In 2013, I took an oath before my mother, Indira, pledging I would bring and commit her ashes to the sources of the Ganges, on the land of her ancestors.
Indira comes from the sanskrit, इन्दिरा and means "Beauty". In the hindu litterature, she is the wife of Vishnu.
India is now more than an interesting stop, it’s become a very personal journey.
Quite happy to leave Jaipur behind, we reach Haridwar on a cold cloudy morning, at 7 am.
Haridwar is the place where the biggest human gathering to ever happened took place: the Kumbh Mela (literally "feast of the jug"). This Hindu gathering happens every 13 years. The last one, in 2013, has seen more than 100 millions (one and a half time the population of France) pilgrims over the course of 3 weeks.
The photographer Eric Bouvet helps us put this event of humongous proportions into perspective.
Well it was very different for us. After driving us across the whole city, our bus dropped us off in a wide dirt floor square.
We soon befriend Ali, a young spanish lady, who like us, is heading to Rishikesh. We had booked our hotel beforehand using the
Rishikesh is a small town lying a mere 30km away from Haridwar. Pedestrians lanes and bridges are the link between the two parts of town, lying opposite of each other on the river banks.
We end up sharing our tuk tuk with Ali, while heading to Rishikesh and then the same room for a week, before she leaves for Europe. Delphine was delighted about this transient yet meaningful friendship.
When talking about our trip around the globe, one question usually stands out : “Why did you guys leave?”. We first explain that New-Zealand (from where these lines are currently being written!) and Iceland were two of our dream destinations, but on opposite parts of the planet.
In 2013 though, shortly before my mother’s passing, the promise I made carved new, harder lines on the picture I had envisioned for this trip. The hunger for discovery mingles with the need for closure.
We took the time needed to seek a beautiful spot along the Ganges, where the water looks just right.
According to Hindu tradition -which my mother belonged to-, we gathered offerings and some camphor to burn. The legend states the smoke is a link between us and the Gods, who then can relish the smell of the offering.
The food offered becomes sacred and must be eaten.
The flame is then carried away by the stream.
A strong and emotional thought for my mother’s (and our) loved ones, who couldn’t attend this ceremony, was on our mind when addressing our prayers to the Universe.
Illustration by Delphine in 2013
I was carrying this small urn since the begining of our trip. We always felt like my mother was with us, looked after us and our belongings.
After the ceremony, we lost that feeling. There was an unmistakable emptiness where her presence used to be.
The ceremony however, was the closure I sought and expected.
We were at the right place, at the right time, like we were supposed to. My duty as a son was done, I felt freed from my task.
From the moment we left France to this day, where I struggle to translate my feelings into coherent sentences, we felt like we were lucky, like we were protected by my mother watchful eye.
I admit, this luck hasn’t failed us so far. Maybe because her memory is a part of us now? We’re willing to think so at least.
Right after this moving moment, by sheer happenstance, we spotted a wonderful Puja (an Hindu prayer and offering ceremony) happening next to the very place I had lain my mother’s ashes to rest.
A beautiful and touching ritual, coming at the right time.
The Sūrya Namaskàra (salutation to the Sun) is a precise spiritual practice of Yoga, in which one kneels before the rising Sun, as a display of gratitude towards the wonders of Nature.
We remained in Rishikesh for a while after that, met new friends, and discovered a new face of India.
This article wasn’t the easiest to write (3 weeks of thoughts). I was wondering if it would be a good thing to put such a personal thing on TATUP.
Nevertheless, it is a real tribute to my mother, and by the way a grateful tribute to Life !