15.01.2008 - 15.01.2008
As I’ve written previously, there is little I have the ability to write effectively about Varanasi in terms of the city’s spiritual significance. This holy city has had a profound effect on both Christine and I both from an experiential perspective and from the friendships we have developed in just the few short days we were there.
What I decided to write about is the importance of the Ganges river, Mother Ganga, on the lives of the people that live there and the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims that visit. As a westerner, it is an enigma to observe the activities that take place on and along its banks. The Ganges is the heart of Varanasi. To the religious and spiritual, it is the holiest of places and to the pickpockets and scammers, it is an opportunity to profit.
You see all aspects of life along the river. The rituals of prayer, cremation, meditation, shaving and bathing, yoga, clothes washing and sleeping all take place along the ghats - which line one bank of the river.
Intellectually it is difficult to understand the spiritual depth that urges people to perform many of the activities which in and of themselves have so polluted this holy river. In addition to people soaping up and washing in its cold water, ashes and unburned remains of cremations are strewn into the river every day. We were told by Pappu, our guide and now friend, that Sadhu’s, lepers, small children and pregnant women are not cremated, but weighted down with a rock and dropped into the Ganges to rest for eternity. The power of mother Ganga.
I don’t understand the paradoxes that I observed along the banks of the river and don’t feel a need to try. I can tell you however, that I purchased two small brass urns which Christine and I filled with the holy water of Mother Ganga to bring her power back to our home. Some things are better left a mystery…
The following photos will hopeully provide a glimpse into life on the ghats of Varanasi: