India: Complex, Scenic, Colorful

  • A flute player entertains at a food festival in New Delhi. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • A tiger walks in the late afternoon sun at Ranthambore National Park. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Women at the morning bathing ritual in Varanasi – Ganges River. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Sunrise along the Ganges. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Tomb of Humayan from the lawn – New Delhi. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Street scene in Old Delhi. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • A woman spools thread at the Carpet Factory in Jaipur. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Evening ceremony on the Ganges with the cremation of the dead. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Umbrella decorations line the entrance to the auto show at a hotel in Jaipur. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Shot of the Taj, late afternoon, from the gardens across the river. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • A bird cleans the ear of a deer at Ranthambore National Park. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Cycle taxi on a side street in Old Delhi. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • A woman sells fruit near Connaught Place, New Delhi. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Early morning prayer group at the Ganges river. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Two cows coming to blows at an intersection in Varanasi. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • A Black faced monkey with baby feeds with the group at Ranthambore National Park. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Morning prayer ceremony on the banks of the Ganges River. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Wiring on a side street in Old Delhi. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Shot of the the Taj from the reflecting pool. (Courtesy George Ray)

  • Symbols painted on the steps of a Ghat in Varanasi on the Ganges. (Courtesy George Ray)

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Before traveling to India, I realized what I knew about the country pretty much boiled down to this: the Taj Mahal. Elephants. Garlic naan.
All the more reason to travel 13½ time zones, mingle amid one-sixth of the world’s population and learn about a belief system, art, religions, languages and traditions built on Eastern thought.
The payoffs in our travels to cities and rural areas were tremendous, though this is a journey perhaps not for everyone.
A lot of areas of India’s cities looked like this: dirt sidewalks; rambling shops in broken-down structures selling mysterious items; rickety buildings; families living in open-air dwellings (or just in the open air); bustling or dead-stop, lane-free roads; litter strewn in most gutters. Add women wearing the brightest palette of saris; men convening in front of storefronts, perhaps doing business, perhaps just chatting, occasionally
getting haircuts from a makeshift outdoor barber. Life courses on a human scale here, available to travelers to either see or experience. Interactions with people shift from “why?” to “wow!” Beyond friendliness and outright curiosity, Indians we met – even in the bleakest of conditions – were open to interaction.
India is a complex country full of contradictions and complications a western tourist can’t begin to understand in a trip. But after nearly three weeks in the north of India, and a few more weeks to think about it at home, here are some…

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