Contaminate The Body, Purify The Soul


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Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi
April 28th 2008
Published: May 2nd 2008
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Varanassi is probably the most bizarre place I have ever visited. Apparently it is one of the most holy places in the world, probably because the average person would drop dead after drinking holy water from the Ganges, providing a short cut to the grave!

We have just spent the morning floating down the Ganges in a rowing boat while witnessing some of the most insane sights that I am still struggling to comprehend. While floating down stream we would pass a local going to the toilet in the river followed by someone drinking from the same water. A little further, and someone would be cleaning their clothes next to a sewage outlet while his friend lathered up in soap and jumped into the river. We would watch in amazement while dead goats and cows would float passed someone brushing their teeth, while someone else meditated with only their head appearing above the water.

While we floated down river we witnessed several funerals along the rivers edge. We watched in amazement while they carried a corpse to the waters edge and submerged it into the river (Apparently cleansing the soul). They would then splash water over the body 5 times (representing the 5 elements), take the body onto the bank and place it on top of some firewood. They would then walk around it in a clockwise motion (signifying the circle of life) before burning the body in a public cremation.

The sight of watching someone's face melt before you is a sight I don't really want to remember. The whole experience is very overwhelming. Even though they burn incense with the body, the smell is awful. It makes me feel sick knowing that I was inhaling smoke from a burning corpse! An uncomfortable experience I don't think I ever want to repeat!

Not all of the corpses are so lucky to get cremated. If the corpse is pregnant, or a child that is to young to have sinned, the body is tied to heavy rocks and just thrown into the river. Apparently the rotting corpse becomes fish food which is the quickest way back into the cycle of life. The lesson here is - don't eat fish from the Ganges!

While floating down the river, our guide who spoke little English would often say "I am drinking my mother" (referring to his cremated mother) when scooping up a drink from the river. By following his logic he was also drinking a dead cow, one mans shit, another mans urine and the scum from another mans cloths. There is no sense to it all!

Our guide would often try to get us to drink from the Ganges river. I couldn't help but crack up with laughter when he sincerely told us "The water over the otherside is cleaner" while pointing to the far bank of the filthy Ganges river. Our laughter turned hysterical when he said "The Ganga is my everything" sounding like some insane drug addict! The whole experience was surreal.

During our journey down the Ganges a priest tried to board out boat to get donations. Nothing in India is a surprise me anymore, so when our guide started a fight with the priest we just sat back and yet again watched the drama unfold... Only in India!

On our return trip we did manage to rescue a baby eagle drowning in the Ganges. We pulled it on board and let it dry out for the duration of our trip. I hope that good deed gives us some good Karma for the rest of our travels - I think we need it!

Apparently they burn 150 bodies a day along the Ganges river. In the evening the entire town of Varanassi is polluted with the distinct smell of burning corpses. Its not so easy eating your dinner with that smell in the air!

Tonight we had rocks thrown at us by a group of lads while balancing on the back of a peddle rickshaw with 4 other backpackers as we traveled late at night through the maze of dodgy streets - Madness!

Only in India!


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2nd May 2008

Mineral water?
Sounds like there's a lot of minerals in the Ganges water - ick! I can't wait to read the next installment of your travel blog. Love it! Stay safe! Dean.
14th October 2014
Cleansing the soul before cremation

use of pictures
We are a senior citizen group living in an independent living home. /\ We are trying to put a program together abouit death and dying, I would like to use your picture in a program. It would be used only once. If this is possible please let us know.
14th October 2014
Cleansing the soul before cremation

use of pictures
We are a senior citizen group living in an independent living home. /\ We are trying to put a program together abouit death and dying, I would like to use your picture in a program. It would be used only once. If this is possible please let us know.

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