an ability to enjoy weather, the greenery and the upcoming spring in a more mind- and joyful way.

 

Spiritually seen, the five months were an exercise in developing trust. If you travel to India without trust can, you can’t be happy, I believe. Confidence to sit in the proper bus, even though you have no idea where it is going, trusting in the own ability to differentiate (in yoga viveka) with which people it is good to get involved with and which not. But also in longer term to learn not to mess this great opportunity to travel so far just to think about my future all the time, but to trust that everything will somehow result (and that’s what happened, but more about that later)

 

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Morning athmosphere in Madurai (Tamil Nadu)

 

I left Austria without great expectations and just wanted to take my chance of being able to do such a long trip. And India seemed the perfect opportunity. I’ve never been there, and as an avid yogini going to the birthplace of yoga, seemed somehow appropriate. These five months have been just a great time. I have seen and experienced so much, in an amount not seen for years. And I think I am again grown a little bit. On the latter, I will be able make good use in the future … but more on that another time.

Finally here the trip in a nutshell:

The first weeks were devoted to the arrival. First in Agonda (Goa) chilling at the beach and then in Hampi, this wonderful scenery, which has touched my heart. Later traveling around – temples and mosques in Badami and Bijapur, modern urban feeling in Bangalore. In Kerala I visited the colonial city of Cochi and then up in the mountains. Kumily and Munnar – hills with extensive tea and coffee plantations, clear air and cooler climate. I love the sea, but in the mountains there is something warming my heart. Christmas and New Year I spend almost alone in a small guest House by the sea. I enjoy the solitude and read a lot. After a short resocialization period in a busy Guest House just a few miles further, I take the plane to Rajasthan, where I travel with at high pace. Eight locations in four weeks give us indeed a good idea of this state – at the end, however, I feel overwhelmed by the multitude of impressions, and will get sick shortly after my arrival in Goa – the next destination of my trip. A second visit to Hampi has not only an article on the outcome but I find my peace again, while I dive there in nature. The last month I spend again in the south, a week at sea, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the southernmost tip of India and three weeks in the mountains at 1,700 meters above sea level, where I don’t want to leave because I learned to appreciate this simple life at a high altitude with a really good view and a fantastic community.

Later I published an article, about traveling alone as a woman in India.

 And here the route on google maps:

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Hampi a personal account

I asked the universe to fall in love And. .. I fell in love with Hampi (Cheryl, UK)

 

Sunrise at the Hanumantempel

When I arrive in Hampi for the second time in early February, it’s like a sigh of relief. Nearly a month I´ve been travelling in Rajasthan, where I’ve seen so much that my head was just buzzing. After that I was in Goa, to unwind at the beach, but I was unfortunately ill and spent most of my time sniffling with a runny now. A narrow house with two people in a small bed is not the best foundation in this case.

And so I am off again to  Hampi. The first few days after my arrival I recover, to start then slowly  to explore the sights that I missed on my first visit. A second time I am fascinated by the landscape. And over the next three weeks, I will go almost on a daily basis to explore at least a bit and see the landscape again and again with pleasure. Rock formations, as if God had played with blocks of rock, to see what designs are possible. A desert landscape surrounding the rock formations. Cacti, shrubs and chipmunks romp here. The contrast are the many rice fields and palm trees that are visible in all  places which are flatter and without stones. The contrast between desert and fertile landscape of this country deepens even at closer inspection. In the middle of rice  fields there are suddenly rocks and from between the  stones grass is sprouting forth  again.

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The unique landscape Hampi

In addition to this growing enthusiasm for the beauty of the place I start researching soon. I offer an article on Hampi for a German newsletter and begin to familiarize myself with the current state of affairs in Hampi. I speak with the two archaeologists who have been investigating Hampi for more than 30 years, and I also get to know a local activist. They and all other residents with whom I speak think that the new life that has evolved over the ruins, mainly because of tourism, should not be leveled to the ground. The people who have built homes and established lives should be entitled to remain here.

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People are worried in Hampi Bazar, they don

I also meet many other travelers. Hampi is a retreat for spiritual seekers and long-term travelers. I get to know exciting and unconventional lifestyles  and meet people without a finished concept of life and / or with big questions towards life. To many of them I give a quotation from Rilke who has also rendered me valuable service in recent years:

You must have patience
against the unsolved in your heart,
and try to love the questions themselves
like locked rooms,
or  books

written in a very foreign language.

The point is to live everything.
If you live the questions,
you may  live gradually
without realizing it,
one distant day
into the answer.

We have many in-depth conversations  - perhaps because we know that our paths will not cross again.

After 10 days, my article is finished, and I learn about a small, very simple guest house in the neighboring village. I spend a night (and a magnificent sunrise on the adjacent “home mountain”, the Hanuman Temple), and I  am so charmed that I decide to skip the train ticket I  bought already . For over a week I stay and enjoy my time immensely . My fascination with the landscape remains, and I am charmed by the small village surrounding the guesthouse.

The accommodation is the cheapest I have had on my whole trip, and yet I lack nothing. The first few days I spend in a mud hut and feel comfortable and secure – as in a dark cave with surprisingly pleasant temperatures. For second half of my stay I get the room that is built into the rock, which is also cool during the night. I appreciate this, especially since it is only mid-February and it  is now hotter with each passing day. The daily routine is always scheduled around the heat, and the mornings and early evenings in particular are used to explore while we take time to swing in the hammock during the hot hours .

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After three weeks I’m leaving Hampi again and am really glad to meet a friend in the south – I do not know if I could leave otherwise. Mardan, the Guest House owner, brings me on his bike to the ferry, and while I rumble the last time through the landscape, I am very sad. This place is really something special, and many people have already caught the Hampi bug. Even me – for the first time in all my travels, I have found a place where I know I am sure to return.

India -midterm

Since almost 12 weeks I am now in India and before I am flying back from the north to the south  here’s a quick mid-term summary. The first two months I was  traveling in the south taking all my time , adjusting myself slowly to India – the cities and landscapes, the religiosity, the curiosity of the people and the big surprise that a woman travels alone. Christmas and New Year I spent in a secluded guest house reading a lot and doing nothing else than listening to and watching at the sea.

At the  beginning of January I took a  flight to the north. In Rajasthan, I met a friend and the last three weeks we were traveling as a couple. Rajasthan is different. Desert – cold nights, warm days when you are happy in the sun and not always on the lookout for the next shadow as in the south. The landscape dry but very green for a desert, with shrubs and trees. The cities – closely nested houses, , with many palaces and forts.

We do not travel slow but fast. With a travel partner, which has  only five weeks and not five months as I do, the velocity shifts. Now my head is full, my diaries still lacking back and my notebook filled with ideas for stories (not to mention the thousands of photos stored in my harddisk). There is much to tell and I hope that I am starting next week (when I’m alone again ) at least manage to return to the weekly rhythm for blog entries.
In the meantime, I have made a google map with the current itinerary.
Which is a bit confusing, but it is a good overview. (For tips and information about design of Google maps – for example by inserting arrows for direction of travel but also others hints  I would be very grateful.)

 


India 2011 – 2012 auf einer größeren Karte anzeigen

Kerala “God’s own country” or the Indian Switzerland

Is this still India, I ask myself sometimes. The streets clean, almost no cows or pigs, stray dogs not to mention. The landscape green, tropical , only sporadic shanties, mostly there are  pretty houses – many with painted porches and quite colorful. And women on the streets everywhere.

 

In den Backwaters von Kerala

 

Yes, Kerala is different. It is marketed as “God’s own country” by the tourism industry. The “Indian Switzerland”, I think during a busride along the  green hills past the colorful houses. At  least they have in common  the cleanliness, the beautiful scenery and wealth.

Many social indicators such as fertility, health care, literacy rate, etc. correspond to tthoses ​​of developed countries – and even if the economic development can’t keep up, it is obvious that Kerala is richer than other States in India. All people with whom I speak here, think that the good  education system is the main cause. Educaion has been very important in pre-colonial times  – even for lower castes and women. In 1859, the first school for girls in India was founded.

 

End of school in Munnar

 

The high education rate and the connections to the Arab World (grown over centuries)also lead many Keralan people migrate to places  where there are better career and money opportunities. It is, as so often in such migration movements – on the one hand a brain-drain , on the other hand, many big private houses testify that much money “returns” from the Arab region to Kerala . The money of the migrants from Kerala into other countries, represents a fifth of the Keralan national product and is therefore the most important economic factor.

Kerala is also blessed by nature, you can not say it differently. The tropical climate and the many regions at mid-height allow the cultivation of tea, coffee, cardamom, vanilla, pepper and many other spices. Vasco da Gama arrived here is, when he had finally found the sea route to India and it was not the pure spirit of adventure that has driven him, but tangible economic interests – the spice trade was an important factor.

 

Tea plantaton in Kumily

Before Vasco da Gama, many others have found their way across the sea to the south-eastern coast of the continent. There is evidence of a Jewish community before the birth of Christ, and also of St. Thomas is said to have been in Kerala and thus the foundation for early Christian communities has been set. The region has been in exchanges with diverse cultures since centuries, which is certainly not a disadvantage for the development. And the proportion of Muslim and Christian population is much higher than in other states.

 

Indian tourists in Munnar - Making photos and beeng photographed is very important

Kerala is also an important tourist destination. Although it is one of the smaller states, it stands at the statistics at the top of the list. In addition to the existing natural natural resources this success is probably due to massive marketing from the 1980s on as “God’s own country”. Numerous Eco-tourism initiatives try to contribute to  a positive development of society and the environmentand have also received several international prizes. The tourism  critical organization Equations in contrast, shows the negative aspects of tourism in Kerala.

 

Che Guevara Busstation in Eddakad

One question is how important the communist governments were, which have been elected in a democratic way several times since 1957? I do not dare to estimate it. The land reforms of the 1960s and 70s, which has decreased large estate properties significantly were certainly important. Our boat guide on a trip in the backwaters states as well that here are all unionized, organized in village committees and that strikes seem to be very common. The Communist Party is certainly omnipresent, whether through banners, posters, demonstrations, or Che Guevara images in the bus stations.

Also in Kerala people are begging, I see shabby huts with no setup or homeless people. All this, however, in a much lesser extent than in other regions and people are remarkably friendly and helpful – which is probably not a bad indicator.

 

Joy and burden with Rickshawdrivers

Rickshaws, whereever you go

 

 

“Madam, do you want a Rickshaw? I can organize all tours for you, and I can guide you”. No matter where you are going- just shortly after the arrival there is a certain guarantee to be addressed in this  way  every few meters. This does often not correspond to our idea of ​​a nice arriving, looking around first and then slowly make plans for the coming days.

Even in the small mountain village of Kumily at the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, we are bombarded from all sides. A young man asks, persistently and continue after an initial negative response from our side. At this stage my short-term travel partner has the idea to convince him this would not work, because we are seven people. Only a short time later, he offers to organize a rickshaw for seven people – which we refuse of course.

 

We book our half day tour to the tea factory and a spice plantation then via a travel agency, and when we are  picked up the next day in the morning by a Rickshawdriver, we look at a young face looking at us expectantly and asking: “Do you remember me?” No, we do not – but he, whom we have hoaxed the story with seven people. We are ashamed. It is indeed so, one stops to look at people, because you have the feeling that every one wants to sell  something, and a look might be an encouragement.

Sunesh, that’s his name, will turn out in the coming days as an excellent guide with a stunning English knowledge. He shows us not only the foreseen tour sights, but also guides us to other places and takes care of  my new friend as she tries  to get one of the rare tickets for the morning boat at the nature park. He will tell us of what it means to be Rickshawdriver, how difficult it is to get hold of tourists and that they just don’t  trust drivers , and book therefore via a travel agency (which for him, means a commission he has to pay). And he also tells us about the moment when he thought he had caught the big fish, and could organize a tour for seven people.

Wherever I go, I have the impression that there is too much tourist infrastructure, too many rickshaws, too many guides, shops and guesthouses. The more persisteny, I have the impression, they are going to fight for every single guest. I will continue to make a big circle around many young men who want to offer me a deal. But it is also important for me  not to forget that behind each of these questions there is  a person with a history and a desire  to feed his family.

 

Bijapur – a first glimpse of the North

Ibrahim Rauza

In Hindu temples and a surfeit of stories, gods and images. Here in Bijapur – Islamic architecture,  the Agra of the South as some call it. The buildings impress with their overall concept and moods. The Golgumbaz has one of the largest free-standing domes in general and the Ibrahim Rauza is a beautifully designed mosque and a mausoleum . And while at Hindu sites there is just one temple next to the other, it seems that there are as many mausoleums as mosques in Bijapur which already gives a clear indication of the different burial rituals.

It seems to me – at least from the outside -  that religions can not be more different. And although religious clashes in India regularly maintain the world in suspense, I see far above all, that both religions live side by side very much alive.
Overall, I believe that Bijapur gave me a first impression of the north. It’s kind of the end of the south. This is also the conclusion of a french couple, with whom I had dinner in the absolutely uncozy  hotel restaurant one evening. The landscape is flat, the air suddenly very dry. On the road, all point to me, look at me angrily, follow me or bump into me. I neither speak Hindi nor the local language Kannada which is not appreciated.

Bijapur is also the city where I finally realize that it’s important  to me, to have  a pleasant place to sit (best outside). My hotel does have a garden, which opens only at 7:00 in the evening, and the hotel staff  wants to hinder me almost physically going there. It is in fact a “Beer Garden”, where men sit. And so I make use of the large gardens that surround the main attractions, for extended periods, reading and journal writing.

 After three days I leave Bijapur for the south . A more extended trip to the North (Rajasthan) is then scheduled for January. I’m now very curious about the contrast.

 

Meeting people

I’m in a family restaurant (these are restaurants, which are decidedly open to women and children) as a little girl is coming towards me. She looks at me and asks me very politely: What is your name and after my  answer immediately a second question about my country of origin. Another answer, and two counter-questions later from my side, she thanks and leaves the restaurant smiling a on her father’s hand (who nods friendly to me) .

As a foreigner, you’re something special also  in tourist places. Again and again I am asked a few simple questions, or asked by a small group or family to pose for a photo. In the biggest tourist attraction of Bijapur, where hundreds of people cavort while, I am the only foreigner and it almost seems to me, I am more photographed than the monument itself.

In the trains, there often interesting conversations

Or on the train – In my previous three trains rides  in India, I had the chance to make the acquaintance of young well-educated people with excellent knowledge of English. Radika the food controller from Bangalore, Raju who moved with his parents from Agra to Chennai and now wants to become a member of the Air Force, Satim  the mechanical engineer whose family lives  in Rajasthan, while works for the Indian Railways far  in the South , and whose  boss is going to Vienna  to be trained on special machines. All these encounters give me interesting insights in this country and I do not want to miss them, even if I sometimes deny the question, if I am on Facebook at the end of the train journey.

But then there’s the other side, which strikes one especially in Mysore . Young men who approach me on the road, begin a seemingly innocuous conversation by posing as friends and helpers. What it runs up is different, some want to act as tour guides, while others are trying to lure me into the internet cafe or silk business of her brother.

The distinction between those who just want to talk with me, or those who wants to initiate a business,  goes quite well in the meantime. And it also makes a big difference if somebody comes in front of me, looks straight in my eyes and starts a conversation, or whether someone is suddenly on my side or even yells at me from several meters away. Nevertheless, it is difficult for me to break this seemingly non-binding talks or even not to start them. Too much the reproach of discourtesy is  in the air and sometimes also pronounced. This one still hits me.

 

Sometimes I am asked to make photos of people

 

Today a young man, who is suddenly besides me, starts a conversation with the question: “What do you think about India,?” I reply that it seems to be a strange country, where strange men adress people in the middle of the street and want to start a conversation. He, also not stupid, just said that this was probably meant by the famous advertising slogan “Incredible India”.

What also strikes me is that everything changes on the third day that I spend on a site. I do not know whether it’s because I move differently, or that my face  it is then already known to local actors. Anyway, I’m less and less addressed. And by then I’m also open to those nice conversations, which result then easily  in the bus or in the park. This encourages me to continue to move slowly and spend enough time at each station.

 

Badami – the charm, that reveals itself slowly

Badami with the lake and cliffs in the background

There are no cozy hotels, comfortable hang out areas or similar stuff here. The village consists of a lively main street and pretty narrow, whitewashed single-storey houses. The main street – a constant honking, shouting around, buses, cows, pigs, small food stalls and small shops behind. On the other side of the village there is  an artificial, rectangular lake that is surrounded on three sides by Gats . These are the steps leading into the water, and especially helpful for the laundry washing women l. On two sides of the lake rises a rock formation and then  the lake almost nuzzles a bit into a valley. The landscape is rocky and barren, with beautiful views.

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Landscape around Badami

The main attraction of Badami are the rock temples from the 6th Century on the one side of the lake. The columns are not surrounded with sculptures, as I have seen it so often in Hampi. Instead there are truly great figures of the most important gods.

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Rocktemple in Badami

On the other side of the lake there are other temples up the hill , partly through small canyons, up to a Fort.

 

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Gats (steps) at the artificial lake

 

It is surprising: Badami is the starting point for visits to temples in three places: Badami, Pattadakal and Aiole, the latter is even a World Heritage Site. Here on the streets one notices this only slightly. Western tourists are still counted on one hand. However, many Indian tourists  can be seen in the temples.

 

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Small village street with Alegitti Shivalaa temple in the background

 

Almost all hotels are located along the noisy main road and none of them radiate such a thing as charm. I am choosing mines  because it has a restaurant with a garden according to myguidebook. Although there is no restaurant, there is still a backyard where you can comfortably sit quietly in the fresh air.

 

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Along the main street of Badami

 

This is where I also meet Ivan and Andreas, two semiprofessionals climbers, living in Austria. They are here since over four weeks and boulder daily on the rocks lying around.

I’ve heard in advance that Badami is good for climbing, although not as developed as Hampi. Hampi has its own climbing resorts and rental shops. Here it is different. The climbers travel with their own crash pads and arrive by taxi from Goa, otherwiese they could not carry all the  material.

I have immediately fantasies concerning the development of a climbing tourism and wonder if this could be a chance for the place. But these ideas are stifled by the two in the bud. Climbing is perhaps modern, but the sport does not have, what it needs to be a popular sport. The barrierof entry are too high (high fitness requirements, slip resistance, fear of heights). There were no positive examples of climbing tourism. If areas are opened up once to climb, they are thus also destroyed. He sees no way out – not even by a sophisticated site management (apart from the fact that this one  would probably be difficult to implement in India).

 

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There are definitely more monkeys than tourists in Badami

And therefore  Badami  will probably continue to be a small spot on the tourist map, where tourists stay for a quick visit, single travellers make a stop on the road between Hampi and Bijapurrmediate and sporadic climbers explore the rocksUnd so wird Badami wohl weiter ein kleiner Spot auf der touristischen Landkarte bleiben, wo Touristengruppen für eine schnelle Besichtigung absteigen, einzelne Traveller auf dem Weg zwischen Hampi und Bijapur Zwischenhalt machen und genauso vereinzelte Kletterer die Felsen erkunden.

The Ramayama – very short

The Ramayama is one of India’s central epics. It is not as long as the better-known Mahabharata (which is as long as the Iliad andthe Odyssey together), but is still quite a complicated story, which extends geographically across the Indian subcontinent. Since the Ramayama plays  partly in Hampi , and as I stumble upon it almost everywhere,  here a very brief summary

Rama is the firstborn son of King Ayodha in the north of India and a reincarnation of Vishnu. His father, however,  owes a favor to  another one of his wifes and she  requests to send  Rama into exile, so her son can be king. Rama then goes with his wife Sita and his devoted brother Lakshman into exile and spends several years in the woods. One day the sister of the demon Ravana tries to enchant Rama. But she is not successful, Rama even cuts off her nose.  Ravana could not stand this dishonour and  abductes Sita with a lousy trick.


Ramayama

Ravana abductes Sita

Rama and Lakshman head now on the search for Sita and end up in the monkey kingdom Kishkinda. This is the region around Hampi, where they then regulate royal conflicts between brothers, before they continue to search for Sita. With them  on the road is now Hanuman - who has an army of monkeys, and later becomes known as apegod.

 

Ramayama

Hanuman meets Rama and Laksman

The latter is first sent forward to Lanka (where Sita is) to announce the upcoming help. He is captured there  and during his liberation he  quickly sets Lanka on fire. The liberation of Sita is initiated with the construction of a bridge to Lanka with the help of the monkey  armycommanded by Hanuman. Rama wins the succeeding war even if Laksman is wounded.

 

Ramayama

Hanuman hands over to Sita a ring as message from Rama

Then Rama regulates also in Lanka the conflict between the royal brothers, before Rama, Laksman and Sita can finally return home. Before the all embracing happy end, however, Sita must still undergo a trial by fire, because her honor would otherwise be in doubt.

Here in the south where I am, illustrations from the Ramayama can be found in many temples. Not that I am able to  identify the different parts of the story on the sculptures. Also the guidebooks  are not accurate enough for this. But sometimes there is a person on charge in the temples, who can gie at least rudimentary information about the contents of the sculptures in exchange for a “small gift”to give in exchange for a small “gift”. More rarely, I can also listen to a guided  group (this especially when it comes toWestern groups are, but they are rare).

For this purpose the childrens books, with the most important stories come in handy. For 50 rupees (70 cents)I bought  an illustrated children’s book, which summarizes the story of Rama. It is  still surprisingly complicated, but really good to get a glance. There are also comics which retell the stories of gods and heroes. I am sure, that I am going to buy more of those in the next weeks….

 

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