Any tour of India must include Agra, home of the world famous Taj Mahal and the Red Fort.  The Taj was built by

a king in the 1600s to honor the memory of his beloved wife.  Aside from romanticism, the building is a marvel of

engineering and remains well-preserved mainly because they used the hardest marble in the world to construct

it.  While the Taj is a monument to love, we were also exposed to the evil of fury and hatred by visiting Sheroes,

a cafe and hangout run by female victims of acid attacks.  Until recently, 70% of attacks were made by splashing

acid in the face of women (males were also victims 30% of the time).  India responded well to these incredible

atrocities by making it nearly impossible for people to buy acid over the counter, so they have diminished.  These

girls remained upbeat and cheerful despite being disfigured by these vicious attacks, but it still brings tears to my

eyes when I remember talking with them.  They are very brave, and remain unbowed by this depravity.  I was

very glad I was exposed to this dark-side of life in India, because there is also the inspiring example of their

recovery from tragedy as well.  My heart remains with these young women!

 We spent two days in Khajuraho looking at carvings and temples built by Chandra Dynasty rulers 1,000 years ago

—a time when India was very large, unified, and powerful.  The stone carvings were quite intricate and beautiful,

with compositions exemplifying everyday life juxtaposed with all manner of graphic sexual portrayals. When

British archeologists uncovered much of this thousand-year old art work, it was said to have scandalized Victorian

England.  Once discovered and “uncovered”, tourists started flocking into the city to see for themselves.  This

crush of sight-seeing has not diminished since then, and the temples are the second most visited destination in

India (the Taj Mahal, of course, is first). 


Our last major stop in India was the “Holy of Holies” for Hindus—the 4,000 year old city of Varanasi.  Situated on

the Ganges River, whose waters are regarded as sacred, nearly all activity along its shores involves various

religious rituals being performed day and night.  Funeral pyres take place with great regularity here as the dead

are cremated, and rituals are used to put the river to bed at night and to awaken it in the morning.  I was struck

by the incredible joy pilgrims experienced while bathing in the Ganges, and the communal nature of religious life

along the river.

Lastly, a close by village of Sarnath proved deeply meaningful to me, since I follow a Buddhist spiritual path. 

Sarnath is the locale where the Buddha gave his first dharma talk to a group of monks after he had obtained

enlightenment while sitting under a Bodhi tree. It was thrilling for me to stand and walk in the very place where

the Buddha had started what is called “the turning of the Dharma Wheel”. On our last day in India, we were

treated to a spectacular sitar performance by one of Varanasi’s most famous musicians!  He could have given Ravi

Shankar a run for his money!