India

It has been quite awhile since my last post. Things get a little busy around here between the holidays and it has been a wonderful time at Dublin School. The music and performances for the Celebration of Light were stunning and inspiring. The students and faculty worked so hard to make the concert such a success. The athletic teams are off to a great start and the cast of the musical sounds like they are ahead of schedule. Everyone has earned a nice break as we gear up for an exciting 2012!

One thing I am particularly excited about is our plan to send out two different educational and service trips around the world this March. One group will be traveling to India and the other to Costa Rica. Jayant Hardikar, who is the founder of the Educational Himalayan Foundation (http://www.himalayaneducation.org), will be traveling with Dean of Students Eric Nemitz and eight students to northern India for seventeen days in March. He has been sending out wonderful emails to his group to help prepare them for what they are going to see. Here is his latest:

"India's history is made up of stuff fit for epic novels and a series of blockbusters that could that would easily outsell the Star Wars Trilogy in the theaters! First there were the early ages of India (the Vedic period) that are the source of much of the Indian mysticism and philosophy. Following that are detailed accounts of various dynasties between around 10 Century BC up to 12 Century AD with increasing encounters with other worlds such as the battle with Alexander the Great from Greece, trade with Africa and the Far East and the increasing traffic from the North West and North East of India.

It is these passages from the North that first attracted waves of invaders, travelers, scholars, artisans, common people and thugs alike for centuries who came from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, China and Mongolia in search of that something that India offered. That something ranged from its precious stones, silks and spices to ancient philosophies of Buddhism and Hinduism. This was the start of the Medieval Ages in India. From 1500s to mid 1800s AD, generations of rulers from these Northern invading states formed what is known as the Moughal Empire. The Moughals (or Mughals) brought with them a different culture, different art and architecture, different music and different language than what was originally prevalent in India. Urdu, for example, is a language spoken by the Muslim community in India and Pakistan that is a blend of Persian and Hindi. Northern India saw more of the affect of the Mughal invaders than the South, India being such a large land mass.

The Mughal period was extremely colorful not only in terms of changing the flavor of India's art, architecture and culture, but was also was the period that is full of stories of deceit, wars, alliances and treaties between various Mughal rulers as well as the local Hindu rulers. There were marriages that took place to join kingdoms, armies of hundreds of thousands on horses, camels and elephants plundered and conquered huge lands... and then there was the sword-wielding.  Robinhood-like prince near Mumbai in the 1600s named Shivaji who vowed to take back their lands from the Mughal rulers and with small guerrilla armies on horseback took control of many spectacular forts that sit precariously on 4000-6000 foot mountains in West-Central India. Indeed a lot of blood was shed in these times.

There was Emperor Shahjahan who grew the empire handed to him by his father and grandfather even more to extend it to almost all of Northern half of India. When his wife died, he had the most spectacular tomb built for her in the city of Agra - the Taj Mahal - that took 22 years to build. Material for the Taj Mahal was brought over by elephants from places as far away as Tibet, Afghanistan, Arabia and Sri Lanka. As Shahjahan grew older, what a terrible fate he faced when his younger son - Aurangezeb - conspired with his sister and murdered the older brother who otherwise was the heir to the throne. And to top it all, this evil dude Aurangzeb even imprisoned his own father Shahjahan in a room for years - until his death - in a fort directly across the river from the Taj Mahal. The room had a small window that looks out to the Taj.  This was psychological torture at its worst. Can you imagine an Emperor - Shahjahan - who proudly built one of the finest man-made wonders of the world out of love for his wife, being imprisoned in a room in the turret of the fort and the only thing he could see out the small window was the spectacular tomb where his wife lay dead! At least he himself got buried next to his wife in the Taj after his death in the prison. Such were the tumultuous times of Medieval India. The stories are never ending as you can imagine.

And here's the best part - these are stories not just in books, but can be experienced in the relics, remnants and historic sites all across India even today! When we go to see the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, you will be transported instantly to these ancient times. Seeing the Taj from Shahjahan's prison window always makes me realize just how entwined beauty, sadness, cruelty and compassion are in this one little scene.

When in India, you will see tombs, temples and ruins strewn across the landscape anywhere you go. Many of them are things nobody even knows any more what they are. Ancient history will practically be in every picture that you take in India. However, in the cities, the modern advertisements for Samsung TVs, the chaos of the traffic and crowds, the signs for Dominos Pizza and the dust and dirt will make it difficult for you to get a glimpse of perhaps that 5th Century dome that serves as the backdrop for the market.  But if you try harder, keep your mind and eyes open, you will see an India behind the superficial India that you will see otherwise! Yes you will indeed see dusty streets or glitzy shopping malls trying to outdo the ones in the West. But then blink and look deeper. You are bound to see something that will not be captured in the photograph you take!  Chances are you will not be able to describe that 2nd take to anyone in words, but if you see it right, you will never forget it - because the impression that it will leave will not be in your brain, but your heart!"

--- Jay