We wake in Rajasthan and arrive at the base of the Amer fort, get loaded up on elephants and ride up to the Amer fort to the sound of drums and song, just like the ladies of Raja Man Singh I would have in the 15th century. Amer Fort is known for its artistic style of Hindu elements. With its large ramparts, series of gates and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks the Maota Lake upon which a saffro garden once grew.
Our tour concludes with a lovely lunch of Valentine'[s Day pizza and local cuisine on a rooftop courtyard where we happened to watch a group of teenagers training homing pigeons. After a brief respite back at the hotel, we dress in our Indian finest for a special light show and history lesson at the Amer fort and a lovely buffet meal in one of the palaces.
Today we travel west to Jaipur and visit Fatehpur Sikri along the way, a series of royal palaces, harem courts a mosque and private quarters built in 1569 for the Mughal emperor Akbar.
Morning comes early when you have a 6:00 am train to catch. We traveled to day from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, on of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Affectionately known to the locals as Mum Taj, this awe inspiring monument was built by Shah Jahan in the 15th century as a testament of his love for this third and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The building and grounds are truly awe inspiring and overwhelming in scale. It is a gorgeous white marble structure inlaid with semi-precious stones - it really has to be seen to be believed, the photos do not do it justice. Built on an octagonal base so that the mausoleom appears exactly the same from all sides. I managed to hobble on crutches around the upper area, let me just say that the Taj is definitely not wheelchair accessible!
After lunch and a well-deserved rest we drove to Vrindavan, the birthplace of Krishna, to visit the Iskcon Center for a taste of 24 hour kirtan. I had the immediate sense that "this is India!". We wound through narrow cobble stone alleys with hawkers shadowing or every step. We came upon orange robbed Sadus calling out "Hare Krishna" and "Hare Ram" and holding out bowls as we passed. We bought floral garlands and took them into a temple to be blessed and took them to the Iskcon Center, a beautiful modern temple complex. After a brief tour the kirtan and music began. It is difficult to describe the feeling of the place but it left me feeling the full hearted openness, love and joy of the Hare Krishnas taking part in their daily worship. Be sure to watch the video and you might just see what I mean.
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.