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Published: April 17th 2009
We had to get up really early this morning so we could go and see the sunrise on the River Ganges. This meant that we were leaving the hotel at 5:15am! Can you believe that we had to get up at this time on a holiday. We caught rickshaws from the hotel down to the river and the traffic was amazing. It was incredible to drive through the city and not fear for your life! When we go to the banks of the river we hopped on a wooden boat and headed out onto the water to watch the sunrise. Even at this time in the morning there were a lot of people up and about, in particular there were a lot of people washing themselves in the really rather manky water of the Ganges. As we progressed on our river ride we saw people washing themselves, washing their children and washing their laundry all up and down the banks. I can't even begin to imagine what your clothes would be like if you washed them in this river. Not pleasant I would assume. We also were lucky enought to see the two spots on the river where they burn the bodies
of the dead. The ashes of these people are then scattered into the waters of the river (in particular people take the ashes to the place where the Ganges meets the two other rivers and scatter the ashes there in a particular ceremony). The first body burning spot was the place where the bodies of people who have died an accidental death (ie a car crash) are burnt. The second spot is where people who have died of natural causes are cremated. There are a few people whose bodies are not burnt and are instead thrown into the river as there is a chance that they may still live, these are pregnant women, young children and a few others (that I can't remember anymore).
After we completed our journey down the river Sunil took us to a lovely little German bakery for breakfast where we had the best eggs. We then had the rest of the day free for ourselves. So we decided to go shopping down at the markets. Yesterday when we were buying the silk products the guy who was trying to sell to us had told us that the markets would be shut today because of
the election. Well he was lying. However when we popped outside to get some bicycle rickshaws we were told that the markets wouldn't open until 10am, so we had a bit of time to kill. So we decided to play poker. I ended up teaching Jess, Pip and Robin the rules of the game and after we made some fake money we had a fab time playing for quite a while. We were having so much fun that we almost forgot to go shopping. However never fear, we did remember to go in the end and I bought some lovely presents for certain people. As well as myself. The markets were just plain chaos again, but it was ever so much fun to wander around them and bargain with the sellers. After another hair raising cycle rickshaw ride back to the hotel we showered and then set out again with the rest of the group to watch the sun set on the river this time as well as the Puja ceremony. This is the same ceremony that we saw in Allahabad, however this time Sunil had hired some musicians for the boat so we had about and hour of lovely
traditional indian music on board whilst the sun was setting. The musicians were excellent, in particular the Tabula (drum) player. The range of sounds that he could make with his hands on the drums was really quite spectacular. In a break in the music a whole lot of candles were lit and we all made a wish and blessed our candle and set it down on the water of the Ganges. Apparently if you do this your wish will come true. So I will let you know if it works! The sight was really lovely as we must have lit about 50 candles and it was magical watching them float off into the distance.
After we completed this ceremony we rowed off to watch the Puja ceremony. This was a much bigger affair than the last one that we saw and had 11 men performing the ceremony with a huge crowd of spectators. The ceremony also went on for a lot longer, and to be honest got a little bit repetitive and dull at the end. However it was lovely to see.
In case you weren't aware it is election time in India at the moment and
the whole place is alive with election fever. All the locals are flying flags of their party and wearing hats, and Robin bought the flag that you can see in the picture for 10 rupees off a couple of children down by the river!
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