by Sue Taylor
Sue is based in Broadstairs, Kent, England.
Attending a Rajasthani wedding, having mehendi (henna tattoos in the shape of flowers) applied to my hands and feet and being decked up in ‘saree and sparkle’- who wouldn’t jump at this opportunity of a lifetime? Yes, I’ve recently returned from a completely amazing and overwhelming experience immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of this incredible country where traditions are passed from one generation to another and people seem to live in harmony with their surroundings. The whole wedding experience in Pushkar and Ajmer, Rajasthan, lasted a whopping 5 days compared to our 1 day ceremony here. There were ceremonies with offerings of sweets, dancing, eating and various changes of dress to suit each day. There were people coming and going at every hour, children playing and women singing until the early hours wishing good luck for the couple. The weather was hot, dry and dusty and there was I in the middle of this mayhem wearing a lehengha (2 piece colourful suit dress) and saree in the desert heat with my one necessity to hand – ‘my bottle of mineral water’.
During the evening, to escape the heat of my room – the fan wasn’t working due to power cuts – I spent the nights sleeping on a yoga mat on the roof top; very beneficial for my back. I looked up at the vast midnight sky studded with sparkling stars. My exhausted body slowly relaxed until I was woken by the early morning calls of peacocks from the surrounding fields. I would meditate looking out over the hills while my daughter practised her yoga with the sun rising before us.
Not only was I a guest of the groom’s family, but also I got to explore many therapeutic practises during my whirlwind 7 days, cramming as much in as I could. Everything I’ve learnt on my spiritual and holistic path to now, revealed itself in some form or other in India. It all seemed so relevant, so natural, to return to the roots of some of these well-known therapies. In town, I chatted about the properties of gemstones with the ‘crystal man’ and we compared healing stories over a cup of chai (a powerful blend of tea, herbs and spices) under a hanging blanket to shield us from the midday sun. He told me to go into the hills where I could find lumps of rose quartz as well as many other gems in their natural state. A Frenchman I met told me he was going to search for emeralds one day – he’d heard that you could find them in the surrounding hills; in the past these precious stones adorned the crowns of Royal Rajasthani families.
I buy many crystals for healing purposes in India. Crystal therapy is a wonderful treatment where each gemstone can be matched to the chakras on your body to help stimulate or calm any blocked points. Most Indians wear a crystal ring of some sort with their birthstone selected by astrologers which is thought to be auspicious or to act as protection.
Later that day, I walked into the hills with a peaceful monk, a laughing yogi and my daughter, surrounded by more peacocks than I’ve ever seen in my life, parading their colourful plumage like a sea of greens and blues in the distance. The sun was setting and monkeys were running along the dusty trail behind us, nobody else around but us 4 enjoying the moment and being in touch with nature. Suddenly, I came across a massive piece of rose quartz the size of a stall. It was just glistening in shades of pink and peach like a giant slab of luscious Turkish delight. What a pleasure to sit like a queen on this beautiful stone and how I would have loved to bring it home for healing. Sadly my baggage allowance would not allow it, but then again, somehow, it suited its natural environment more. Later I taught the monk English under a Banyan tree – such fun and so rewarding. He spoke very softly and seemed a ‘healthy and balanced individual’; something to which we all can aspire! We had a wonderful discussion about Reiki, forms of massage and the benefits of yoga.
For me, coming to India immerses you in spirituality and harmony but also a wealth of therapies which have been widely embraced here for hundreds of years. It seems nearly everyone you speak with in India combines an element of some therapy into their daily life. Mothers give head massage to their children (known as Chumpi); families practise yoga in the early morning or late evening; you can get a massage anywhere in town for about £5.00; herbal preparations can be purchased as medication as well as made into natural hair and beauty products. Moreover, nutrition is equally important and food is chosen according to its nutritional value, seasonal availability, and its importance to the many ceremonies that abound. Herbs and spices are added for taste but also for their ayurvedic benefits.
Everyone you talk to has a herbal concoction for most common ailments. As it was, I was suffering with both the heat and sciatica. I spoke with a friend who owns a hotel and he recommended various massage preparations I could purchase whilst advising me about diet and how best to cope with the Rajasthani heat. We also talked about differences between the East/Western lifestyle and the importance of relaxation. It is good to talk to ‘like minded souls’ and compare experiences. Actually, you often learn more about these things when you travel than you would from a book. At his hotel, there is always an abundance of chillies and roses drying on mats in the scorching sunshine to be used in cookery, for ceremonies, decoration and for aroma.
Every chance meeting offers a new adventure or nuggets of wisdom. It’s nice to be able to give something too and use one’s skills. I gave another monk a Reiki treatment. He had been suffering with arthritis and the healing energy of Reiki can help with painful conditions such as this. People are very open to alternative techniques and often prefer an ayurvedic remedy over a prescribed pill. The glorious sunshine they have undoubtedly helps with many conditions too, such as depression and absorbing vitamin D! In England we spend months with gloomy weather and often retreat inside in the colder months. In India life is always outside but seeking shade when the sun is too hot. The sun and colours around are uplifting.
We spent a lot of time sitting at an ashram and chatting with different visitors who passed by, many of whom were on a similar path, practising some form of therapy, soul-searching or seeking peace. Even young children are aware of healing practices and their benefits from an early age. An eight year old gave me a wonderful back massage with her feet while I was lying on my bedroom floor. She happily went about it like a professional; she’d been taught by her grandmother! Our last day was spent practising yoga with a yogi, singing, drumming, chanting, talking about spirituality and drinking chai; what a blissful experience. As the sun was setting over the lake and hills, it was almost time for this ‘magical journey’ to end. I felt very humbled to be sharing this wonderfully calming experience that had begun with the noise and merriment of such a spectacular wedding.
The people of India are aware of the benefits of ‘living in balance’ and embrace it completely, enjoying celebrations such as grand weddings with 750 guests and, on another occasion, knowing when to take rest, eating well and giving their body the natural therapies it requires. They really do know how to feed their souls!
I’d like to express a few words of thanks to all friends in India for making this article possible and to Julia, Principal at The School of Natural Health Sciences for giving me the opportunity to write this.
SNHS Dip. (Colour Therapy), SNHS Dip. (Herbalism), SNHS Dip. (Psychotherapy & Counselling) Crystal Healing, Indian Head Massage,
Aromatherapy Massage, Meditation Tutor (Beauty Guild Accredited, Member of the International College of Holistic Medicine (ICHM).
P.S: Since completing The School of Natural Health Sciences courses 2 years ago, I have recommended these courses to many others,
including one of my daughters, who is studying a few subjects!