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Moti Bazaar (Haridwar, India)

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A popular street marketing in the holy city of Haridwar

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      22.03.2011 21:54
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      A great place to spend an hour or two in Haridwar

      After lunch on our second day in Haridwar we were feeling pretty lazy and we'd already 'done' most of the more accessible sights. My sister was determined that she wanted to find the Moti Bazaar and with nothing else looking more urgent, we agreed to try and track it down. I think Moti means 'pearl' but then I also thought at the time that it meant 'fat' so best not to pay too much heed to my dodgy translations. She'd read in her guidebook that it would be a great visual treat and somewhere we'd be sure to get some great photographs. With plenty of time to spare, it seemed as good an idea as any other so we set off hunting for the market.

      As I may have mentioned before, my sister and I are genetically programmed to be completely rubbish at finding things even if we've got a map so with no map it was pretty sure that we'd get lost. As usual my sister had consulted the guidebook and then left it in the hotel, clearly intending to make the search all the more 'fun' by avoiding the obvious convenience of having a map. All Aileen could remember was that it was by the river - but then almost all of Haridwar is by the river so that wasn't a big help. It's also a city where very few people speak English so we decided to just follow our noses and see what happened. What resulted was a very pleasant and sometimes amusing stroll around the holy city.

      ~Never ask for directions - it's a sign of weakness~

      We set off down a side street away from the crowds and noise, snapping a few photos as we went. There were beautiful old buildings that must have once been very grand but are now badly decayed and run down. I couldn't resist a photo or two of one of the most disgusting public urinals that I've ever seen or the sign for a travel agent called Vee Dee Tours that made us all snigger. A family of small pigs were lying on a patch of waste ground sun bathing and at one point we spotted a cat so big and muscular looking that he carried his lack of tail like a war-wound. We were saved the worry of whether or not to ask for directions by not actually seeing anyone which also meant nobody spotted us taking pictures of pigs, puss-cats and pissoirs.

      By a combination of luck and my husband's superior sense of direction (he does come in useful) we did eventually find the bazaar, only to realise that we'd already been there the night before when it was crowded with pilgrims. Being there in the mid afternoon was quieter and made it a lot easier to get around. There's nothing touristy about the bazaar and since so few tourists (rather than pilgrims) ever go to Haridwar, the shopping is definitely designed to meet the needs of locals and religious visitors rather than people looking for souvenirs. A certain member of this site will confirm that the small wall hanging that my husband bought her which shows the baby Krishna suckling a cow whilst having his bottom licked by the happy bovine, is not the sort of souvenir you'll find in Blackpool or Marbella.

      The bazaar is laid out along a single long street of small shops and businesses either side of a narrow street, made narrower by the shop-keepers hanging their wares out in the street, cutting into the space. We saw some strange sights. A stall was selling possibly the ugliest furry dolls that I've ever seen. A sadhu (holy man) on a bicycle came flying towards me moving too fast to avoid the blur on my camera. Pilgrims in their best clothes jostled to buy brightly coloured religious pictures whilst my sister and her partner continued their retail therapy by buying yet more tunic tops that were almost guaranteed to run in the washing machine or the first time they got rained on. Sweet makers boiled up sweetened milk in giant iron pans as a base of their range of brightly coloured tooth-dissolvingly sweet treats. A pair of roadside barbers waved and smiled for the camera as we deftly avoided carts of highly polished vegetables being pushed up the middle of the street. A small bakery was rolling and heating breads on a hot-plate at the roadside and vegetable stall holders piled their pristine fruit and vegetable into Himalayan heaps of shining glory, exhibiting a real pride in what they had to offer.

      One stall had a conical heap of bright red dye piled up in the middle of the counter. The dye is used in religious ceremonies and sold in small tins or paper packets. I didn't dare go near for fear of sneezing and sending it flying across the street. A second stall had a smaller cone of dye and was guarded by a little old lady who beamed a toothless smile as we passed.

      ~End of the Road~

      The bazaar ends near the Har Ki Pauri area where the nightly Ganga Aarti ceremony takes place. We turned back on ourselves and walked along the riverbank to take some more photos - the souvenir sellers with their massive mounds of plastic water bottles, small children playing in the dirt, gangs of monkeys bouncing around the trees and electricity wires, and ash-covered sadhus sitting under trees were all captured by our cameras.

      As we set off to find an auto-rickshaw to take us back to the hotel we came across one of the biggest monkeys I've ever seen. This fellow was sitting on one of the crowd barriers near the entrance to the area where the Aarti ceremony is performed. A giant amongst his furry monkey friends, he sat with his feet up on the barrier as passers-by brought him packets of food which he deftly unwrapped before devouring only the best bits. A policeman stood by laughing and an elderly lady beggar shook her head in frustration that someone would feed a monkey but wouldn't feed her. It was just one of the many bizarre things we saw in this crazy, wild, religious city.

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