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Published: August 6th 2007
(The Ganges river, Varanasi)
Jewellery shopping in Jaipur
Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan is famous all over the world for its jewellery, especially semi-precious & precious stones (along with loads of fakes - if you ever go there watch out!). We spent hours trawling through piles of jewellery & came away with some nice pieces. I ended up with 3 necklaces - one mainly silver, the other two with semi-precious stones. I'll have to give the sports clothes a break to wear them!
Rajasthan is bursting with forts..i'm starting to lose track of how many we've been inside. One thing they all have in common is plenty of room for the kings wives! The Amber fort is full of annoying touts, elephant drivers, unofficial guides, pestering holy men and beggars. There was one family that was particulary amusing - the parents had really obvious fake burn scars painted on their arms & legs. We saw them walking up the steep steps to the fort, then later in the day they were sitting around pretending to be invalids!
Our train from Jaipur to Delhi was delayed 2 hours so we had to spend them warding off more stupid Indian men. A holy
Oh to be loved that much!
Built as a tomb & memorial by a king for his second wife
saddhu man stared at me for at least 20minutes. Not just glancing up every now & again, really staring intently, into my eyes the WHOLE time! No matter what I did he wouldn't stop - flagging him away with my hand, holding a clearflile up infront of my face, turning my back to him & facing the wall. Janine suggested threatening to cut off his hair (holy men never chop it so it would be the biggest insult possible). But the train ride was fun - a friendly Indian family sat opposite us & shared some of their delicious home-cooking.
Back in Delhi
We arrived in Delhi at around 1am where we beseiged by more rickshaw drivers, trying to charge us four times the fair price, typically. Janine always laughs at my bargaining - I'm a tough customer! Needless to say I nearly always win & get the fair price with minimal blood shed.
After Delhi we went to Agra, home of the Taj & not much else. Despite all of the photographs i'd seen it was far bigger & more beautiful than i'd expeted. Agra is really touristy though - hundreds of people pester you with camel
rides, horse rides, rickshaw rides and every other kind of transport possible.
A few quick facts for the ignorant:
It took 20,000 workers 22 years to complete
Was built as a memorial for a kings wife, who died having their 14th child
Some of the workers had their hands chopped off after it was finished to stop them repeating the work somewhere else
Public cremations in Varanasi
Dead bodies & signs of the dead are everywhere here. The Ganges River is considered to be a very holy place for Indians, with Hindus flocking in from all over the country to bathe in the water. So holy infact, that the dead are brought here to be cremated or left to be eaten by the fish in the river. The fish here are suprisingly large & juicy, much to the locals delight, which makes you think: are they indirectly eating their friends & relations or is it just the circle of life? Walking down the river is a bit like being at the circus…we had one holy man follow us for a good 30minutes, who, whenever we stopped to look at something, would bend down & scratch a
It's all about me!
This annoying Saddhu wanted to be paid for being in my line of vision, so I took a photo of him anyway (for free)
message in the dirt by our feet. I’m still not quite sure what it was, probably some kind of voodoo because we refused to give him any money! It was gross watching bodies being cremated - they are wrapped up in cloth & covered in sticks. The cloth burns really quickly revealing melting flesh, which blackens in a matter of minutes, & arms & legs stick out from the pile of wood, with fingers curling in the heat. Each cremation takes around 3 hours. After this time the bodies are not fully cremated, but the body parts are broken up into segments, & it’s tradition for the mans chest & the womans hips to be thrown into the river in a somewhat whole looking piece. Eventually everything is thrown into the river, but all before it has turned to ash. We’ve seen bones (including sculls) sitting on the edge of the shore, with locals in swimming & washing their clothes right beside it! Some people are not cremated, for example: babies, children, pregnant women & those who have died of a snake bite. They are wrapped in cloth, then tied to a heavy rock & thrown overboard a few metres
from the shore. Yesterday I saw a child & a baby go overboard. Apparently the fish eat them very quickly, & when the monsoon comes the flooding washes all of the leftovers out into the sea.
Off to Europe
I've just changed my tickets & am heading to Europe a month early. I'm not sure what i'll do yet...maybe go to Greece, travel in Switzerland, go to Italy... hopefully somewhere where I can swim & use my neglected running shoes! Will keep you posted!
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