It has been a great couple of days in Varanasi. My favorite parts (and pretty alI did) was walking along the ghats, people watching and going to the festival in the evening. But, I did take a morning boat ride on the Ghanges. Here are some pictures from that:
For those of you who have never been to India, it is hard to describe. But I made a some observations that capture a little of what India, or Varanasi, is. Varanasi is…..
- Straight razor shaves on the street
- Boys flying kites
- Dips in the ghanges
- Shared fear (and laughter) of being trampled by a cow
- Holiness everywhere
- Marigold strands
- Boys diving into the river
- Women smiling back at me (after I catch them staring – and return the stare with a smile)
- Cobras in baskets (oh hell no! how do you know it won’t come towards me???)
- Grinning sadhus in orange
- The stench of piss and cow shit
- Skinny little dogs everywhere
- Shrines and little temples tucked into every street
- People, strangers, who genuinely look out for me in crowds
- Beautiful, bedazzling, colorful saris
- Pollution and trash everywhere
- People sleeping just about anywhere
The last night I was there was the big festival. There were 24 Brahmins (priests) performing the puja on the water front – though every ghat had their own ceremony. During the afternoon each ghat was preparing with laying out the oil lamps and mandelas on the pavement.
I found a spot in front of the main stage but that was definitely one of the most crowded areas. It was so busy and crazy! Thousands of people started to fill the ghats two hours before anything even started.
The area I was started to fill up quickly, but fortunately the people around me were looking out for me- from the sassy teenage girl tapping people on the shoulder who stood in front of us and elbowed me in the side reminding me to pray to the group of twenty-something men who simultaneously made fun of me and offered for me to stand in front of them so I could see (and who immediately stopped their laughter and jokes once the puja started) to the policeman who wad basically hitting people with his baton to get them out of the walkway but exchanged smiles with me and made sure I could see!
Following the ceremony, I attempted to walk down the ghats to see some of the oil lamps but the crowd was intense and I was immediately being knocked around by the crowd. I heard a voice next to me saying ‘just stay with me, follow me’. Not wanting to be trampled by the crowd, I put my trust in this guy and he safely pulled us to the side out of the crowd of thousands trying to go in either direction.
This guy introduced himself as babu, but that is the word for little boy [which cracks me up every time I hear someone shout ‘hey, babu!’] so I didn’t really believe him but he invited me to a small Shiva ceremony that he and some friends were going to have soon.
Though it sounded sketch, I thought I would check it out. The shrine turned out to be right on the ghats but hidden away – I passed it a dozen times but never noticed it before. When I got there three men were preparing for the ceremony – putting flower strands on all the ‘statues’ [my bad in advance for not knowing the correct terminology]. Babu had me help light oil lamps which lined the shrine and sprinkle marigold petals in the main area. A family came in at one point and made an offering of rice and prayed. But Babu and his buddies were waiting for the Brahmin to show up to perform the ceremony and since it was late I bide my farewells (it was about 10 at that point and I felt strange being in the shrine with a bunch of dudes, holy as it might be). But I wish I had pictures of the shrine to show you as it was so beautiful.
And that my friends was my adventures in Varanasi!