Ganga, Shiva, and Buddah

Trip Start Jun 07, 2008
Trip End Jun 28, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of India  , Uttar Pradesh,
Monday, November 17, 2008

We got up early this morning, before sunrise, to go to the ghats. It was quiet this morningon the river where we are staying, but once we got to the main street leading to the ghats, it was full of people. There was a group of people led by a man dressed in orange, a priest, who were chanting and marching. They were saying, "Om, Lord Shiva!" over and over again. Om is the first sound to Hindus, so they say it before lots of things. They were also ringing bells.

The Ganges, which is actually called the Ganga by Indians (the British changed it to Ganges), is the longest river in India. Every Hindu in India has some of the Ganga river water in their house. They also have a conch shell, even Indrajit does. Cows are holy because they are the Mother Cow, and every baby born in India drinks cow's milk before their own mother's milk. This is strange to me, because I have seen lots of cows eating garbage.

We rode another rowboat down to see the ghats. Our rower was a very young guy, about 15 years old. Along the way, we saw lots of people bathing in the river, we saw men washing clothes, and a group of boys dressed in orange doing morning aarti yoga. The men who wash clothes are professionals - people leave their clothes with them. They beat the clothes over big flat rocks, spraying water everywhere. There were about thirty boys who were 8-12 years old dressed in orange doing the yoga ceremony to greet the sun. As we were watching, the sun came up, so they did the sun greeting and also got holy water from the river. A man covered in white paint with a big beard was holding a fire and leading the boys doing yoga. It looked like they were having fun. Some of these boys may become priests. You have to be a Brahmin, the highest caste, to be a priest.

We also heard people laughing very loud. Indrajit this might be a Laughing Club, where people just get together and laugh to feel better. Really!

We saw dead carcasses of cows in the water, and lots of flowers, and lots of trash. It does not look very clean. I am not sure why they don't keep the holy water clean. (On the way back, we saw a dead cow in the back of a tuk-tuk with a boy sitting on top of it. Indrajit said that you have two choices if your cow dies in the city: 1. You can call the city government and get them to take it out of the city limits, but you have to pay them. Or 2. You can call the leather makers. They will only take the skin and will leave the bones and flesh to rot, which is disgusting, but they pay you for the skin. The first one is better for the environment and city, but lots of people choose the second one to get money.)

We went back to the cremation site, where we saw huge stacks of wood for the fires and a body in a white cloth about to be burned. The wood piles were at least fifty feet high. We got out of the boat and walked right past the cremation site, where we could see the guys who control the fires and sell things like the sandlewood and pots for the holy water.

The streets we walked through were very narrow and covered in cow manure and trash, plus lots of dogs, even little puppies. We went to the Golden Temple, where we were searched three times and there were lots of army guys with big submachine guns and assault rifles to protect the temple. The temple was covered in gold and there were monkeys climbing all over it.

After the temple, we walked back. We saw lots of kids walking to school or getting in school buses, which are actually big rickshaws with seats in the back for about six-eight kids. The kids all wear very nice uniforms to school.

This afternoon, I ate paan, which is coconut, nuts, sweet sauce, saffron, and some other things all on a beetle nut leaf. It is rolled into a pyramid shape and wrapped in edible silver wrappers, then you put it in your mouth and eat up! It turns your mouth very red. Dad, Mom, and I all tried it, but only Dad kept on chewing it for a long time.

We also went to two temples. The first temple was the Shiva Temple, and because on Mondays Hindus worship Shiva, it was a little crowded. Every god gets his or her own day. The temple is on the campus of a university so there were lots of students around. Our guide said that Hindu temples are fun places for kids, because Hinduism is "joyful, personal, and colorful". There are definitely a lot of colors and lots of bells to ring in the temple. We saw the shrine to Shiva, where you drink the holy water of the Ganges and offer milk, and sweets, and flowers. There is no preacher, so everyone can pray in their own way. There were also shrines to Parvati, his wife, Ganesh, his son, and to Saraswati, the goddess of education. I saw a guy with his school books praying to her.

We then went to the Mother of India temple, where they have a huge topographical map of India made of marble on the floor. I could see Rajasthan, as well as the Himalayas, and other things. Around the walls, they had paintings of famous freedom fighters from India. One of them, Mr. Singh, was holding a gun and gun belt. Indrajit told me that in the 1930s, a British army guy named Dyer led a group of soldiers who corned a bunch of Indian and children in a walled place, then he had the soldiers kill all of them, 1700. Some of them jumped in the well to try to escape and also died. After this massacre, Mr. Singh led a group that wanted to get Dyer out of India. He threw a bomb near Dyer to scare him, but not kill him because he did not believe in violence. Sadly, the British hunted Singh down and hanged him.

After lunch, we went to Sarnath, which is a very holy place for Buddhists. We saw the stupa, or building, where Buddah gave his first sermon. Buddah was an ordinary man, actually a Hindu who was from the warrior caste, but who decided that the Brahmin caste system was unfair when he was 29. He left his wife and son and traveled for seven years, then he sat under a fig tree and fasted, then he was enlightened. I always thought Buddah was big and fat, but no one knows really what he looked like. We saw some spotted deer called Chetal at the site as well as a female black buck.

I also met a boy named Rakesh while I was there. We started talking so I interviewed him. Here is the interview:

Age 12

Who do you live with? My mother, father, two sisters and one brother. I am second youngest.

Where do you go to school? I go to Chetan Balika Vidalya and I am in the 6th grade.

What is your favorite subject? English, Math and Hindi

How do you get there? I walk.

What is your favorite food? All vegetables.

What do you do for fun? Play in the garden by the Buddist stupa

What are you most afraid of? When my parents beat me.

What message would you give to all the children of the world? He thought for a very long time, but said he did not have any message.

I was very sad to hear that his parents beat him. He seems like a nice boy.

India has a lot of gods - about 1 million of them. We have only seen a few. Here is a list of the gods in India that I know:

Brahma is the first god and the creator of all other gods and includes Vishnu and Shiva.

Durga is the fierce form of Parvati.

Shiva is the god of destruction and is married to Parvati. Shiva is the god who is worshipped in Varanasi.

Parvati is Shiva's wife.

Ganesha is the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati. He has four arms and a mouse to ride on. He has large ears for listening and is called the remover of all obstacles. People always pray to him before weddings, and other important times.

Hanuman is the monkey god who is very courageous and strong.

Kali is the goddess of power. When she is happy she is calm but when she gets angry she is very dangerous. Soldiers pray to her before going into battle.

Krishna is the god of love and ladies pray to him before they get married.

Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and money.

Rama is the hero. In the story of Ramayana, that I am reading, he was sent into exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. Hanuman helped save them with his monkey army.

Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and hangs out with Braman.

Nandi is the bull and bodyguard of Shiva.
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