Varanasi- the city of death

What am I doing in India?!

The idea about going to India was exceptionally spontaneous and fast. I met Natalia in Kathmandu, she was also doing the volunteer there. For a couple of days we stayed in the same house for the volunteers where we met. Natalia is from Columbia and has been travelling in Asia since January 2014. I knew that she had in her mind travelling in India but she didn’t want to do it alone. I was the same, if going to India- only with somebody.  I didn’t have a plan to go to India, I was supposed to do the volunteer for 6 weeks and I had 2 weeks more for travelling in Nepal. However, after 3 weeks of the volunteer I decided to quit it. I didn’t like my job that much and all the time my head was full of ideas what to do and where to travel. So, I couldn’t resist and decided to quit the volunteer and go to India for 3 last weeks. And it was the best idea ever. Within one week we did the visas to India in Kathmandu. We knew nothing about India…thanks to some friends in Kathamandu we met some people who travelled before in India and that was the way we got to know about this country and we finally planned our trip. Thus, our plan was Kathmandu-Darjeeling-Varanasi-Jaipur-Jodhpur-Pushkar-Udaipur-New Delhi-Agra-New Delhi.

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all trip about 5000km within 18 days

VARANASI

Varanasi was our first true Indian city. Straight from the train station, the rickshaw driver took us to the hotel where he would get the commission if we stay there. Actually, we liked the place where he took us. You couldn’t see the Ganges river from the rooftop ( because of the other buildings), but it was very near to the ghats (saint stairs that go to Ganges river) and we liked the atmosphere in the building. The staff  seemed very friendly and what’s most important- the double room was very cheap so we decided to stay there. Varanasi is a sacred place for Hindu people, you can see a lot of pilgrims going there to bath in the Ganges river and to see the burning bodies on the ghats. This city remained me of Venice when I saw it during the first day. Mostly because its old buildings and the river which is between. The city itself is full of secrecy and mysterism. The first day when we arrived we didn’t feel safe , especially when we were walking near the ghats and the burning places. Most of people would follow us, asking all the time questions about our names, country etc. The worst atmosphere was near the burning ghats where tourists are not allowed to take pictures and where everybody wants your money just for looking at the bodies when they are burning. Fortunately, we met some nice indian guys who took us to the tower and from there we could see all the ceremony of the burning bodies and actually, we could take as many pictures as we wanted as they told us to do what we wanted to do.

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my Indian Venice
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People bathing in the Ganges river in the morning

It is a really weird thing to see the burning bodies. On the picture below you can see the biggest burning place in Varanasi. On the boats, there is a lot of wood needed for burning. Then, near the boats you can see some people, some of them will look for  jewellery of dead persons ( the family of a dead person can’t take his gold for themselves, they have to burn him with all the jewellery that he has on himself). What’s important as well, when somebody from the family dies then one person from that family has to shave totally his hair. The body needs about 3 hours to be burned. Sometimes, some bones do not burn so the people collect them and afterwards put it to Ganga. Everyday almost 300 dead people is being burned there. The smell of this ceremony is everywhere. There is no taboo about death in India. People are born and people die. It is a normal thing. What was impressive for us was that nobody was crying. People ( we as well) were drinking tea, having chat and watching the bodies burning. It was so awkward for us to drink the tea and chill out while seeing the bodies being burned…but it’s all India!

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the biggest burning ghat in Varanasi
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you can see the body that is being prepared to burn ( in the middle of the picture)

The burning bodies is not enough…the most strange thing for us was coming across a dead body while we were having a boat ride in the Ganga river. Why some of the bodies are floating like this and not being burned? There are, as I remember well, 6 types of bodies that can’t be burned. These are pregnant women, children, animals, people with the cobra bite, people with the skin disease and Sadhu (they are like holy people in India). So, these bodies are being thrown to the Ganga and not being burned. On the photo below you can see one of those.

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a floating body in Ganga river
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boat ride at 5 am to see the sunrise

S0014001 And imagine all the hindu people (not only hindu, I saw also some foreigners) bath everyday in this saint river- plenty of dead bodies- together with the cows and buffalows. What’s more, they do the laundry, wash the dishes and a lot of more things in this river. For most of us -westeners- it is something disgusting but for them is a casual, daily thing. S0074008

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men washing the clothes

As I wrote at the beginning, Varanasi for hindu people is like Mekka for Muslims. You can see so many Indian tourists who come here to get the blessings from Sadhus and do the puja. Puja is a prayer ritual to worship their gods. It literally means respect, honour. Thus, in Varanasi, everyday at 7pm puja is celebrated. It is a unique thing to see and hear. It is done on the ghats, near the river and you can see thousands of people watching it from the boats and from the stairs. I will upload a video later so that you can have a clear look how it is.

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puja starting everyday at 7pm

S0934103 Some other pictures from Varanasi:

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sleeping Sadhu
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a wedding procession, married couple between me and Natalia

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