Varanasi


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Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi
October 29th 2006
Published: October 31st 2006
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It feels good to be back on our feet again. After a few days of recovery time in Siliguri, we took a long overnight train ride to Patna, and from there hopped another train to Varanasi.
The city has more than delivered. It is surreal. There is such an interesting array of people here....from hippie tourists to dread headed sadus that paint their entire bodies, to women clad in colorful saris that come to the river to bathe and pray and slap out their laundry. There are monkeys and cows and goats and dogs and people. It's kinda like a spiritual circus.
On our first full day here max and i decided to get out and walk the length of the ghats, which are basically stairs that climb up from the water's edge. We started at Assi ghat at the end by our hotel, and made it as far as the main burning ghat. Along the way we witnessed people bathing and doing laundry and also praying in the Ganges. Varanasi used to be called Kashi, or "city of life," and i would say that it lives up to that. It seems to teem with it. There is a very spiritual energy here, and most of it centers around the Ganges.
In college i had a professer (Haberman for those who took his classes) who was studying the effects of pollution on the local culture. It seems India's most sacred river is also it's dirtiest, especially around Varanasi. I provide the following excerpt from Lonely Planet:
"Samples from the river show the water has 1.5 million faecal coliform bacteria per 100mL of water. In water safe for bathing this figure should be less than 500!"
Ok, gross. Especially when you see people dousing themselves with it, children playing in it, and laundry being "cleaned" in it. But if you can put gross statistics aside, a colorful and vibrant city emerges. At one ghat people are praying, at another, dead bodies are being burned. Max and i were lucky enough to witness the funeral of a Holy Man. Apparently they don't burn those bodies, they just sink them directly into the river. You could hear the funeral approaching from the alleyways. There was a marching band and singing and much hoorah. The corpse was lovingly adorned in bright orange flowers and paraded by dready holy men dressed in orange and yellow to match. The loaded the guy on a boat, while the followers got in separate boats, crying happily and loudly to the heavens, "Hello SHiva!" It didn't seem like a sad occasion at all. In fact, none of the burning bodies seemed sad. It seemed natural. I sat and watched a body be incinerated and was suprisingly unaffected, though reminded of my own mortality.
Max and i were ripped off. One of the guys in charge of burning the bodies took us to a "lookout point" and more or less became a guide (we did not ask for this service) and then demanded money from us for "karma." He said we should give him money for wood to burn the bodies so that someday our bodies would also have....yadda yadda, but was also "charging" and exhorbitant amount. Max and i had even been warned of this scam but are suckers for persistence so we gave in anyway. Rest assured families, karmically your wood for your funeral pyre has been purchased courtesy of lyndsey and max.
Anyway. I think Varanasi is my favorite city in India so far. It's chilled out, it's holy, it's colorful, and i am a sucker for anyplace where dreadie people roam freely😊


Additional photos below
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Max backhands a local Max backhands a local
Max backhands a local

(actually he was being solicited for a massage)
one goat gathers one goat gathers
one goat gathers

...what another man spills?


1st November 2006

1I Love my sis
Hey Lyndz, Wow these pictures are awesome! I hope you have been having a wonderful time and i have been praying for you! I hope you are over your fever and are feeling better! The trip looks amazing soak it all up and tell me about it when you get back! Love ya! Love Michael
20th November 2006

Increasing your fan base...
Lyndz- Hi! It si Amanda, the girl who put a link to your Varanasi photos on her page...seriously amazing shots, I have even gotten kudos from my readers on sending them to your site...I think you have stolen some of our fans!(= Seriously though, I loved the photos and saw a lot of the same things you did but could have never captured them as you did. Good work my friend and good luck in your travels!

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