Varanasi: Burning and Learning

Varanasi is called the city of burning and learning. Burning because corpses are cremated along the Ganges River. It is believed that if one is burned alongside the Ganges one can attain moksha or liberation from the cycle of rebirth. Learning because Varanasi has always been a city of academic and spiritual education. Some say Varanasi is the world's oldest city. And it's a pretty intense place: corpses, hawkers, saddhus, beggars, beggar-saddhus, beggars missing various limbs, baby beggars, children beggars, tourists, pilgrims, locals, cows, urine, feces, lots of garbage and myriad stenches, all crammed next to the holy Ganges River. The smells in India are often so very overwhelming. The powerful stench of urine, feces and garbage can sometimes be amazing...amazing that smells can be so awful and so strong. Sometimes my nostrils feel like I'm being assaulted, but I'm definitely becoming more habituated. Sometimes on the roadways or train, there is an industrial type smell in the air, like burning plastic or burning rubber that hurts your head to breathe. You just know that it's toxic, but it's the norm for so many Indians. In the photo above, this saddhu posed for me in exchange for ten rupees. He insisted that I give him more money. I used to sort of romanticize saddhus as mystical spiritual men, but most (not all) that I see remind me more of washed up junkies and beggars of America - laying on the sidewalk beseeching passersby for money and smoking hash. (I'm waaay behind in keeping my blog updated; these photos are from February - still with my parents and their tour group.)

Sunrise on the Ganges

This guy was selling DVDs from this boat and running a TV from a generator.

If you're new to Overseas Adventure Travel, mention customer # 946347 when calling, and they'll give each new traveler a $100 discount off their first trip.  That's in addition to any other savings that are available.

The Ghats are steps leading down to the water's edge.

Dhobis (laundry-persons) doing laundry.

Three on a bike, including one with no pants

Burning corpses

Receiving candles to drop into the river to make a wish...(or something like that).

Mom and Dad wearing the orange scarves. Orange is the color of those who choose to renounce worldly things.

The evening aarti (devotional ceremony) seen from the river

No comments: