Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Day 237- Arrival At The Ashram

Ashram [ˈæʃrəm ˈɑːʃ-]
[Sanskrit rama : toil, penance, austerity ]
[Sanskrit rayah : retreat ]

The 1st sight of my bedroom at the ashram.

This was why we went to  India and we had travelled far and wide to experience its simple yet austere life. I came with little expectations and realised at the end of it all that little expectations was actually a pretty good approach.

Photos of Phool Chatti Ashram, Rishikesh
This photo of Phool Chatti Ashram is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Tucked snuggly in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, along the banks of the sacred Ganga is Phool Chatti, an ashram that has been in existence for more than 120 years. 

View from the rooftop above yoga hall

I was sold the moment I heard the words- Himalayan- and -Ganges and true enough, I felt the full impact of its rugged beauty the moment we stepped off the cab we took from the train station at Haridwar. 

View from the verandah just outside my room
In this tranquil and breathtaking environment, we stayed for a total of 8 days and 7 nights, 6 of which were devoted to the studying and practice of the yogic path.

A board full of do's and don't's

The 14 Simple Rules of Ashram Living

 The 10 Discipline of Yoga and Meditation

The highfalutin sounding yogic path was surprising easy to follow largely because we brought with us the LUX -as in luxurious- that we had stashed away when we were staying at the palace.

There were the 100% organic bath products with fancy names 

and the pair of all natural slippers handmade from hemp 
which the kind staff at Devi Ratn told us we could have. 

I also had fruits (Rishikesh village) arranged  in a flowerpot (ashram garden) 
and herbal tea (Devi Ratn) in the papier mache box (Delhi).

Even utensils could be used as decorative items for an otherwise sparse room . 

And when you did not have much, it was easy to colour co-ordinate everything. 

Now do you remember the long long car trip from Delhi to Jaipur?
That trip is now forever imprinted in my mind 
as the time I got addicted to Kukure Masala Munch.
I bought so many we had leftovers for the ashram. 
Shortly after I left the chips out there in the open, the monkeys came and took a few of them. 

As we had arrived at the ashram one day before the program started, we could go into Rishikesh which was about a half an hour ride away, for supplies. While we were there, I bought us a week's supply of sandalwood incense. This old metal chair was then brought up to my room from the garden so that I had a place for my books, sewing box and the burner. 

Right then, I experienced a twilight zone moment. As I placed the rusty chair into that corner, I suddenly felt like I had shrunk and was staying in a dollhouse that I had built. I so could have rusted this chair myself, I thought. 

It was not long before I knew I could be really comfortable in this room.

And it was a matter of very little time before I grew to love my little haven. 

This Phool Chatti cubbyhole was to be my mostest favouritest room in the whole trip. 

And as I was typing that, I felt a little choked with nostalgia.

I miss you, Room. 

I miss you very much. 


2004 Ford E Series Van AC Compressor said...

Great architecture and new and old definitely would like to visit some time.

Plushpussycat said...

A wonderful pilgrimage with amazing images--love it! :-)

The Old Maid said...

Love the Roy Mon Shobad's song;)
I would easly get use to all the do's and don'ts - silence would be a lovely solution for me nowadays...;)
The room looks modest but in a way charming so I am not surpirsed you miss it, Sans:)The ashram's surroundings look charming too.:)
Did you walk with the white dog too?;D

rosanna said...

Dear, you didn't write to me about the ashram but I guess there is much to talk about.
Silence would be the most difficult rule for me, I love silence in my home bur, as you know, I chatter like a monkey (blushing me...)
The room looks so cosy although it's so simple, truly less is more.
Less seriously; I giggled when I saw the Kurkure Masala Munch, it made me think of other junk food ;o)
Hugs Rosanna

Amy said...

It's like I'm right there-in a place I will never have a chance to see. But, thanks to you, I have, Sans! Thank you for including all the details and elements that went into your retreat, and describing them so beautifully.

Kikka said...

Sounds like a perfect place to have a special retreat, a moment in peace just for yourself.

BiWuBär said...

"Miss you, Room" - I can understand what you mean... ;O) With all your talent you can turn even the sparest room into a room deeply missed after leaving. - This ahsram experience is very interesting, in Germany many people spend a vacation in a monastary to pray, fast and calm down. Different culture, different location, Yoga on the one side and Christian on the other - but the same aim. What does that mean for the difference... maybe it can retire... ;O)


Dark Squirrel Victoria said...

Amazing. You lead such and interesting life. I love the pictures and your stories are always so Grand :)


Ana Anselmo said...

I like the place and the room....but I don´t know if I could stay there 7 days...

Snowfern said...


i couldn't lead such an ascetic lifestyle. NO INTERNET! XD

Daydreamer said...

Ah, Sans! The Allure of the Monks Cell! Is it the dream of simplifying our lives that makes it feel so much like our heart's home.... our space and things reduced to just the bare essentials.... and yet.... what is the First thing we do but ADORN this empty space to make it our own! I have memories of a childhood bunkbed in our Summer cabin that felt like that... one drawer, pegs on the wall.. a little wooden shelf to line treasures upon....
I am so glad you had this time in the Ashram.... and that you shared this with us. It is beautiful. It is very like your minis in a way.... rustic and basic.... even Rusty! So I can see how "Twilight Zone" comes to mind..... are you SURE you are really full size again?? :)

Piikko said...

Sans, what a fascinating experince! Your room looks very cosy:)
I think that in Finland we have that kind of meditation program in use in every day life. We were teached to eat in peace and guiet. Now we are learning to be Europians and having a nice conversations while we are eating:D
Hugs, piikko

Glenda said...

Ah, poetic simplicity.
No anticipation, no expectation, just let it all present itself as needed.

I could enjoy this!

Ascension said...

Sans, que bien cuentas tus historias, me encanta como consigues que te sigamos en tus viajes y nos haces sentir tus propias sensaciones.
Estoy contigo en que tu podiras hacer una miniatura de esa austera bhabitacion.
besitos ascension

Papillon Bleu said...

"be with one thing at a time!!!!!!!"
WOW, this is definitely a golden rule I should follow.

Aaaah I love to visit here, I feel like I am travelling with you.
Thank you Sans!


Sans! said...

2004, you must! :)

Sans! said...

Jennifer , it was life changing or rather, enriching :).

Sans! said...

Ewa, we were introduced to Snatam Kaur when I was at the ashram. She is an American lady who sings the kirtan, Indian devotional music. There was one night we were thought meditation through music and our guru picked her song "Ra Ma Da Sa" . I fell in love with her music then. I have just found this piece on music on youtube and have added it to the playlist for my blog. May not be everyone's cup of tea but I think you will like it. :)

And no, I didn't go walking with Jonny but he sat and watched me cut vegetables one morning . And every evening, when we have the bhajan (songs) chanting sessions, he sits at the fire with us. Jonny has a mate called Lucy. But Jonny was clearly the favoured one :).

Sans! said...

Amy :) I don't know but I have a feeling you will love Rishikesh and Phool Chatti too.

Sans! said...

Kikka, I love Phool Chatti and this post took me a while because I spent half the time typing and the other half reminiscing . :)

Sans! said...

Rosanna, you know I love your chattering :):).

And that was exactly what Fai said when I told him what I was going to be doing at the ashram. He went : that's impossible! You girls can't keep quiet ! He was right too. We started talking right after lunch although it started with things like "can i use the bathroom 1st?" On the 3rd day, the whole silence thing kind of went out of the window whenever we went back to our rooms.

But the teacher did use the term "monkey chatter" when she referred to the clutter and noises in our minds. ;)

I was quite overwhelmed by the whole ashram experience and it has taken me a while to pen it down. :)

Sans! said...

Birgit, this whole ashram experience can get really extreme. When we were there, I found out that there were families (from US) who literally stayed at the ashram for years. In a way, I can see why some people will find the ashram life so much better than the "real world". I was warned by my friends before i left for India about cultish ashram :).

Anyway, if I ever disappear, be sure to send me an email to remind me of this comment :)

Sans! said...

Victoria, I live a fairly normal life 340 days of the year :)

Sans! said...

Ana, I know exactly what you mean. I didn't think I could do it either but they said there was a time and place for everything :). I guess my time for this kind of experience is this point in my life :)

Sans! said...

Cindy, it was tough , I agree . Not even phone you know because the reception was really bad. People could call me on my Singapore line (super expensive) but not the India number. But I couldn't call out not even on my Sg number. :) After a while, I kind of liked the no mobile peace but I did text the office..hahaha.

Sans! said...

Teehee Betsy :):)

But OMG, PARALLEL life, you and me :). I had a bunk bed just like yours, I swear :) except I bet yours wasn't 3 levels with 3 beds :). As the eldest I got to sleep on the very top. SuZ and I "adorned" our walls with favourite pictures and I lined my little shelf with books while she did it with mini dolls :) Do you remember dolls like this ? SuZ had half a dozen :):). Those and smurfs :)

Sans! said...

Piiko, in a Chinese family, we traditionally eat in silence. We believe it is good for our digestive system. But Dad went to an English school so meal times are noisy affairs. teehee :).

Sans! said...

Glenda, I enjoyed it very much and I am such a hustle bustle kind of person. I go a little nuts if my life is not filled with pockets of events :). I think quiet time is more and more essential for me now.:)

Sans! said...

Como de costumbre, les doy las gracias, Ascensión por estar aquí para compartir estos momentos conmigo. Usted acaba de compartir uno de esos momentos que recordaré por el resto de mi vida:).

besos y abrazos

Sans! said...

You made me feel inadequate, Patricia because I didn't understand "Be one thing at a time " at first :):) and you got it immediately!

I am so used to multi tasking that I had forgotten entirely how to do that..or even think about doing that :).

Kim said...

I kind of wish that we all had to go to this retreat once a year. In today's world it feels always as if I am racing to finish things, constantly making notes of obligations, of things to finish as I am foolishly starting something new at the same time. Oh if only we could all go back to "be one thing at a time". I say to my husband so many times- this world does not honor and take time for important things anymore. Technology is good- but sometimes I long for a time when things were a bit slower and meant more. What an amazing time you must have had Sans- and what a peaceful soul you must have traveled home with. I am a bit jealous.

dale's dreams said...

Wow, just wow. What a week that must have been. I know I could not be quiet for a week without some duct tape. You must have had so much time for contemplation. It must have been amazing.

Sound Horn Please said...

Sounds wonderful Susan! I didn't know the ashram existed. Looks you know more about India now than we do :)

Sans! said...

Kim, I am nodding my head as I read your reply, going yes yes yes!

I was quite ill since Wednesday. I don't think I have had a worse fever than this one that lasted for so long. I couldn't get out of bed at all, shivering under my blanket. And over the past 3 days until the dance competition, I popped brufen to keep myself going. And of course, I started reassessing my life all over again. I was so unhappy even when doing what I love which was dancing, I was unhappy. Because I was feeling guilty that I had missed work for so many days but could dance last night. How could I let my friends down right?

Anyway, it got me thinking of guilt, what is more important in life and what makes me happy :).

The group of us were talking about going to another ashram in August but that is a terribly hot time in India. I don't know if I want to do it. But I will want to make an ashram experience at least a once a year affair to reassess , concentrate and learn how to focus again.:)

Sans! said...

Dale, I think you can be quiet . I have seen you :) :):).

It was amazing. I haven't shown pictures of what went on. Maybe another post, maybe not. But one thing's for sure, this won't be my last ashram experience.

Sans! said...

India is so big, Divya that I will be shocked if someone claim he/she knows everything and everywhere of India :) even a native :) . teehee

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