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Published: November 11th 2011
India and Nepal must be two of the most festive countries in the World. It seems no matter where we go here, they're either in the middle of a big festival or they're gearing up for the next one. Either that or we've just been incredibly lucky with the timing of our visits. This time as we arrived in Varanasi we were informed by our tuk tuk driver of our good fortune. Kartik Purnima (or Dev Deepawali) is a Hindu festival celebrated on the full moon day of Kartik (November-December). It celebrates the arrival of Gods and Goddess on Earth, and this year it happened to fall on November 10th just in time for our visit!
At first we weren't sold on Varanasi. It's one of those places that you see so many photos of and hear so much about it that it's almost like you've already been there. It's not a subtle place. Everywhere you look up and down the Ganga River pilgrims are making offerings, swimming and bathing. Not far from them others are urinating on the walls, and dead bodies are cremated. This is also the same river into which all of the city's raw sewage flows.
Everybody's business is on full display and its right in your face. And right back in their faces are hundreds of camera toting tourists. You might see why we were reluctant to take photos at first.
The morning of the festival we awoke to huge crowds gathered outside on the banks of the Ganga River. It was all the same as the day before but on a bigger scale, and somehow the joy and energy of the masses seemed to rub off on us and we were able to relax and enjoy it. We took an hour boat ride down the river and came back with two full memory cards.
In the evening the Ghats were decorated with thousands of oil lamps arranged in various shapes and patterns. Street vendors were selling candles to float down the river and kids were setting off firecrackers. The air was thick with smoke and it didn't take long before we were a little overwhelmed by the crowds. So we decided to retreat to the roof of our hotel where we could watch the action from above.
Overall, Varanasi was a great way to conclude our visit to India. There are
some things we won’t miss such as the crazy traffic, obnoxious horns, huge crowds and pollution. But at the same time, it wouldn’t be India without all those things either. Also worth mentioning while the food has been great we likely won't be going vegetarian anytime soon. We’re looking forward to eating some beef in Japan.
Thanks India, it’s been fun. See you next time.
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