Discovering India is also an opportunity to play the gypset to bring back princess gifts in your luggage.
India and its wonders adorn the wardrobes of the wealthy since the fourteenth century. Today, stylists continue to seek out on the banks of the Ganges a dose of the exotic and stocks of cashmere, saris, sandals and jewellery. Tatiana Santo Domingo, Colombian heiress and wife of Andrea Casiraghi(son Caroline of Monaco), traded in this hobby.
With her friend Dana Alikhani, from an Iranian lineage, the entrepreneur created Muzungu Sisters, which sells clothes and accessories brought back from travel on the Internet. Leather sandals, handmade in the Karnataka region, are among their best sellers.
But Rajasthan has their preference, they brought back several models of multicoloured woven pearl necklaces, made by a family of craftsmen from Jaipur.
German Princess Cécile de Hohenlohe-Langenburg designs jewels decorated with stones. She mixes in her creations lapis lazuli, aquamarines, blown lava, pearls, agates or emeralds, a crossbreeding between old Europe and the land of the Maharajas.
The greatest creators also find original ideas in the Hindu tradition. At Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci adorned the faces of his models with silver piercings and pearls during the fall-winter 2015-2016 show. On the spot, if these fashion explorers dare to lose themselves in the markets and the streets crowded with rickshaws to hunt around, after dark they prefer the splendour of palaces.
Rishikesh, a global yoga centre
Nestled in the green hills of northern India, on the banks of the Ganges descending from the Himalayas, the city of Rishikesh, popularized by the Beatles fifty years ago, remains a must-see destination for Western yoga enthusiasts.
The sun is for everyone, the moon is for everyone, the rivers are for everyone, in the same way, yoga is for everyone”, enthuses the guru Swami Chidanand Saraswati, long hair and bushy beard, who runs an ashram there. (retirement) as the world marks the international day of this ancient discipline on Thursday.
Declared in 2014 by the United Nations on the initiative of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who sees yoga as a lever of cultural influence in his country, this event once again brings together tens of thousands of practitioners across the planet.
“Imagine that! The Prime Minister went to the UN and spoke about the benefits of yoga … Today yoga is everywhere”, notes Saraswati, met by AFP at his ashram Parmarth Niketan, prostrate assistants at his feet.
In Rishikesh, located 250 kilometres north of the Indian capital New Delhi, legions of foreign tourists come to ashrams and schools of yogas that have bloomed like lotus flowers.
A craze that was not unrelated to the visit of four young men from Liverpool for two months in 1968: the Beatles.
Having come to escape for a time the fever of “Beatlemania”, in search of spiritual awakening and immersion in Indian culture, the “Fab Four” and their families stayed in the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – including Ringo Starr left after ten days, not supporting the local cuisine.
“They wrote 48 songs here. Many of them appear on + L’Album blanc +, one of their most popular recordings,” said Raju Gusain, 47, a local journalist and connoisseur of this legendary trip. “The visit completely transformed The Beatles.”
The rest of the group left after eight weeks. The site of their ashram has been abandoned since 2001, eaten up by vegetation. A program to restore and protect the site is currently underway.
The Beatles’ move to Rishikesh helped place the place on the world yoga map and popularize meditation in the West.
The ashram routine is strict. Getting up at 5 a.m. is followed by half an hour of meditation. Residents then perform 90 minutes of rooftop yoga for sunrise, followed by another half hour of mantras (incantations) around a fire before breakfast.
The rest of the day is free, devoted to meditation, reading and visiting the area. At 6 p.m., another yoga session, then supper and extinguishing the lights early.
If we practice an austere discipline that goes back thousands of years, the ashram is not cut off from modernity and is even equipped with wifi.
“I continue to watch Facebook as I like to share photos of my trip,” admits the Mexican traveller.
In Jaipur, the City Palace is still inhabited by the Maharaja and his family but can be visited in part. The Rambagh Palace was a royal residence until the middle of the 20th century.
The majestic luxury of this hotel has already won over Prince Charles and Jacqueline Kennedy. Today, the concierge offers to follow in the footsteps of the film “Indian Palace”, an alternative to the usual guided tours.
The walk passes through the most beautiful sites of the “pink city”: the colonial-style Kanota fort, Man Sagar Lake, the Janta Bazaar flower market.
In town, a stall holds tourists back: Ridhi Sidhi Textiles offers all kinds of fabrics: dresses, cushions, shawls … During this excursion, it’s impossible to miss out on a trip to Gem Palace, born in 1852, supplier of jewellery great Indian families as well as all-Hollywood.
Still, in Jaipur, a French aristocrat innovated by opening the first concept store in Rajasthan ten years ago. It is in the gardens of a palace, the Narain Niwas, that Marie-Hélène de Taillac installed Hot Pink, which honours contemporary Indian designers.
A few streets away, the AKFD brand will satisfy furniture lovers, while at Khadi Shop, the prices set by the government make their cashmere tempting.
We must continue the journey to Jodhpur, the “blue city”, where the Art Deco style of the Umaid Bhawan Palace surprises, surrounded by a lush garden and built-in desert sandstone.
The establishment offers vintage pleasure, a ride around town in one of the cars from the Maharaja’s collection, driven by a driver in livery. Stop in the spice market, then visit the fort of Mehrangarh, 6 kilometres long.
You can join yoga sessions here to get stress relief.
The beauties of the city of Udaipur also illustrate the film “Indian Palace”. The floating princely palace Taj Lake Palace even served as the setting for the filming and offers themed tours, reminiscent of the feature film.