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Published: September 29th 2018
Proud to be up, dressed and ready to leave at 0530 this morning our timeliness for the boat was thwarted when we discovered we were locked into the guest house! Another couple soon joined us, also wanting to leave for a boat ride and our noise managed to wake the owner up so we were soon let out.
Our boat guide was waiting for us just outside.
Walking down to Munshi Ghat we were surprised to find it already very busy, full of people washing in the Ganges. The Ghat we started at was full of Brahmins (high class Hindus) washing, and there were quite a few women as well as men.
Our boat was a rowing boat, complete with bamboo oars with planks of wood attached to make the blade. Being rowed up the river towards Assi Ghat was a pleasure. The noisy motor boats whizzed past whilst we slowly glided up river. The sunrise was a beautiful red colour making the little fishing boats look quite romantic.
As we went up the river our guide explained many of the different Ghats and temples we saw.
After seeing the end of the morning yoga session on Assi Ghat we
headed back downstream as far as the Manikarnika (burning) Ghat.
Watching the main burning Ghat from the river is a really good way of being able to look without being hassled by anyone.
An average of about 80 people a day are cremated there from across India but given we were told they use 5 pyres, and each body takes 3 hours to burn the sums don’t quite add up. There is also an electric crematorium there so I’m not sure how many people use that.
There are piles of wood everywhere. Apparently they’re all different types and only the wealthy can afford a sandalwood pyre. As we were sitting there more boats were delivering so much wood they were only just floating above the water line.
Our rower was a little tired by this point given the strong currents at present so we got a tow upstream back to the start.
Whilst it was still relatively cool we walked back up to the burning ghat and had a look from the land. We found the hassle we got from people offering to show us better views (for a tip) irritating so soon headed further north and walked along
the Ghats until we were stopped by floodwater (somewhere near Sheetla Ghat).
There are 82 Ghats here and each of them is slightly different, for different Gods, different castes and for different functions (there’s a Nepalese one, one where Brahmins are educated and another belonging to the Maharaja of Udaipur). We enjoyed watching life by the river and found most people very friendly.
Getting rather hot by this point we wondered back towards our accommodation, had a large breakfast, and headed to bed to avoid the heat of the day. This is defiantly the best way to enjoy Varansi when hot. On waking we headed to the Brown Bread Bakery for afternoon tea. They had proper English chocolate cake and tea - I was extremely happy.
Refuelled we meandered back over to Assi Ghat to watch the evening ceremony there. I got to light my lotus flower as ‘Pooja’ and watch it float away on the Ganges - very pretty. Assi Ghat is very large and before the ceremony they had music and dancing on the far stage. The view of the ceremony itself was much better than at Dashashwamedh the night before and we were far more
impressed with the singing (it carried on even when the sound system failed). The ceremony was more or less identical so I don’t think it matters which you see if pushed for time.
Following the ceremony we had a surprisingly delicious pizza dinner followed by apple pie at a restaurant with views of the Ganges and Ghat. It was packed - people were queuing for seats and rightly so. We then wandered back to our accommodation, finding the intermittently lit back alleys much more confusing in the dark and being very grateful to a series of helpful locals pointing us in the right direction (and showing us short cuts through temples when we hit a dead end!).
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