To see and know all of India would take a lifetime, or several, which makes the belief in reincarnation a useful concept. Of course, working in travel for 13 years, I had a good sense of the individual elements that comprise this diverse land—its religions, people, landscapes, and sacred places. But, it was not until I embarked upon Zegrahm Expeditions’ Splendors of India voyage, my first journey to the sub-continent, that I realized how the whole of this country was so much greater than the sum of its individual parts. To experience the wonder and great diversity of India first-hand, can only be described as a feast for all five senses, and a journey by ship provided an ease that freed up my mind to take it all in. The voyage opened a window into India that I hadn’t expected; here are a few of the many highlights:
Arriving in Trivandrum, a quaint village on a small harbor dotted with multi-hued fishing boats and ringed with a mosque and two churches, we were met with amazing warmth by the local people. After returning from our tour of the countryside, I was quickly encircled by a group of children who wanted to show me their home. We spent time flying a kite, strolling along the harbor, and laughing.
In contrast, Cochin is a major fishing port, which over the years has attracted Arab, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and British mariners who had convened here in search of spices. The influence of these visitors can be seen throughout the area from the colonial-style churches to the picturesque, Chinese cantilevered fishing nets along the water. Beautiful handicrafts were on display during our exploration of the city. Afterwards, we boarded house boats to travel the languorous Kerala back waters, witnessing the commerce along the canals and the amazing beauty of the region, while also enjoying delicious local fare for lunch.
Finally, arriving in Mumbai, we were immersed in the India we had always imagined. A major metropolis alive with the sights, smells, and sounds that you would expect from the most populated city in the country coupled with its ever-present warm and welcoming people. Throughout the voyage we learned some fascinating aspects of the many religions in India, from the Epics of Hinduism to the non-violent practices of Jainism. Our final stop in Mumbai was no exception as we witnessed the birds circling the Towers of Silence, where Zoroastrians expose their dead to flesh-eating birds.
There is so much to experience in India, from serene fishing villages and thriving city streets to sacred spiritual centers and spectacular architectural marvels. And with so much to explore, I am already looking forward to further engaging my senses in this multi-faceted region of the world on my next visit.