On Friday we left Haridwar, one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Hinduism; we then rounded off our trip at a 5-star hotel in Delhi. We have seen many sides of India on this trip: we have been to villages and churches, stayed with middle class families and seen the affluence of the upper class beside us in Delhi.
As dirty and heart-rending as Haridwar was, I was sad to leave it. It is a city of both ugliness and beauty, with dirt, grime and flies everywhere, and with religious devotion in its bones. Haridwar gave a face to Hinduism for me, and that face both saddened and touched me. A religion that we had hitherto seen manifest in little more than red bracelets, attitudes and roadside shrines took on new significance in a city where thousands of people come hundreds of miles, often by foot, just to touch the holy waters of the Ganga and bring a little home to their idols. The devotion was evident, yet it was sobering to see so many people placing their trust and hope in an insentient river. Thousands try to find spiritual cleansing in a body of water that rushes thoughtlessly down from the Himalayas, gathering dirt, pollution and the occasional dead body along the way. In a sense, this river that is so holy to Hindus took on some spiritual significance to me as well: few things that I have seen in India have made my heart cry more to God for the souls of India.

We saw other aspects of Hinduism in the city too. We visited a huge, affluent ashram, a jocki (I am not sure how to spell this, but it is essentially a museum of religious-themed animatronics) and a shrine on top of a breath-takingly beautiful mountain only accessible by gondola. Overall, our experience in Haridwar was an interesting, thought-provoking, prayerful, emotional and exciting one.

We have now finished the last leg of our trip; we snuggled up in a fancy hotel in Delhi and shopped excessively before getting on the plane for another 20-30 hour flight, this time leading us HOME. This trip has been an incredible experience. India is a country of beauty, dirt, vibrant colors, heartfelt hospitality, stark contrasts, varied religions and amazing faith, and I shall miss it immensely. Thank you for all of your prayers.

-Michaelynne Whitsitt

Study Abroad

Darren Duerksen

India 2012