in the land of the Gurus

images of a trip through india

a film from ernst hunsicker

a young woman from europe and her travelling companion take a tour of northern india. it is for her a culture shock to witness the very different way of life. the film is shown from her perspective.

the trip starts in a hotel in delhi. on the roof of a very crowded bus, the trip gets under way to manali, at one time an exclusive health resort in the himalaya. the city was founded by the british in colonial times. today, manali is a favourite holiday destination for middle and upper-class indians. many freaks from europe have taken up residence there. there we meet a painter who makes his living by selling his painted t-shirts to western visitors. at one time a moslem, he changed his faith to christianity. his colourful paintings are toned with christian symbolism. they are very original and erotic.

over steep mountain passes, the trip continues to changtang, a plateau with an average height of 5000 meters. the plateau is home to nomads who live by a set of different rules. in this breath taking scenery await the nomads the arrival of the “twelfth gyalwang drukpa”. he is the religious leader of the kagyüpa-order, a thousand year old belief of tibet buddhism. the drukpa hold the seldom practiced “ceremony of the six jewels”, an old ritual. before the woman and her companions continue their journey, they are invited for a meal in a nomad’s tent.

the last station in the trip is manikaran. the mountain town is about 90 km south of manali in the parvati valley. a sikh temple and the parvati rivers dominates the scenery. next to the sikh temple is a hindu temple. steam floats through the town. who brought the hot springs to boil here? guru nanak, the founder of sikhism? or shiva, one of the three important gods of hinduism? the question is still in hot discussion. the reason for the question being unanswered is the conflicting beliefs of the hindus and sikhs in india.

baba hanuman, the town’s holy man explains to the woman the connection to the independents of the sikhs in punjab. he also concerns himself with the legalisation of marijuana, a plant used for thousands of years in india.

the film ends in the hotel room in delhi. indian: dream or nightmare? the trip opened the eyes of the woman to other ways of life, other ways of thinking and the people who live in this strange world.

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