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Published: January 22nd 2008
Arriving in Varanasi from Delhi was like taking a gasp of fresh air after holding your breath for a tic too long... Somehow, defying the dreary expectations of our book, we found an amiable rikshaw driver who took us to a comfortable and cheap hotel with a pleasant rooftop restaurant not far from the ghats; our cute room hosted a private bath, pink walls (even a roll of pink toilet paper!), and even included a sizeable balcony.
Our first day we hired a priavate rowboat to tour of the surprising breadth of the ghats
- various platforms and stairs that decend ditectly into the mother ganges river. At the main ghat near the center, we were witness to a puja, or cerimony of worship to the god of Destruction and Creation, Shiva.
The next day we explored the fascinating mazes of our neighborhood - got lost - got found - got lost again. We shopped and Lex found some fun dresses. But as evening approached, we realized that in fact, we were not
at the cute hotel that is recommended in the book as we'd thought, but indeed another hotel entirely with a very similar name... all manor of confusion
ensued, but we eventually managed to find our way home...
One element of continual entertainment was the animals- we pet all that we could, the young goats often sported fetching sweaters or old kids shirts, or rice sacks for the less fortunate~
Being as this is the city of Shiva, his mount Nandi (a white brahma bull) is worshipped too, so all cows in this city live a blessed life... All creatures were completely filthy, but Lex saw through this, like mother to child.
We also saw the burning ghats, where bodies are cremated to be dispersed into the holiest of holies, the ganges. If the body can be cremated within 3 hours
of death at the ghats, the person may have the greatest chance of benificent after-death proceedings... Approx 140 bodies a day pass through these ghats into the river. It was a facinating and at times ghastly sight. Yet; above this somewhat morbid scene, the annual kite festival went on in full swing, as children all over the city vibrantly played, zipped, and danced little pieces of colorful paper all over the sky...
On our last day, we awoke to stumble through the dark chill of early
unloading the body
on the way to the burning ghat
morning and winding streets to our Shvala ghat- there we met our young sweet oarman Raj who took us for a boat trip to see the ghats with the sunrise. The beauty along the shoreline at this time of day was breathtaking. As it was a holiday, the ghats were especially full with bathers, worshippers, pilgrims, kids,
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