The Ganges

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
Trip End Sep 26, 2010

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Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Varanasi. The holiest city in India. That is where we were headed on the train.

Unfortunately, as is the case so often here, the trains were delayed and a scheduled 10 hour train ride turned into a 16 hour marathon. But nevertheless, we made it to Varanasi so everything was good.

The first thing we did on arrival was get some food. No breakfast on the train meant everyone was hungry so we had a big lunch then relaxed for a few hours due to the heat. As evening approached we walked down to the ghats and strolled along them for two hours. The ghats are steps that lead down from the city streets to the river. The river is low right now so there are many steps and many, many people. The sights and sounds and smells along the river Ganges were something to behold. There were prayers, yoga, meditation, food was being made, cricket was being played, all on these steps. We walked a good two hours as the sun went down and just enjoyed the atmosphere. We passed the burning ghats and even saw a few bodies being prepared for burning, which was a definite eye-opener. I also bought a prayer candle from a little Indian girl who knew plenty about Canada, so I gave her an extra handful of rupees for the interesting conversation. Later on I lit my prayer candle and made a wish and sent it out into the river to join many others.
As it got really dark we stopped and sat and watched a large prayer ceremony for a while, and I even had a man come up and dot my forehead, blessing my family and I with good fortune. It was definitely an interesting night.

The next morning, everyone was up at the crack of the dawn to see the morning rituals along the river. We got a boat at 5:15am and went up and down the river for two hours. It was peaceful and interesting and wonderful and disturbing all at once. We saw thousands of people bathing, laundry being bashed against the rocks in the river, boys and men swimming out to our boat to say hello, more yoga and meditation performed by large groups of locals, and quite shockingly, even saw a few bodies floating in the river. We also passed the burning ghats again and saw a few more bodies being prepared for the burning ritual. I haven't really decided how I feel about it all yet! But I am glad that I had the chance to witness everything along the river.

After the early morning I had a big pancake breakfast which was lovely, then had an afternoon nap. I've visited some markets but they were too busy for my liking, so I read until dinner, and we went to a really nice restaurant so the food was excellent. I had cashew curry and naan and jeera rice, washed down by a Kingfisher beer of course.

Today we are leaving in the afternoon on the train to Kolkata, so I haven't done much, just went back and had some more pancakes this morning. The train is scheduled to be 17 hours long, so hopefully we get there in 24 hours. Hopefully!

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