Varanasi at night:
Last Wednesday we left the relative calm of Nepal, crossing over from Sunuali, and entered into the world of crazy that is India. The mellowness that an afternoon in Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha, the day before had given us soon wore off. After around 14 hours of travelling we arrived in Varanasi. Varanasi is home to the Ganges, this highly religious city more than packs a punch.
Wood for the funeral pyres:
The sights, sounds and smells of the ancient streets and ghats leading down to the Ganges overwhelmed me for the first few days. This sensory overload was increased by the heat of the city, normally this would make me want to go swimming but the Ganges is probably not the best place for someone with such a weak stomach to take a dip. Every morning and night hundreds of locals and Hindu pilgrims take the plunge and bathe in the river that they consider so sacred.
Boy taking a swim in the Ganges:
In Varanasi life and death are so closely entwined that it is impossible to ignore. There are two ghats where the bodies of those who have recently died are cremated, this is so completely opposite to anything we are used to at home. The bodies are decorated in bright orange and yellows, before being taken into the Ganges by the family members, following this the bodies are cremated on pyres on the steps of the ghats. The smells and sights are completely overwhelming, I can’t pretend to even understand the beliefs of Hindus but there is something moving about watching these scenes.
On our 4th day in the city we took a tour with Rajat from Espirito Kashi. It was fascinating to navigate the alleyways of the city with a local, he took us for some great samosas and we also tried some sweets.
Us with Rajat:
Awesome samosas being cooked:
Varanasi is famous for it’s sweets and Pinion definitely enjoyed.
Rajat explained the closeness of the city’s inhabitants with the great Ganges and also told us about why so many of the people are so relaxed. Apparently 80% consume Bhang (cannabis) each day and so go about a bit stoned. Probably makes the city a little less overwhelming but might make avoiding the shit more difficult. As Rajat says, “It is all natural” so I guess it is better not to worry!