Saturday, 17 June 2017

It happens only in Varanasi: Life In Ganges

My two days in Varanasi


The city, known among Indians as Banaras or Kasi, is famous for the riverbanks, called ghat, of the river Ganges, in fact the geography of this place is calculated by the nearest ghat. You can easily reach Varanasi from any part of India by train or by bus. From time immemorial it has been the holy river of Hinduism and what you can see here is for sure one of the extreme view that is a must once in a lifetime! Hindus believe that rituals performed by the river Ganga multiply in their blessedness and it is also strongly believed that those who die around this river reach the heavenly abode with all their sins washed away.
The cremation of the dead body at the riverbanks of Ganges or even casting the ashes of the deceased in its water is thought auspicious and leads to the salvation of the departed. In India, as you already know, they have a caste system, and for this reason the banks of the river Ganges is also divided according to this system means that the "higher" ones should stay separately from the "lower" ones. I stayed in a hotel in Assi Ghat. Sadly nowadays it became a place where tourism is a main moneymaking activity on this river so at every single step vendors and children expects something from you. Avoid them!!!
The boat visit is advised to be done early in the morning, at least by 5 am when the sun rises, and then the believers start with their bath and prayers. I did as they told me, while navigating across the river, I felt myself impressed seeing how a country, so nearby from the rest of the world can be so excruciatingly different. While sailing, we saw people praying, bathing( to clean up the soul), doing laundries, fishing, youngsters having fun and children playing by the riverbanks, and much more! Plenty of people who start their life so early in the morning! The strangest thing I have noticed there was a floating dead body. Our guide told us there are some categories that don't need to be burned after dead because their soul is considered already pure:
1.    The Holy men: Sathu
2.    Leprous
3.    Babies under two
4.    The once bitten by snake
5.    Pregnant ladies
They are not buried as we can think but are taken to the middle of the Ganges or another sacred river and dropped to the river bottom with a weighed stone. So now you can just imagine my face when I saw all those people so close to that floating dead body.
It was unbelievable!!! Not only dead bodies but there are so many things like lanterns, flowers, cloths and other unidentifiable objects floating on the river. You should really be careful because we don't have antibodies to defend ourselves from that situation. The scenery  is like when the eyes fills up faster than it empties and the pressure inside the eyes builds up that you suddenly don't understand of what is happening around you. In the evening we had a walk along the ghats which brought us to one of the main burning ghat where the cremations ceremonies take place. They said it goes on 24 hours a day. Often they burn more bodies at a time. I recommend you to use dresses that you don't need anymore, that you can leave in Varanasi itself once finished all the trips, because the smell of the burning bodies will last for long and you will be never be able to wear them again. Other interesting thing to be done by the Ganges is the amazing sunset boat trip to see the evening Pooja, Ganga Aarthi, from the boat. Ganga Aarthi is performed daily in the evening at 6.30 pm by a group of Brahmins monks wearing same cloths at the Dashashwamedh ghat.
It is performed by the brass lamps which accompanied with the mantras in the presence of the huge crowd. Devotees start coming to the Ganga Aarthi at least one hour before. Tourists can take their places at the boat in the water to see the Aarthi event very clearly. Vendors going around the boats will try to sell you some lanterns which can be left floating on the river.  Prepare your cameras because here you can really take good snaps. If you like taking photos stay two days in Varanasi and don't forget to assist the Ganga Aarthi by the riverbank side also. If you want to walk into this part of Varanasi, it is wise to get a local guide. It is very dirty, smoky, crowded and seemed not completely safe in the labyrinth of narrow alleys. There are rats, street dogs, beggars and cats everywhere. A guide will steer you clear of all that and find the hidden gems for you. Of course he will take you to a saree shop where he has a commission on sales but you are not obliged to buy. I couldn’t resist! I bought one black silk saree for € 100.00. This is it!!! This has been one of the extreme thing I have ever seen and it is a must once in a lifetime experience!



























3 comments:

  1. Very interesting! Looks like you had a great trip.

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  2. Wow, the Ganges is such a famous river, I remember learning about it at school. It must be such an experience sailing on it, although the dead body and the burning of bodies near by is a lot to take in. I don't think I would bath in the sacred water though!

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  3. Looks interesting. Extremely a once in a lifetime experience that you wont forget.

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