Sex vs Celibacy, in India and Pakistan, past & present

Peter Myers, November 6, 2008; update March 17, 2012

Write to me at contact.html.

You are at

For me, the gods of India are works of art. I admire their beauty; it attests to beauty in the civilization which made them. There's also the implication that beauty and divinity are connected. Statues of the gods of Ancient Egypt are similarly beautiful.

For Hindus, the gods are real, and have power. Once you concede their reality, they have power over you, and you visit the temples regularly to seek good fortune and avoid harm. This entails paying money which sustains the temples and much of India's economy.

The temples of India are probably the closest surviving link to those of ancient Egypt.

In October 2008, at the age of 60, I set out to explore India and Pakistan. Having limited time - 16 nights in India and 5 in Pakistan - I planned a tight schedule, and pre-booked the train tickets.

An auto-rickshaw, in Chennai. I am sitting in the back: Chennai-auto-rickshaw.jpg.

A street scene in Tiruvannamalai south of Chennai, with the Siva temple in the background. This temple towers over the town. Half a million people come here every Full Moon to walk around the mountain: Tiruvannamalai-st+temple.jpg.

If you prefer, you might just like to go straight to my photos of India, and skip my long description of my trip and its historical background.

(1) Sex vs Celibacy in India
(2) Surviving India and Pakistan
(3) The Temple of the Sun, at Konark
(4) Temple of the 64 Yoginis, between Konark and Bhubaneshwar
(5) Asoka Rock Edict at Dhauli near Bhubaneswar
(6) Bodhgaya, where Buddha "gained enlightenment"
(7) Varanasi, the holiest site in Hinduism
(8) Khajuraho - sex temples but also thought-inspiring Jain temple
(9) Sonagir - Jain temples & naked Jain monks
(10) Agra - the Taj Mahal
(11) Harappa, a major city of the Indus Civilization (Pakistan)
(12) MohenjoDaro, "the City of Dead People" (Pakistan)

(1) Sex vs Celibacy in India

India is the home of two ancient sex-temples (Khajuraho and Konark) which have been declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO. The Khajuraho temple-complex is featured by UNESCO at, and the Temple of Surya the sun-god at Konark is at

But India is also the origin of religions which reject sex and instead promote celibacy - Jainism, Buddhism, and the idealist/monist stream within Hinduism.

These is evidence that such ideas spread from India to Greece, influencing the Pythagoreans; and, during the time of Emperor Asoka, to Alexandria in Egypt, influencing Jewish sects and thus early Christianity.

Unlike other Greeks, the Pythagoreans were vegetarian, believed in cyclic time (reincarnation) instead of linear time (heaven), and were celibate. Such ideas came from India; this philosophy is called Ahimsa (non-violence).

How could one civilization spawn such contrary philosophies? What was the historical relationship between them, and what is the relationship today?

These were the questions which motivated my pilgrimmage, and guided my selection of sites. Thus I included Konark and Khajuraho, but also Bodhgaya, where Buddha is said to have gained "enlightenment", and Sonagir, a Jain village with over 100 Jain temples, where I met naked Jain monks. About 9 or 10 sadhus (holy men) live there, and 4 or 5 nuns.

Apart from the monks and nuns, the Jain laity traditionally engaged in money-lending and commerce; they have now moved into manufacturing and wholesale commerce. They are the "Jews" of India, and have a similar repressive "Protestant ethic". Werner Sombart pointed out that the Protestant Ethic was really a Christian version of the Jewish Ethic: sombart.html.

The isolation of Sonagir led the Jain laity to move away to urban centres, but they return from time to time, with their money, and sustain this remote village. It's said that whenever a Jain monk dies there, a new temple is built.

Jainism was founded about 550 BC, by Mahavira; but Jains say he lived much earlier. Soon after, the founder of Buddhism, Gautama, seems to have tried Jain asceticism but found it too extreme; he formed Buddhism as "the middle path". At the time, there were other groups of ascetics too. One group, the Ajivikas, founded by Gosala, allowed their members to engage in sex. The Ajikivas may have been like the early Taoist philosophers of China, and the Cynic philosophers of Greece.

There was also a materialist school of thought, Charvaka, founded by Vrihaspati. The period of 600BC-500BC was a time of intellectual ferment in India, when many new ideas were arising. It was then as vibrant as ancient Athens, but there is no independence of thought in India today.

Like Buddhism, the Jain religion is atheistic. It sees all living beings as souls, the human being no more valuable than the non-human. Therefore, no living being, even a mosquito, can be killed. When tilling the land, one should wear a mask to avoid inhaling (and inadvertently killing) insects. However, Jains are urban people; they do not till the land.

A plaque at a Jain temple in Khajuraho (see photo below) reads:

Every soul is independent. None depends on another. {this is a rejection of Monism}
All souls are alike. None is superior or inferior.
Every soul is in itself absolutely omniscient and blissful. The bliss does not come from outside. Not only-Soul, but every object of the universe, is subject to change by itself, without any external interference.
All human beings are miserable due to their own faults, and they can themselves be happy by rectifying the same.
The greatest mistake of a soul is non-recognition of its real self and it can only be rectified by recognising itself.
There is no separate existence of God. Everbody can attain Godhood by making supreme efforts in the right direction.
Know thyself; recognize thyself; be immersed in thyself'-you will attain Godhood.
God is neither the destructor of the universe. He is merely a silent observer and omniscient.
One, who, even after knowing the whole universe can remain unaffected and unattached is God.

The Jains call their own sadhus (monks) "gods".

The Buddha statue with downturned eyes and serene Mona-Lisa-type smile was not part of early Buddhism. It was developed by the Greeks of Gandhara (near the Pakistan/Afghan border); their ancestors had been stationed there during the Persian Empire.

Jains criticise Buddhism for back-sliding; one specific criticism is that Buddhism is permeated with Tantrism. Tantric Buddhism was a fusion of Buddhism with the sex-oriented Siva (Shiva) religion. Tibetan Buddhism is of this type. I visited a Tantric Buddhist temple of the 9th century A.D., at Barahi, between Konark and Bhubaneshwar.

At Bodhgaya, there are Buddhist monasteries from many Asian countries, but most of the monasteries there are Tibetan. The Tibetan exile community in India is based at Dharamsala, but the Dalai Lama and hundreds of his followers move to Bodhgaya during the winter months from December to March, when the plains have a pleasant climate.

I stayed at one of the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries there, and saw a young monk eating a plate of roast meat and rice. I even asked him what he was eating. His English was broken, but he said "cow dish". I asked where he got this food - I had not seen it for sale (cows are sacred in Hinduism, never eaten), and he motioned "over the hill" with his hand. The "cow" could have been water buffalo, which is not sacred to Hindus.

My guide in Bodhgaya told me that the Tibetan monks and nuns not only eat meat but also have sex - not a raging sex life, but not celibacy either - and that the local people do not respect them on account of their easy life. The Sri Lankan, Thai and other Hinayana Buddhists on the other hand, are strict.

However, I found this Tibetan monastery an oasis of peace. No-one asked me to buy anything, or pressured me in any way. The young monks and nuns, dressed in orange and marone robes, were friendly and happy. Outside, at the gate, was teeming India, where I could not relax.

As for the sex and the meat, I have had enough of puritanism. I grew up a Catholic puritan of the Irish strain, lived amongst Protestant puritans in Tasmania, mixed with Filipino Catholic puritans, encountered Vietnamese Buddhist puritans in Canberra, and the whole of India is puritan (despite the sex-temples - they are mere relics of a bygone age).

So, I welcomed the Tibetan normalcy amidst a sea of derangement. Why is sex incompatible with serenity and spirituality? Am I supposed to respect a man merely because he never has sex?

I included Pakistan in my itinerary in order to visit Harappa and MohenjoDaro, the major sites of the Indus Civilization, which was a trading partner of ancient Sumeria. This civilization preceded the Aryan invasion of India, and was perhaps in part brought down by it.

Siva (Shiva) was a major god of the Indus (Harappan) Civilization. He was depicted in statues as ithyphallic, nude in a yoga pose with erect penis. Orisis of Egypt was also depicted with erect penis, as was Dionysius of Greece. Alain Danielou says that all three were analogues of one another, part of one common cultural heritage spreading from India to Sumeria to Minoan Crete.

Mahavira, the historical founder of the Jains, is like Siva also depicted nude, but always with pendant penis.

The difference is significant. Siva represents male potency, whereas Mahavira represents renunciation.

The Sivalingam (Siva linga, Siva lingam, Shiva linga, Shiva lingam), found all over India, is a sex-symbol: it depicts the male organ seated within the female organ. This is a representation of both fertility and delight, but tastefully done, with understatement, unlike the lurid scenes of modern pornography.

See the images at

and at

The Epic of Gilgamesh, a foundation story popular in Sumeria, attests to that civilization's view of sex as civilizing: adam-and-eve.html. Temples of the goddess Inanna housed sacred prostitutes. There was an annual "sacred marriage" - ritual pairing between the king and a priestess representing the goddess - reflected in the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), the book of the Jewish Bible which Christians find most shocking.

India itself still has such women - they are called devadasi - but the practice has long been under assault from Christian and Feminist or "human rights" advocates.

The sex-oriented civilization of the Indus, Sumeria and Crete is gone now. It has been replaced by puritan religions which deliberately set out to destroy it.

In India, the Rig Veda boasts of the destruction of the indigenous Dasyus. The Harappan economy was based on irrigation from the Indus river, like the Tigris-Euphrates economies of Mesopotamia, and the Rig Veda records the Aryans' destruction of the dams which were the basis of the economy.

It calls the inhabitants "black", "noseless", and "lewd", the latter probably a reference to the phallic god Siva: rig-veda.html.

(Book 7, hymn XXI, verse 5; also Book 10, hymn XCIX, verse 3)

6.27.5 (Book 6, Hymn 27, Verse 5) names the city of Harappa (calling it Hariyupiya). The site of the ruined city was not discovered until the 1920s, near a village bearing that name still. Yet in this 1896 translation of the Rig Veda, a major battle is described there, a devastating Aryan victory: rig-veda6.27.jpg.

This suggests that "metaphorical" interpretations of the Rig Veda are false, and that "natural causes" i.e. "ecological change" is not the reason for the fall of the civilization.

I noted when I visited Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, that both cities are well above the surrounding plain, so inundation or a rising water-table did not destroy them. As for claims that the Indus basin dried up, the fields from Lahore to Sehwan Sharif were green and intensively cultivated. In the whole area from Sukkur to Larkana to MohenjoDaro and further south, I saw a big rice harvest under way, with water lying in the fields (after the monsoon of June-August). Sugar cane was being harvested, cotton bushes were bearing, and there were many orchards of fruit - I recall Dates and a tree I took to be Jujube. Persimmons were plentiful in roadside stalls. This whole area is fertile and bountiful.

In the Rig Veda, 1.100 and 1.101 (Book 1, Hymns 100 & 101) are hymns describing the Aryans as "fair-complexioned" and the Harappans as "the dusky brood": rig-veda1.100-101.jpg.

9. 41 (Book 9, Hymn 41) describes the defeated as people of "black skin": rig-veda9.41.jpg.

1.32 (Book 1, Hymn 32) boasts of the cruelty of the Aryan attackers: rig-veda1.32.jpg.

In Babylonia, the destruction was wrought during the Persian Empire, which like the Rig Veda declared itself "Aryan". Initially, despite the fundamentalism inherent in the official Zoroastrian religion, the Persian Emperors tolerated the various cultures and religions of the empire - from Egypt to India - but after an uprising in Babylon, the old religion there was suppressed.

When Islamic conquerors invaded India, they defaced the statues in the sex temples, and imposed a puritan "reform" of Hinduism under Sankaracharya, which remains to this day. It was maintained by the Christian puritanism of the British Empire. In the post-independence era, Mahatma Gandhi introduced Jain influences into Hinduism, such that a partial merger has occurred between the two. The Jains take a very hard line on sex.

D. P. Singal noted in India and World Civilization, Volume II (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1972):

"For instance, the vedantic philosophy of monism, the principal teaching of the Upanishads, was revived under the vigorous guidance of Sankaracharya (Sankara). Opinion is divided as to whether the new emphasis on the upanishadic thought was the consequence of the Islamic impact or a natural stage in the development of Hindu thought". (p. 169)

As part of this reform, the god Siva has been reworked, substantially removing the sex element. The Sivalingam remains, but Siva's sadhus today are celibates.

The West's cultural revolution (the 60s revolution) - this Jewish-led reaction to Christianity - has gone too far. The sacredness of sex - which requires understatement, something to be left to the imagination - is gone. Pornography, profanity and foul speech proliferate; cohabiting and Gay Marriage are treated as the equivalent of heterosexual marriage.

But in India the opposite applies; why can't we get a middle path?

One sees the repression of sex everywhere in India and Pakistan today. In India, apart from the ancient sex temples, no display of the human body is allowed. If you swim at the beach, you must "cover up".

Nearly all marriages are arranged (by parents, about age 25). If you marry outside your caste, your relatives will incite violence against you.

There is no sex before marriage; I recently was told of a case where relatives had killed the two young people who violated this rule.

There's no adultery either. And it would be very difficult, because there's no privacy.

Men and women are not allowed to touch each other in public.

No-one has sex with a person of their own choosing. There is no culture of courtship between the sexes. No flirting.

Prostitution is not only illegal, but actively suppressed. Police can apprehend a woman travelling at night, and issue her an on-the-spot fine if she cannot explain where she is going.

Where prostitution exists underground, being unregulated, it is disease-prone.

The most active branch of Hinduism among Westerners is the Hare Krishna movement of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Like Buddha, before becoming a sadhu (holy man), Prabhupada was married with children. But like Buddha's followers, many of his followers have no sex life at all.

I knew a member of the Hare Krishnas (in Canberra), and visited a Hare Krishna farm in northern NSW.

Hare Krishna members in the West are required to be celibate, unless they are married. And if they are married, they are only allowed to have sex when they want to conceive, and then, only at the fertile time about once a month. Otherwise, there's no sex at all.

The rest of the time, they are supposed to be content with singing Hare Krishna.

And so I would guess that even within Indian marriages there's probably not much sex. The congested living conditions do not help.

A fifth of the world's population lives in a Convent - a regime devoted to Celibacy.

The reason given for such a lifestyle is to liberate us from the cycle of karma, i.e. being reborn to face another lifetime on this earth. Yet, reincarnation is assumed rather than proven.

This whole topic is of great interest to me, because of my own Catholic background. In 1966, at the age of 17, I entered a Catholic seminary, to become a celibate priest. A year earlier, I had won, as a prize at school, a copy of E. M. Forster's book A Passage to India, but threw it in the rubbish bin, so shocked was I at a sex scene.

What got me out of the seminary was, more than anything else, the West's Jewish-led cultural revolution. In the seminary we studied Marx and Freud; it was theoretical, not based on the actual history of the USSR, and avoiding any mention of the Jewish creation of that regime and their overthrow by Stalin. Because of Stalin, Jews in the West had turned to the New Left. In the universities the movement was led by the Frankfurt School, Herbert Marcuse and Noam Chomsky; on the streets the revolution was led by Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, and Jerry Rubin. Even Bob Dylan (Zimmerman) hid his Jewishness.

John Lennon was not Jewish, but he was a Trotskyist, and inspired by these Jewish activists.

The Jewish leaders of this revolution went too far. In every branch, Jews were extremists. Andrea Dworkin was the most extreme anti-heterosexual Feminist, even though she later secretly married a Gay Jewish activist.

Wikipedia records of her:

{quote} In 1974, she met feminist writer and activist John Stoltenberg when they both walked out on a poetry reading in Greenwich Village over misogynist material. They became close friends and eventually came to live together. Stoltenberg wrote a series of radical feminist books and articles on masculinity. Although Dworkin publicly wrote "I love John with my heart and soul" and Stoltenberg described Dworkin as "the love of my life", she continued to publicly identify herself as lesbian, and he as gay.


Benjamin Disraeli, later Prime Minister of Britain, wrote the following in 1852 in his book Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography (Archibald, Constable & Co. Ltd., London 1905):

{p. 318} Persecution, in a word, although unjust, may have reduced the modern Jews to a state almost justifying malignant vengeance. They may become so odious and so hostile to mankind, as to merit for their present conduct, no matter how occasioned, the obloquy and ill-treatment of the communities in which they dwell, and with which they are scarcely permitted to mingle.

{p. 323} They may be traced in the last outbreak of the destruc-

{p. 324} tive principle in Europe. An insurrection takes place against tradition and aristocracy, against religion and property. Destruction of the Semitic principle, extirpation of the Jewish religion, whether in the mosaic or in the christian form, the natural equality of man and the abrogation of property, are proclaimed by the secret societies who form provisional governments, and men of Jewish race are found at the head of every one of them. The people of God co-operate with atheists; the most skilful accumulators of property ally themselves with communists; the peculiar and chosen race touch the hand of all the scum and low castes of Europe! And all this because they wish to destroy that ungrateful Christendom which owes to them even its name, and whose tyranny they can no longer endure.

{endquote} disraeli.html

Disraeli's remedy for this Jewish left was Zionism, the Jewish right. In our time it's the Neocon camp, which has led us to war against Islam, a war with a wide periphery but whose centre is Israel/Palestine. What sort of choice is this?

However repressive Islam may be, this war will only make it more fundamentalist, not less.

When I arrived back in Australia from India, I slept the night at Brisbane airport, because there were no trains after 7pm. In the morning, I caught the first train, and my companions on the plaform were a young couple from Mumbai (Bombay), who had also slept the night at the airport.

They were caressing, but not in the overdone way one finds among those who have grown up here.

I asked them where they were from, and mentioned that I had just come from India. And then I said,

"What you were doing now - touching each other - is not allowed in India."

The young woman agreed. Then I observed, "Hinduism is like Islam. Hinduism is like Islam."

The young woman said, "You are right."

She was about 25, he a few years older. I would say that they were migrants to Australia, because they seemed to feel at home, and the young man was even saying to the attendant that the train ticket was too expensive (it's because airport railways are privately run).

She was sweetly-spoken, and as lovely as any goddess depicted on India's temples. She restored my faith in Indian women. But only outside India could they bahave naturally.

(2) Surviving India and Pakistan

Shortly before I left for India, terrorists set off a bomb in New Delhi. I did not let this affect me - I took it to be a one-off, and I never bother with travel insurance anyway - but thousands of other travellers cancelled. Millions of people in India who depend on the tourist industry for their income were affected by this decline in numbers, and sought out the few remaining intrepid adventurers the more desperately, to press their wares or their services as guides.

When planning my trip to India and Pakistan, I ignored diplomatic warnings not to go to Pakistan, because travellers writing on the Lonely Planet forum said it was ok. They were on the ground; the diplomats lived in ivory towers. Equally, I ignored the advice of travel agents etc to take money in the form of credit cards, and instead took Australian dollar notes, once again because writers at the Lonely Planet forum said this worked well. They knew India far better than travel agents did.

Also on the internet, I came across a wonderful medicine called Travelan, which protects travellers from getting diarrohea caused by e-coli bacteria. This is a common problem in India and many other countries because hardly anyone uses toilet paper. I can't praise Travelan too much.

In India, you can either seclude yourself from the mass of people by travelling in tours, with your luggage packed in a suitcase, or you can venture out with a backpack and take public transport, in which case you will encounter destitute and disabled people asking you for money everywhere you go.

I chose the latter path: I wanted to experience the real India. If you do too, carry losts of small notes in the local currency; you can't afford to hand out big notes.

I wore a money-belt outside my clothes. It had three compartments; I used the first for 10, 20 and 50 Rupee notes; the second for 100 Rs notes; and the third for 500 Rs notes.

However, that was just for daily expenses; my main money and passport were in a secret pocket which I never accessed in public.

A woman carrying a handbag should treat it as a "decoy bag", sacrificable in case of theft: only carry enough money in it for the day's expenses, with the remainder in a secret pocket.

My train and airline tickets were e-tickets, and therefore not critical.

I planned my trip and booked my plane and train tickets 6 months early, and then forgot about it. But as the time approached, I became apprehensive. My local doctor is an Indian Moslem who was born in Pakistan at Sukkur, west of the Indus, and knew Larkana, my base for visiting MohenjoDaro; he gave me, not only injections and malaria tablets, but useful advice.

"You are going to a difficult country," he said. "But it's a good country: the people are friendly."

He told me not to drink the tap water, or water in bottles with loose lids (they are merely filled with tap water). Drink only water sold as "mineral water" or "treated water", with sealed tops. Even in the shower, never let the water enter your mouth. When brushing your teeth or rinsing your toothbrush, use only bottled water.

He himself, when he goes home, boils water each night for use the next day.

Tap water contains Giardia parasites, which cause diarrohea, loss of appetite, malaise and weight loss. Metronidazole (Flagyl) tablets are readily available at medicine stores in India, to treat it, but they kill the bacteria in your gut.

In Kuala Lumpur, on the way in, someone who had lived for years in both India and China said to me, "At least China has a culture; in India it's just survival".

Only after arriving in India did I discover that I had left my Lonely Planet Guide to Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur. I was to spend five days in Pakistan, travelling from one end to the other (Lahore to Karachi), without so much as a map. Fortunately, my host in KL was able to email me details from the LP guide of where to stay on my first night in Pakistan. I had left my schedule and e-tickets in KL too, but I had brought two copies of both (one in my checkin baggage and one in my hand baggage), so still had one copy of each. The schedule was an Excel spreadsheet that contained itinerary, addresses, phone numbers etc; I had taken the precaution of placing a copy of it on my website.

I arrived in Chennai (Madras) about 9pm on a Thursday night. Most other travellers caught a taxi or a tricycle (auto-rickshaw) to their accomodation, but I caught a suburban train into the city. As was often to be the case, I was the only foreigner on it. Then an auto (auto-rickshaw, tricycle) to my backpacker lodge.

Chennai is a city of 20 million people: the whole population of Australia crammed into one place.

From Chennai, over the next two days, I caught long-distance buses to visit Siva temples at Tiruvannamalai and Chidambaram. The LP guide said that Tiruvannamalai is unspoilt, and free of the commercialism that afflicts other Hindu temples, but I was to find out better.

Ceremonies are held at night. Whereas devout Hindus came from far away to have their prayers answered (by the god, through the priests as intermediaries), I regarded the gods as works of art, windows into the soul of the civilization which created them. Why did I need priests to pray for me, and charge money for it, when I could do it directly myself?

I have long been impressed by the depiction of male beauty and female beauty in the statues of the gods and goddesses at Indian temples. This is what I wanted to see; Western culture is sorely lacking by comparison.

The nightime ceremonies involved fire, and impressed all the senses, such that one felt overpowered. The whole thing was a theatrical performance.

At the entrance of the Tiruvannamalai temple sits a row of poor people requesting food. As was expected, I paid Rs100 for food to feed 10 of them, and placed this food in the hands of each.

As I went in, I removed my thongs (I wore shorts & thongs for the entire duration of my trip, even in Pakistan), and very quickly someone offered to guide me through the temple. There was no talk of money at this stage, but when we finished (90 minutes or so later),I found that my guide was charging me by the hour.

When it was my turn to meet one of the Brahmin priests, I was asked for the names of family members. Later, I found that the priest was doing prayers for them, for which, my guide assured me, I needed to pay Rs300 (about $A10). A priest later came out, with a money-bag, to get the payment of another contributor, and changed money in front of me. It was then my turn to pay, and he did the same with me.

After 90 minutes, my guide presented his bill: Rs450, for 90 minutes. But, I remonstrated, I had already paid Rs300 to the priest. So I only offered Rs100. He declined to accept it at first, but did so later.

That was only the first of many occasions when I would accept someone's services with only a vague idea of what the cost would be. Usually, I did not mind paying, but would have liked a definite arrangement in advance. Everyhere I went, I heard voices saying, "Hello, hello". It was not friendship but the start of a sales pitch - they either wanted money, or were trying to sell me something.

At Chidambaram I was met by my friend Nata RamKumar. A gentle man about my own age, he arranges trade contracts in the south of Tamil Nadu state. His brother grows rice on 50 acres of land, cultivating by tractor and employing locals to harvest by hand, but this year the rains did not come.

Nata gave me lunch, and later showed me through the temple of Siva the Cosmic Dancer. This is Siva standing with one leg crossed over the other, representing the motion of dance. His 2 upper hands hold a drum (to beat the dance; it represents creation), and fire (symbolising destruction), and the lower hands hold symbols of protection and grace.

The following day, I caught a bus to Mammalapuram, a relaxed seaside town, where I went for a swim and bought some souvenirs. I hired a bicycle for a few hours to see the sights.

Next morning, I had to catch the 8.45am train from Chennai, so got up early and caught a bus from the highway (bypass) bus-stop about 5am.

In the first week, I ate only Indian food. Knowing that Travelan would protect me, I freely ate street food from stalls and vendors on trains and buses, and fruit without washing it or peeling it. I did not get diarrohea.

Only later, after I thought I may have Giardia (from the water), did I eat Western food from cafes.

In the hot weather, I bought freshly-made fruit juices and sugar-cane juice from stalls. The glasses these were served in were washed in tap-water, so I could not avoid Giardia. Also, on occasions I washed my toothbrush with tap-water.

Giardia causes diarrohea; I did not have that, but was a bit loose, and feeling an aversion to food. I read that travellers can have Giardia for weeks without knowing it, so I commenced a 5-day course of the medicine. This seemed to work, because by the 5th day I was feeling better again.

I was surprised to find the railways along the whole east coast electrified; the power usage must be considerable. Whereas towns had scheduled outages of electricity (in Chennai & other major cities, generated from nuclear-power stations), the railways had a guaranteed supply. I was told that it was generated from coal, and saw quite a few coal trains.

There are four tracks (two in each direction), the gauge being 5' 6" (1676 mm), the widest in the world. Inside, the carriages are about 3m (10') wide. Trains are typically 24 carriages long, and pulled by electric locos. Seats are converted into 3-tier bunks at night. Freight trains are not containerised, nor did I see the usage of pallets & forklifts; I saw no shipping containers in India, but they are used in Pakistan.

The trains are not as modern of those of China today (which use foreign technology), but India's seem home-grown. The numbers of people moved, and the tonnage of freight, are mind-boggling.

About 5,000 express trains run the length or breadth of India every day, taking about 36 hours to complete their journeys.

At railway stations, I had to run the gauntlet of beggars. Wealthy Indians barge through them as if they are not there; they only beg from foreigners. Cynics dismiss them as "professional" beggars, but most are just unemployed people without income. Every day, I gave about ten Rs10 notes away, but then got fed up & just ignored these voices, & even avoided eye contact. It's too hard to say no when they look at you.

In the end, I just had to escape: to put my own survival first, as everyone else does.

In Bhubaneswar I accepted my first ride in a bicycle-rickshaw.

Two days later, I had my second ride, this one much longer. The driver, in his mid 30s, let me try riding it myself (see photo below). Having ridden bicycles in Australia for years, I was amazed at how heavy it was.

He told me that he rents his rickshaw from the government for Rs30 a day; I noticed a newer, lightweight kind, but most in use were the heavy kind. There are no Feminists stepping forward to do this job - only men ride them, poor things.

For Rs3000 ($A100) he could buy his own rickshaw, but this is "big money" for him. His wife, a housewife like most married women, has TB throughout her body, and he has two children.

We did a long journey to two temples, for which I paid Rs500. Given the weight and the heat, I could not complain. The potholes and rough edges forced us, and all other vehicles, to keep slowing down and accelerating.

Trains are identified by their number, e.g. 2801. Here's how I caught my train from Bhubaneswar to Gaya:

Train #2801 (Purushottam Express), from Puri to New Delhi via Gaya Junction, was scheduled to leave Bhubaneswar at11.25pm:

At Bhubaneswar there were eight platforms; I have heard of travellers missing their train because they waited on the wrong platform. Which platform would my train arrive on?

I had to stand near the loudspeaker and listen closely to the announcement that train 2801 was approaching (in Hindi, English and another language), while a beggar with deformed feet zeroed in on me, sliding across the platform on his bottom.

I could not see the number of my carriage - B1 - but someone told me which one it was. My train left on time. After a few hours of travel, it was running 25 minutes late. It was due to arrive at Gaya at 1.55 am. I wanted to sleep, but they do not announce the stations - how was I to know where we were? Since we were 25 minutes late, I set my alarm clock for about 2am, thinking I would prepare then.

One man on the train, who works for the railways, told me he would let me know when we arrived at Gaya. He did, and to my surprise we were 25 minutes early, arriving at 1.30am instead of 1.55am. We had made up 50 minutes. The man asked for Rs50, but I only had 30, which I gladly gave him.

At Gaya there were hundreds of people hanging around, even at 1.30am. A couple of auto-rickshaw drivers came up, & I got one to bring me to Bodhgaya, a 30 minute trip for Rs200.

He knew a hotel at Bodhgaya which allowed night admission. So I went there, arriving at 2am; it charged Rs 400. The next night, I stayed at a Tibetan monastery for Rs 200 (shared toilet etc). It was the most peaceful place I had stayed in.

In Bodhgaya, a guide took me to a hill where a woman had given food to Buddha. He then took me to a private school for village children, where a teacher told me about the work of the school, how it was better than government schools, and implicitly made a pitch for a donation. A boy about 10 years old was brought in to demonstrate his English. He told me that he weanted to be a Social Worker when he grew up, to help the poor people.

On the wall was a photo of Mother Theresa.

I parted with Rs200, but pointed out that Mother Theresa, in line with official Catholic policy, opposed Family Planning. She thus perpetuated the problem, while asking for donations to fix it.

At Varanasi, my next stop, the rower of my boat along the Ganges pointed out a bigger establishment of Mother Theresa there, and said that the biggest one is in Calcutta.

The Hindu approach to the population disaster is just like Mother Theresa's: trust in God, keep the traditional religion going, let the population build up, then ask for donations for the poor.

The same problem occurs in Islamic countries e.g. Pakistan, Catholic countries e.g. the Philippines, and in Buddhist countries.

And so, during my trip, I came to see the religions - all of the major religions, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism - as the cause of the problem.

I got skinned in Varanasi, and could not get out of it soon enough.

I took the train there from Gaya, and made the mistake of booking Sleeper Class. This is a cheaper class, non-airconditioned, which on most trains would be ok. I chose it to experience the different kinds of people in different classes, not realizing that there is a shortage of trains between Varanasi and Gaya. Indian railways use long-distance trains, but should schedule additional short-distance trains for such busy sectors.

I found myself in a non-airconditioned carriage supposed to carry about 81, but in fact carrying about 250. "Sardine Class" would have been a more accurate description. Even though I had a confirmed seat, others were sitting there, and the ticket inspector did not have the nerve to challenge them. I ended up cramped against the roof on a top bunk (the top of three levels), feeling claustrophobic and hardly able to breathe.

Not being able to take this for too long, I got down, made my way (with backpack) through the crowd, got off the train at the next station, and ran up the platform to the AC3 (Air-conditioned 3rd Class) carriages, planning to ask if I could upgrade my ticket.

No seats were available, but I was allowed to stand there, at the end of one carriage.

I arrived at MughalSarai station about 5.30pm. A man with a taxi said he would take me to Varanasi for Rs300. We pulled in to get petrol, which I had to pay for (Rs100). Then he asked if I drink beer; he clearly felt like one himself. I was not feeling well, but agreed, and we pulled in at a bottle shop, where I bought one for each of us (about Rs80 each).

When we got to the hotel, he asked Rs500 for this trip. But I reminded him of the petrol and the beer, so he accepted Rs300 as originally agreed. The hotel manager punched a number into a machine, which I knew was the driver's Agent#: he would get a fee for bringing me, which would be added to my bill at the hotel.

Varanasi (Benares) is the holiest site of Hinduism; a boat trip along the Ganges is almost mandatory here.

The LP guide said to do an hour-long boat trip, for about Rs600. But I was taken, by the manager of my hotel, to a ghat (set of steps down to the water) where I had to pay Rs3000 (nearly $A100) for a 2-hour trip. The manager said I needed this "full trip", but later I realised that the 1-hour trip would have sufficed.

I was rowed in a heavy boat about 4 metres long. In retrospect, I would have preferred a smaller boat, e.g. a fishing boat; sharing with other people would also have been preferable.

The rower only spoke broken English, but informed me that the boat-owner, who charged Rs3000 for this one trip, only paid him Rs1500 a month. On average he did 3 trips a day. And so, he asked for a tip; I offered Rs100 as I left the boat.

The LP Guide warns of "the Varanasi shakedown". In my case, it continued when the manager of my hotel then pressured me to let him take me to a couple of other places I did not want to go to. What I most disliked was the failure to tell me in advance what the costs would be; instead, he kept saying that I was his guest, as if his services would be free. He maintained this deception until he presented his bill. I left the hotel, to get out of his clutches, and spent the next 12 hours at Varanasi railway station. Running the gauntlet of beggars was preferable to being ripped off by managers and guides.

A colony of monkeys lived at the station, and sometimes crossed the tracks. A couple of cows also walked along the tracks.

The overpopulation and poverty was turning me against Hinduism, because it does not talk about these problems. I could only see it as ultimately to blame, so I declined the offer of a visit to Benares Hindu University. It would just be another part of the shakedown.

At Varanasi railway station I noticed stall-workers, selling food and drinks, working solidly for the whole 12 hours. Apparently they are there 7 days a week, sometimes even sleeping on the platform, just trying to make a living.

My train for Satna left late, after midnight; I had another bad night's sleep.

After a 4-hour bus trip from Satna, my next two nights were at Khajuraho, a relatively pleasant town with ancient sex temples but also some Jain temples. On the streets, one faces constant pressure to buy things; hiring a bicycle (to see the sights) also enabled me to escape that pressure.

At my hotel, a staff member told me that he earns Rs1000 a month ($A1a day) for working from 8am to 10.30 pm, 7 days a week, with no paid leave. In addition he receives a lunch of chapatis and lentils.

Once again I hold Hinduism responsible for such unfairness. This religion has its mind on the "other world" or the "next life"; it has no sense of a fair distribution here on earth. I was coming to see it not so much as an "opium" as a distraction from the reality all around.

After another bus trip, the next two nights were at Orchha, a small town off the beaten track, where medieval palances and forts are interspersed with modern buildings. It was relaxing and peaceful, my favourite place in India. The street sellers were not persistent, and, unlike Khajuraho, included women as much as men. I hired a bicycle for a few hours.

I arranged to check out on my final morning at 7am, and booked a car trip to see the Jain temples at Sonagir. The manager of the hotel would be my guide. The cost was to be Rs1800 (a bit under $60), but it would be worthwhile because this is an area few foreigners know about; it's not even mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. The manager said that he takes a lot of Indian people there. He arranged to drop me at Sonagir railway station by 12 noon, for the 12.34pm train to Agra.

I had a chat in Orchha with a young Australian woman returning home after a year & half in London, where she had been a Casting Agent.

She noticed my Australian accent; but I thought hers sounded English. This horrified her; "My dad will shoot me," she said.

She's something of a Feminist, but said Feminism in the West has gone too far - where a man is afraid to ask a woman for a date lest he be accused of harassment.

She could even see a point in Arranged Marriages (arranged by parents) which is the norm in India. Everyone is married off about the age of 25.

When I objected that there's no Courtship between the sexes in India, she said, "Well, what is Courtship in the West, but getting 'smashed' at a disco?"

In Sonagir, we had to hire a local guide. After touring the temples, I met a naked Jain monk (photos below), and then saw the monks being fed.

They only eat and drink once a day, about noon, standing up. They hold out their hands in a cupped shape, and attendants pour food - I saw a runny mix of rice and probably vegetables - into their hands. Some drains through their fingers. They eat this food, and several more lots, then hold out their hands, cupped once again, for the attendants to pour a drink in - I think just water. They can have several fill-ups; but this food and this drink is their only food and drink each day. All the time they are naked.

I paid the manager the agreed Rs1800, plus Rs300 for additional expenses he had incurred on my behalf (eg for the guide), and bid him farewell at the station. I said he need not wait, because the train could be late (it was; one hour late).

I arrived in Agra about 5pm, and had a quick look at the Red Fort. The next morning, I got up at 5am and, with help from a guide (Rs300), spent half an hour at the Taj Mahal, before catching an auto to my hotel and the railway station. My train left at 8am.

This was a fast, priority train to Delhi, where Sandhya Jain, an occasional journalist, was to meet me. She also met Israel Shamir when he was in Delhi for a conference. And she runs an independent website.

She's something of a Hindu Nationalist but, unlike some, has no problem with Islam, and says India should not let the US use it against China.

My train arrived at Nizzamuddin station at 10.45am, 25 minutes late; but where was Sandhya? There were numerous platforms and trains; I climbed the steps to the top of an overhead bridge (one of two). Should I go to the left side or the right?

Fortunately, I had Sandhya's mobile# in my schedule (I planned the trip on a spreadsheet), and another passenger rang her for me. I was so glad to make that contact and see her waving.

Sandhya had a car, and her driver took us to a club for lunch. Except that I was not allowed in, because I was wearing shorts and thongs. However, they allowed me to sit in an outside area.

After that, it was off to the National Museum, to look at the Archaeology section, specifically artifacts of the Indus civilization.

And then to the airport, for my plane to Lahore in Pakistan. A couple of beggar-women knocked on the window, asking for money. I did not oblige, but I think about them.

The roads in Delhi were much better than those I had seen elsewhere in India, and private cars were much more widely used. So beggars knocked on the window, having no other way to gain attention.

I had "roughed it" in India. There is an India I did not see, of middle-class professionals and business people, who launched the moon rocket just after I got back to Australia, and who dream of making India a superpower. But I worry that these two Indias might come apart. I don't think that India can become a superpower unless it imposes a 1-child policy and a similar management-style to China. The next best policy it can adopt is to avoid being drawn into other people's wars.

I was more interested in rural areas than cities. Urban Hindus are vegetarian, but villagers rear, and eat, goats, sheep, pigs and fowls (chickens).

Apples from Kashmir were plentiful in fruit stalls, alongside local bananas, guavas, pommegranates, grapes, and green oranges (harvested before ripening). A tree I took to be Tamarind was widely planted along roadsides.

But I did not see many orchards in India, and I was surprised to see a lot of unused waste land (eg in between cultivated fields, which were mostly dry from lack of rain). Even when fields are dry, fruit trees survive because of their deep roots. I myself grow a wide variety of tropical and subtropical fruit trees on my small block, and am an (amateur) member of the Rare Fruit Council.

I expected to see mango trees, jakfruit, lychee, custard-apple, avocado, mulberry, fig, mandarin etc.; not as cash crops, but as single trees to feed the villagers, permaculture-style. Fruits from Central and South America, such as Mamey Sapote, White Sapote, Black Sapote, Abiu, Star Apple (Chrysophyllum Caimito), Jaboticaba, Panama Berry (Jamaica cherry) and Capulin Cherry should also do well. Comprehensive information on these trees and others is at and Seeds can be bought at

I never saw any traffic accidents in India. Mostly, the roads were so congested with buses, trucks, auto-rickshaws, bicycle-rickshaws, cows, dogs and cars, that speed was impossible.

I spent many hot nights in un-airconditioned rooms. Mostly, I would have a shower but not dry myself, and lie down with the ceiling fan on. If a room was in a corner or side of the building which had been facing the sun, it was especially uncomfortable.

A hotel might have a flat concrete roof, which serves as an outdoor dining area. Yet, the bedrooms underneath are heated during the day by the concrete ceiling. Those bedrooms take a lot of cooling.

New hotels are being built without any insulation; there's an assumption that air-conditioning will cool them.

In rural areas and towns I saw numerous buildings under construction, always from solid brick (without cavity) and other heavy materials which retain heat at night. Never once did I see insulation, solar panels, or any attempt at cooling buildings by reflective paints. Instead, the inhabitants either put up with the heat at night, or fans and air-conditioning are resorted to.

People in India throw plastic bags and other bits of plastic rubbish onto the ground and leave them there in piles. I saw this in every town except Orchha. At Varanasi railway station, plastic rubbish from the platform is swept onto the railway tracks. Plastic rubbish is even thrown into the sacred Ganges River; I made a point of photographing it at Varanasi (see below). Have Indians no sense of shame? India needs to copy the Tidy Towns competitions which have changed public attitudes eg in Australia.

As for the toilets, the less said the better.

The pilot of my Pakistani International Airlines flight from Delhi was a woman. This was the first time I had heard a woman speaking as the captain - and this in a Muslim country.

I arrived in Lahore, without any travel guide or map, about 9pm. Few people in Pakistan speak English; yet someone always came up & helped me.

There's only one Backpacker joint in Lahore, & the airport taxi people wanted to send me instead to a classy hotel charging Rs3000+ ($60+) a night.

With guards all around, the man at the airport taxi counter said, "This is Pakistan!"

But I replied, "So what?" I was not going to be panicked.

The taxi driver did not speak English, so the destination had to be arranged, and the trip paid for, beforehand.

I went to the backpacker place, even though, when I rang from the airport, a man who spoke little English seemed to say they had no rooms.

The place was rough; but they had dormitory beds for Rs195.

The power was off, then came on for a while, then went off and was still off when I left 12 hours later. The water was also off - it's off from 10pm to 7.30am each day. This meant no water for flushing a toilet. Instead, one gets one or two bottles of bottled water from a freezer. I was told that this water is "filtered" and drunk by everyone there, so I took a bottle for myself.

The owner said to pay the bill in the morning; he'd also photocopy some of the Lonely Planet travel guide for me.

But in the morning, no-one was up. I woke one of the residents, who said, "It's Sunday. The boss might not be in 'till late in the afternoon, if at all."

I woke up the staff member on duty, the one who hardly spoke English, and sought to pay my bill, but he said he did not have change.

Eventually he found change. I woke the resident again, to ask how to find a bus to Harappa (it's on the way to Multan).

At his advice, I went out & hailed a auto-rickshaw for the Daewoo bus station (Rs500). But those buses did not go via Harappa; I was told to catch a Niazi bus instead. So I got another auto, and this one took me, not to Niazi, but to another company, Power International, which did have a bus going to Multan via Harappa Road (a village).

At Harappa Road, I found a taxi to take me to Harappa Museum (Rs300).

I stayed the night at the Archaeological Rest House, where Archaeologists stay during the cooler months from December to March; I was the only guest. They only charged Rs200 for the room, plus I paid 200 to visit the museum & site, 200 for dinner & 200 for breakfast & 100 for some fruit, 500 for books about the site & 800 for replica seals & small animals.

The gardens were watered and tended carefully; this was a restful place to stay, and the caretaker (who cooks for the Archaeologists) cooked a delicious dinner for me (and his family) and served it in a dining room where he sat with me as I ate. Compared to Lahore, this was Heaven.

There isn't a lot to see at the ruins, however, because British railway-workers pinched the bricks for railway-building in the nineteenth century. Many were used to build Harappa railway station.

The power was off intermittently, but the water was on the whole time, so I had a shower.

I had asked the taxi to pick me up in the morning at 8.30. The caretaker told me not to go back to Harappa Road, probably because it's just a whistle stop, but that a town called Chicha Watni would be a better place for catching a bus to Multan.

At Chicha Watni the taxi driver left me in the hands of people who did not speak English, with instructions to put me on the bus to Multan. They brought me a glass of tap water, which I had to drink; I could not risk offending them.

At Multan, there seemed to be few hotels, and they were all expensive. Mine, Sindbad, wanted to charge Rs3000, but I said I normally only take rooms costing 600. They offered one for 900, with plaster peeling off the walls. It was ok. I had the afternoon free.

I had a bean salad for lunch - I had never seen that sort of food in India - and several glasses of a delicious fruit juice made of mixed fruits of many colours. There's a more experimental approach to food than in India.

Pakistan seemed to belong to a different civilization from India - a Middle Eastern one. The language (Urdu) is much the same as Hindi, but the script is Arabic.

Road transport is used in Pakistan, whereas India uses trains much more; the roads in Pakistan are better. The vehicles are Japanese or Korean in origin even if locally assembled; Pakistan has little manufacturing industry. The toilets are more hygenic; men do not urinate in public; nor does one see plastic rubbish everywhere as in India. Fewer people asked for money, and there was no pressure to buy things.

Pakistanis seemed, on the whole, stockier people than Indians. This apparently is because of Arab admixture.

The next day, I had an 8-hour trip ahead of me, to Sukkur on the Indus River.

I now know that I should have caught the 8am train from Multan to Rohri; from Rohri , the train continues on towards Karachi, on the east of the Indus River, but you must cross the river to the west side. It's better to go straight to Larkana (90 minutes), by minibus or taxi, because accomodation in Sukkur is tight and expensive.

However, not knowing that, I planned to go by bus.

In India, buses of all operators leave from a common bus station, but in Pakistan each bus uses its own station. Consequently it can be difficult to find a bus for your destination. Daewoo Bus had a bus for Sukkur at 2pm, but I wanted an earlier one, so I took a 10am one for Sadiq Abad on the understanding that I could change buses; I was advised to get off at Rahim-Yar-Kahn, and sold a ticket for that town.

The bus dropped me off at a service station, where I was told to catch a shuttle bus to Rahim-Yar-Kahn, where I would find a connecting bus.

Someone came up and, on learning my destination, told me that the bus should not have dropped me here. It would be hard to catch a bus to Sukkur from here. I should have continued on to Sadiq Abad, a much bigger city with many more buses.

He later helped me catch a bus about 6pm, a slow bus that kept stopping. No-one spoke English. I had to get off for a toilet stop a few times - at bigger stops - always worrying that it would go without me. I would ask the conductor "Toilet?", and head where he pointed.

We went via Sadiq Abad anyway, where my first bus could have dropped me.

The bus must have been heading for Karachi, and dropped me at Rohri, not Sukkur, about 10.30pm. I asked an auto to take me to a hotel in Sukkur, across the Indus. We went to about six of them, all expensive (Rs000s) and all full, apparently of business people. I ended up back where I started at 11.30 pm, & paid the driver Rs200.

There was a taxi, and I asked it to take me to Larkana, 90 minutes away, where I would be going the next day. But after crossing the Indus and driving along back roads for 10 minutes, we came to another hotel, the Indo-Pak, which had one room for Rs4500 ($A90). I had to take it.

The attendant at the desk advised me not to go to Larkana by bus. "It's dangerous; take a taxi instead".

I went to sleep, but woke up every 2 hours, as "benign prostate" forces me to do every night. The airconditioner had switched itself off, so I went down to the desk about 2am to ask how to switch it on.

The staff had changed by this time, and I spoke with a man who seemed to know Larkana well. He said it was safe and that I should catch the bus. I booked breakfast for 7.30am and an auto-rickshaw for 8am, to take me to the Larkana bus-stop.

The bus was a minibus, crowded but without any problem.

Larkana was a friendly and pleasant town. Water lay in the fields, sugar and rice were being harvested, fruit and vegetables abounded in the roadside stalls; I even saw fish for sale. Larkana had been the home of Benazir Bhutto, and her photo was everywhere. Except for the militants (who are in the north & west of the country), everyone else seemed to find it hard to get over her loss. She had been their only hope.

A doctor who spoke English helped me and put me in an auto-rickshaw (the driver spoke no English) to take me to the Al Madina bus-station (for arranging my bus to Karachi the next day), to a hotel (Rs1000), and take me the 27km trip to MohenjoDaro and back. He even waited several hours for me there; I think he came from that area and had other things to do there.

MohenjoDaro was the highlight of my trip. This was the first time I had been to one of the earliest civilizations, on a par with Sumeria and Egypt. The city had been carefully laid out with parallel streets - wide main streets and narrow alleys. The buildings were of fired brick. Circular brick wells, going deep underground, supplied water; covered brick drains carried water and waste away. The drainage system here was the most advanced in the world. In the administrative area there was a big swimming pool, the Great Bath, with drains to take the overflow. And a temple, at the highest point, once thought to have been a Buddhist stupa added later.

Ox-carts brought goods to and fro. There were even toy models, for children to play with.

Two bronze statues of naked dancing girls, and the personal ornamentation used by both men and women, show that these people were much more individualist than is allowed in Islam or Hinduism.

The standard Islamic dress is like Mao-suits, drab but one-class.

The Al Madina bus trip to Karachi the next day was uneventful. But Karachi, another city of 20-22 million, was so depressing that I spent eight hours at the airport.

The taxi driver, aged about 31, had been unable to marry because he could not afford the ceremony. He was the sole supporter of his parents and younger sisters. He gave me his mobile# in case I should find an Australian woman who wanted to marry him and bring him here.

At the airport I met a Pakistani engineer who had worked at one of Pakistan's ten nuclear reactors. He was off to Dubai to look for a better-paying job, even if lower-skilled. Many Indians and Pakistanis work in the United Arab Emirates and other oil-rich Gulf countries.

When the PIA counter told me, "Your Malaysia Airlines ticket is reconfirmed", I felt an incredible sense of relief. I was nearly home.

(3) The Temple of the Sun, at Konark

The Chariot Riding Sun God Surya - by C. Hartley

Surya is the important ancient Hindu Solar God. There are many hymns found in the Rig Veda which mention or honor Surya. The Rig Veda is a collection of more than a thousand hymns written between 1200 and 900 B.C. by people known as Aryans, who came to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India from the Eurasian steppes to the north. The Rig Veda is one of the earliest known writings written in any Indo-European language. Hymn I.50 speaks to the Sun. (This passage is from The RigVeda; an anthology, a translation by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Penguin Press, London, 1981)

{from the Rig Veda, I.50, i.e. Book 1, Hymn 50; verse numbers added}

1 His brilliant banners draw upward the god who knows all creatures, so that everyone may see the Sun.
2 The constellations, along with the nights, steal away like thieves, making way for the Sun who gazes on everyone.
3 The rays that are his banners have become visible from the distance, shining over mankind like blazing fires.
4 Crossing space, you are the maker of light, seen by everyone, O Sun. ...
8 Seven bay mares carry you in the chariot, O Sun God with hair of flame, gazing from afar.
9 The Sun has yoked the seven splendid daughters of the chariot; he goes with them, who yoke themselves. ...

The hymn tells of Surya's chariot being drawn across the sky by seven bay mares. Seven seems to be an important number in many religions. Seven may be significant because there are seven visible celestial bodies that wander across the sky, the Sun, Moon, and the five planets visible to the naked eye, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Because they are all wanders we can call them planets, even though today we normally do not think of the Sun and Moon as planets. "Planets" is a word which comes from the Greek "planet" which means "wander." As is found in the Greco-Roman Calendar the days of the week in the modern Hindu calendar are named for the seven visible planets, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and they are ordered exactly as they are in the Greco-Roman Calendar, a vestige of the ordering by ancient Babylonians {}. Before the Gupta period (about 300 A.D.) the Hindu calendar was a lunar calendar.

Chariots were developed before 3000 B.C. and offered a warrior a stable platform from which to shot arrows and cast spears at his enemies. The horse, which was domesticated probably a 1000 years earlier in the western steppes was also of great importance to the people who wrote the Rig Veda because the horse-riding warrior was able to easily maneuver around his foot-soldier enemy. It is not surprizing that the people who wrote the Rig Veda recognized of the more powerful gods, Surya, as having two of their most powerful weapons of war, the horse and chariot.

(For more information on the early history of chariots and domestic horses see the work of Hartwick College's Professor of Anthropology David Anthony and the Institute for Ancient Equestrian Studies.) {; also see needham-anthony.html}

Today there are a great number of temples in India devoted to Surya.

Many of the temples are easily recognized because they are often decorated with carved images of Surya, who is shown holding two daisy shaped objects, one in each hand, and accompanied by images of horses. Often there are also one or more carved images of a chariot wheel decorating the Surya temples. (A typical depiction of a chariot wheel is shown in the title of this page.) In some cases there are seven gods, representing the planets, shown in association with chariot wheels. ...

This page prepared by C.Hartley, Director of the Ernest B. Wright Observatory at the Department of Physics at Hartwick College in the City of Oneonta, NY.

This beautiful statue of Surya is above the entrance to the Sun Temple at Konark. My own photo did not come out, so I have pinched one. All the other photos are mine: Konark-Surya.jpg

Here are the horses pulling the temple, depicted as a chariot: Konark-horses.jpg.

Here are three photos of the walls of the temple: Konark-wall.jpg,

Here are some depictions of female beauty at this temple (one woman in each sculpture): Konark-beautiful-woman.jpg,

Sculptures of beautiful women (two women in each sculpture):

A sex-scene from this temple (one of many; most are badly weathered): Konark-sex.jpg.

Some other sex scenes from the temple:
(couple) Konark-sex2.jpg,
(note the second woman at the bottom) Konark-sex3.jpg,
(seem to be two men with one woman) Konark-sex4.jpg.

Even though India is very puritanical, plenty of Indian tourists visit this temple. Here are some: Konark-tourists.jpg.

There are many guides at Konark, some registered and some not. I went around with two different guides on the same day (your ticket covers two entries), paying each, but the most helpful person was an unofficial guide who is a photographer specialising in taking photos of the sculptures. He will either take photos for you with his expensive camera, or, if like me you want to take your own with your own cheap camera, point out interesting sculptures to take photos of (there are thousands to choose from). Further, he did not ask for money, although of course I made a donation.

Here he is, in front of the temple (note the statue of Surya the sun-god at the top): Konark-photographer.jpg.

I don't consider these sculptures pornographic. But there are some booklets for sale in the streets of Konark which I do deem pornographic. That's because they sensationalise and overstate, for the purpose of titalliting and making sales to foreigners. I bought a couple of these booklets, just to get rid of the sales pressure, but later regretted it and threw them away.

It's not sex or the body per se which is pornographic, but the separation between the body and the soul. The soul is the personality, which should never be severed from the body. When you unite with another person, it should be a union of spirits, via a union of bodies. Sex is a union of souls, via a union of bodies.

As long as it's kept that way, it's not pornographic.

Out of respect for the personality behind the body, the depiction of sex should not be too explicit. Even the sculptures at Konark leave much to the imagination.

The faces of the people depicted in the sex-scenes at Konark and Khajoraho are incredibly serene.

Pornography, on the other hand, is explicit, crude, demeaning (mostly to women) and exploitative. If I was running the country I would get rid of it, along with poker machines, casinos, and most of the advertising that reaches our young people.

(4) Temple of the 64 Yoginis at Hirapur, between Konark and Bhubaneshwar

This was a Tantric temple. The 64 goddesses are arranged in a circle, and there are some figures of Siva (Shiva) too, an ithyphallic Siva which predates the modern celibate Siva.

Note the damage to their faces. Statues at Khajuraho are damaged in the same way; a guide said that it was inflicted by Moslem invaders.

Here are some of the yoginis: 64Yoginis-women.jpg and 64Yoginis-women2.jpg.

Here are three ithyphallic statues of Siva: 64Yoginis-Siva-ityph.jpg, 64Yoginis-Siva-ityph2.jpg, and 64Yoginis-Siva-ityph3.jpg.

This ithyphallic Siva is reminiscent of a male god found at MohenjoDaro, which suggests that Siva comes from that civilization, and links it with the sex-oriented culture of Sumeria, with its sacred prostitutes based in the temple of the Goddess.

Alain Danielou wrote in Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus,

{p. 24} The towns of the Indus were founded before 3800 B.C. and lasted until their destruction in 1800 B.C. by the Aryan invaders. The principal religion of the Indus civilization was without doubt Shivaism. Extant seals represent an ithyphallic and horned Shiva seated in a Yoga position, or dancing triumphantly as Nataraja. Numerous Shivaite symbols are also found there, such as stone phalli, swastikas. and the images of the bull, the serpent and the Goddess of the Mountains. ...

The migration of the nomadic Aryan peoples - erroneously called Indo-Europeans - played a considerable role in the history of mankind. They left the regions which today compose the Soviet Union probably for climatic reasons, and successively invaded India, the Middle East and Europe.

{p. 28} From the second millennium, Shivaism was gradually absorbed into the Aryan Vedic religion, forming on the one hand later Hinduism, and on the other, Mycenaean and Greek religion. However, Shivaism has resisted this merger and periodically reappears in its ancient form in India as well as in Hellenic Dionysism, and in many later mystic or esoteric sects up to modern times.

{p. 34} During the fourth millennium, a Shivaite civilization arose in the Indus plain. The Sumerians, who probably came from the Indus, arrived in Mesopotamia by sea. The religion which they practised spread all over the Middle East, to Crete and continental Greece. From the beginning of the third millennium up to the Aryan invasions, the three great sister-civilizations of Mohenjo Daro, Sumer and Knossos developed along parallel lines, extending over the whole European continent on the one side, and central and east India and southeast Asia on the other.

{endquote} More at danielou-paglia.html

A scene from the Brahmeswar temple at Bhubaneswar: Bhubaneswar-Brahmeswar.jpg.

Myself riding a rickshaw at Bhubaneswar. It was surprisingly heavy: Bhubaneswar-rickshaw.jpg.

(5) Asoka Rock Edict at Dhauli near Bhubaneswar

A reaction against sex-culture (which saw sex as civilizing - as in the Epic of Gilgamesh) took place in India from 1000 BC. It was expressed in the Upanishads, then in the Jain religion and then Buddhism.

This "Ahimsa" philosophy reached Greece; the Pythagoreans adopted it.

Danielou wrote (op. cit.):

{p. 28} Mahavira, the last Jaina prophet, was the contemporary and rival of Gautama Buddha. Like the Buddhists, the Jainas sent missionaries to all parts of the world. The influence of these naked ascetics was very important in Greece, as can be perceived in certain of the philosophical schools and in Orphism. Later Hinduism took from Jainism the theory of transmigration and vegetarianism which originally existed neither in Shivaism nor in Vedism.

{endquote} More at danielou-paglia.html

Jainism and Buddhism were atheistic. But the Upanishads expressed a theistic version of this new thinking, and Plato's concept of God is surprisingly similar.

'Thus we find Plato's conception of a world of abstract self-existent ideas or "patterns fixed in Nature," af which all individual ideas and forms are copies, correspondes to the Vedic conception of the Absolute out of which springs all relative manifestation.' - Swami Paramananda, Plato and Vedic Idealism (Vedanta Center, Boston, 1924, p. 39).

The Persian Empire included Indian provinces in its eastern territory, and Indian soldiers participated in its army. Alexander's defeat of the Persian Empire led to the first unified Indian state since the Indus Civilization, led by Chandragupta. He himself had met Alexander, and learned much from the Persian Empire while living at Taxila; he borrowed from both to create an independent Indian Empire which bordered Alexander's empire on the east. Chandragupta appears in Greek writings as Sandrokuptos, Sandrokottos or Androcottus.

Emperor Asoka was a grandson of Chandragupta (Sandrocottus in Greek texts). After defeating Kalinga (in modern Orissa) in a terrible war, he converted to Buddhism and made it the religion of India. He even sent missionaries to other countries, including to Alexandria in Egypt.

This later contributed to the rise of Christianity. Buddha was listed as one of the Christian saints, St. Joshaphat. Clement of Alexandria wrote about the Indian holy men and stupas.

Danielou wrote, "Thus saints are substituted for gods in the Christian world: the life of Buddha appears in the lives of the saints under the name of Saint Joshaphat." (op. cit., p.29)

Copying the idea of the Behistun inscription of the Persian empire, Asoka made his own rock edicts setting out his philosophy, in which he exhorted his subjects to uphold morality. Although many holy men were encouraged to a life of celibacy, he himself had a harem of wives.

The edict at Dhauli is in the Pali language: Dhauli-Asoka-Pali.jpg, Dhauli-Asoka-Pali2.jpg.

Here is the English version: Dhauli-Asoka-English.jpg.

In one of his other rock edicts, Asoka wrote of the Hellentistic kingdoms he had sent missionaries to. The Wikipedia page on Asoka (Ashoka) says:

Also, in the Edicts, Ashoka mentions ... some of the people living in Hellenic countries as converts to Buddhism, although no Hellenic historical record of this event remain:

Now it is conquest by Dhamma [(which conquest means peaceful conversion, not military conquest)] that Beloved-of-the-Gods considers to be the best conquest. And it (conquest by Dhamma) has been won here, on the borders, even six hundred yojanas away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni. Here in the king's domain among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dhamma. Even where Beloved-of-the-Gods' envoys have not been, these people too, having heard of the practice of Dhamma and the ordinances and instructions in Dhamma given by Beloved-of-the-Gods, are following it and will continue to do so.
Edicts of Ashoka, Rock Edict (S. Dhammika)[8] ...

This page was last modified on 14 February 2012 at 23:04.

The Wikipedia webpage on the Maurya Empire says:

Relations with the Hellenistic world may have started from the very beginning of the Maurya Empire. Plutarch reports that Chandragupta Maurya met with Alexander the Great, probably around Taxila in the northwest:

"Sandrocottus, when he was a stripling, saw Alexander himself, and we are told that he often said in later times that Alexander narrowly missed making himself master of the country, since its king was hated and despised on account of his baseness and low birth". Plutarch 62-3[26]

Reconquest of the Northwest (c. 310 BCE)

Chandragupta ultimately occupied Northwestern India, in the territories formerly ruled by the Greeks, where he fought the satraps (described as "Prefects" in Western sources) left in place after Alexander ...

Seleucus I Nicator, the Macedonian satrap of the Asian portion of Alexander's former empire, conquered and put under his own authority eastern territories as far as Bactria and the Indus (Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55), until in 305 BCE he entered in a confrontation with Chandragupta ...

Though no accounts of the conflict remain, it is clear that Seleucus ... was forced to surrender much that was already his. Regardless, Seleucus and Chandragupta ultimately reached a settlement and through a treaty sealed in 305 BCE, Seleucus, according to Strabo, ceded a number of territories to Chandragupta, including southern Afghanistan and parts of Persia. ...

It is generally thought that Chandragupta married Seleucus's daughter, or a Greek Macedonian princess, a gift from Seleucus to formalize an alliance. In a return gesture, Chandragupta sent 500 war-elephants, a military asset which would play a decisive role at the Battle of Ipsus in 302 BC. In addition to this treaty, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta ...

"He (Seleucus) crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship."

"After having made a treaty with him (Sandrakotos) and put in order the Orient situation, Seleucos went to war against Antigonus." ‹Junianus Justinus, Historiarum Philippicarum libri XLIV, XV.4.15  ...

Greek population apparently remained in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under Ashoka's rule. ...

Fragments of Edict 13 have been found in Greek, and a full Edict, written in both Greek and Aramaic has been discovered in Kandahar. It is said to be written in excellent Classical Greek, using sophisticated philosophical terms. In this Edict, Ashoka uses the word Eusebeia ("Piety") as the Greek translation for the ubiquitous "Dharma" of his other Edicts written in Prakrit:

"Ten years (of reign) having been completed, King Piodasses (Ashoka) made known (the doctrine of) Piety (???, Eusebeia) to men; and from this moment he has made men more pious, and everything thrives throughout the whole world. And the king abstains from (killing) living beings, and other men and those who (are) huntsmen and fishermen of the king have desisted from hunting. And if some (were) intemperate, they have ceased from their intemperance as was in their power; and obedient to their father and mother and to the elders, in opposition to the past also in the future, by so acting on every occasion, they will live better and more happily". (Trans. by G.P. Carratelli [1] ) ... ...

The Greeks in India even seem to have played an active role in the propagation of Buddhism, as some of the emissaries of Ashoka, such as Dharmaraksita, are described in Pali sources as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist monks, active in Buddhist proselytism (the Mahavamsa, XII[40]). ...

This page was last modified on 16 March 2012 at 15:36.


(6) Bodhgaya, where Buddha "gained enlightenment"

Gaining enlightenment, for Buddha, meant leaving his wife and child. Fortunately, Feminism did not exist in those days, or he might have landed a big Maintenance bill.

Despite my cynicism about that, I could not help feeling awed to be at this site. Here was a philosophy which urged us to limit our destructive tendencies. Even if the Ascetic movement sometimes went to the other extreme, it was a momentous event in history.

Here is the tree where Buddha gained enlightenment: Bodhgaya-tree.jpg.

Here is a plaque marking the occasion: Bodhgaya-plaque.jpg.

This big statue is visited by all the Buddhist pilgrims: Bodhgaya-Buddha-statue.jpg.

One of the temples in Bodhgaya: Bodhgaya-temple.jpg.

(7) Varanasi, the holiest site in Hinduism

As Bodhgaya is the holiest site of Buddhism, Varanasi is the holiest site of HInduism.

The Ganges is the most sacred river, yet Hindus freely throw plastic rubbish into it: Varanasi-plastic-waste.jpg.

Floats used in festivals are also thrown into the Ganges: Varanasi-festival-rubbish.jpg.

(8) Khajuraho - sex temples but also thought-inspiring Jain temple

Khajuraho was built before Konark, but is better-preserved. After the Taj Mahal, this is the second-most-visited site in India, despite its out-of-the-way location; that remoteness helped protect it during the Moslem invasions.

A railway line will soon connect it, however; numerous new hotels have been built in anticipation of a surge in tourism.

Some of the temples:

A wall of one of the temples: Khajoraho-temple-wall.jpg.

A scene from one of the walls: Khajoraho-couples.jpg.

Some temples have carvings on the inside walls: Khajoraho-temple-inside.jpg.

Mahatma Gandhi wanted to erase the sex sculptures. Here are three of them:

The Jain temple at Khajuraho: Khajuraho-Jain-temple.jpg.

The Jain temple contains this statue of the founder, Mahavira. One can only marvel at the extremes of renunciation he went to. Mahavira is always depicted nude, with pendant penis (unlike Siva): Khajuraho-Mahavira.jpg.

Three honoured Jain monks from the past: Khajuraho-3-Jain-monks.jpg.

A plaque at the temple, setting out the principles of Jainism: Khajuraho-Jain-plaque.jpg.

Orchha is close by, but little known and more relaxing. Forts and palaces from the past pop up amongst trees and modern buildings: Orchha-town+palaces.jpg.

Downtown Orchha with fort/palace in background: Orchha-street+palaces.jpg.

Here's the mall: Orchha-mall.jpg.

(9) Sonagir - Jain temples & naked Jain monks

Datia fort (on the way to Sonagir): Datia-fort.jpg. The difference between forts and palaces was that women lived in palaces but not forts.

A plaque at the entrance to the Jain hill-temple complex: Sonagir-plaque.jpg.

Some of the Jain temples: Sonagir-temples.jpg.

With the manager of the hotel in Orchha; he brought me to Sonagir. More temples are in the background: Sonagir-with-manager.jpg.

Three statues (out of about 24) of past Jain monks: Sonagir-Jain-statue.jpg, Sonagir-Jain-statue2.jpg, Sonagir-Jain-statue3.

Myself with a naked Jain monk: Sonagir-with-Jain-monk.jpg.

Naked Jain monks having their once-a-day food and drink (three photos): Sonagir-Jain-monk-food.jpg,

Donkeys in Sonagir: Sonagir-donkeys.jpg.

If you'd like to visit Sonagir (also spelled Sonagiri), be aware that although it's on the main rail line between Jhansi and Delhi, it's a small town and most trains do not stop at the railway station there. Nevertheless you can still make computerized bookings. Here's a list of trains that do stop there (the first four are in pairs, eastwards and westwards; the fifth one should not be there):

(10) Agra - the Taj Mahal

Myself at the Taj: Agra-Taj-Mahal.jpg. The Red Fort: Agra-fort.jpg.

My train to Delhi coming into Agra Cantt railway station: Agra-train-loco.jpg.

This was train #2433, Rajdhani Express from Chennai to Delhi (you must listen carefully for the train#, when it is announced; and for which platform# it's coming in on). By the time it reached Agra, it had already travelled 1995 km in 25 hours 45 minutes; such long distances are typical of train travel in India.

A train at the station: Agra-train-jpg.

(11) Harappa, a major city of the Indus Civilization (Pakistan)

Harappa houses: Harappa-houses.jpg.

One of many sites at Harappa: Harappa-overview.jpg.

Cemetary H, probably the remains of those who destroyed Harappa: Harappa-cemetary-H.jpg. Cemetary R37: Harappa-cemetary-R37.jpg.

Village boys: Harappa-villagers.jpg.

(12) MohenjoDaro, "the City of Dead People" (Pakistan)

The main street at MohenjoDaro: MohenjoDaro-main-street.jpg. A side street: MohenjoDaro-side-street.jpg.

The administrative area: MohenjoDaro-admin-area.jpg.

The stupa (temple): MohenjoDaro-stupa.jpg. A close-up shot: MohenjoDaro-stupa-close.jpg.

The Great Bath: MohenjoDaro-swimming-pool.jpg. The drainage from the Great Bath: MohenjoDaro-pool-drain.jpg.

A house well: MohenjoDaro-well.jpg. Bathrooms: MohenjoDaro-bathrooms.jpg.

These boys kept getting in front of my camera. So I included them in the shots (four photos):


You can write to me at contact.html.