Babies, lepers, pregnant women need not apply

Trip Start Dec 28, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Friday, December 30, 2005

so let me just begin by saying its been exactly one year since ive been on this amazing little journey of mine. crazy how time flies but also amazing how much ive seen and experienced. who knows when this will end, im just enjoying the ride.

im back in thailand which is somewhat a relief after all the sights and sounds (and smells) of india. my last stop in india was veranassi which is really an amazing place. a little bit of history to begin this blog. the city is somewhere around 4,000 years old and that fact alone is amazing. it sits on the banks of the ghanges river and is the holiest place in hinduism. the belief is that if you die in veranasi you are automatically released from the cycle of reincarnation (kinda like a free pass to heaven for dying in the right place). so many many people come to varanasi to die. its kinda like florida in that way i guess (dont let grandma read that one). when you die you are then carried down to the banks of the ghanges on a stretcher and a long ritual is then undertaken before placing the body on a pyre made of bannyan tree logs. the pyre is then set on fire and it takes about 3 hours for the body to burn down completely. at this point the ashes are gathered and then placed into the ghanges.

i met a man who works in one of the buildings that are placed around the area of the cremations (called "burning ghats") and for 2-3 hours a day after work he took care of the old people who were waiting to die in these buildings that were held over for the VERY poor. he spent his hours feeding them and helping them around and introducing them to westerners....of course there was a catch, these funerals arent free and since the wood comes from 700 kilometers away, its a bit expensive. the price is about $4 a kilo and a minimum of 200 kilos needed. donations were appreciated so the old woman could be cremated when they died. it was all a bit morbid but utterly fascinating to sit and watch. the guy estimated they burned about 500 bodies a day....24 hours a day. the really amazing part was that this guy refused any kind of thanks or money or any of the sort. he did it purely for "karma"
or in his words....."i do my karma here" all part of being a good hindu i suppose

the ghanges it is also believed will wash away the sins of a person so in the mornings a mass of humanity goes down to bath in the most polluted waters on the face of the earth. i would have liked to give it a shot but when u see the occasional dead baby floating by, it puts you off (babies arent burned....or lepers...or pregnant women). i DID take a morning boat ride up the river and actually saw the EXTREMELY rare ghanges dolphin....saw a few of them actually so maybe they are making a comeback.

varanassi was really just an amazing experience. i know it sounds strange and morbid in this entry but you would have to sit on the banks of the ghats and just take it all in to understand. if you have been there you know what i mean, if you havent well you will when you go.
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