Here is a picture from my afternoon commute home from work. The people in orange you can see in the background carrying the colorful structures are on a pilgrimage to Haridwar, a Hindu holy site where the Ganges River meets the plains. They have been lining the streets all the way home for the past four days. I have a video where you can see more of them, but it’s taking too long to load right now. I’ll try again later because it’s fun to watch.
I asked Sonu about them earlier in the week and all he could say was, "Haridwar." I didn't even know that Haridwar was a place, so his explanation did little to elucidate the matter. Amar at work was able to shed some more light today at lunch.
For people who can't make the trek into the mountains, Haridwar, in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, is considered the source of the Ganges and, therefore, sacred. In fact, Haridwar is roughly translated to "god's door." This is an annual pilgrimage and, Amar says, people who can't afford regular vacations will make this a sort of holiday as well. If you look properly, he says, you can see some of the pilgrims carrying hockey sticks and iPods in addition to the vessels they will fill up with the holy river water and save for use throughout the year in pujas (prayers) and rituals. If you see a tent at the side of the road, it was built by the government for the purpose of providing free food and shelter to the people taking this trip, which necessitates thousands of miles of walking for some. But before I get too impressed, they're not all religious, Amar says. Some of them are hooligans, gundas, bandits who will attack your car if you graze them as you drive past. He means attack it: flip it over and break all the windows. I don't think I captured any gundas in my video. They all look pretty peaceful. Still, I'm glad I didn't get too close with my camera.
Also of note for your trivial pursuit games, Rishikesh near Haridwar is where the Beatles spent their time in India. Amar's wife is a big Beatles fan, he tells me. So is Angshuman. "He thinks they are gods," Amar laughs. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a shrine to them, too, somewhere over here.