Varanasi – up at 5am again

MARCH 10, 2013

Varanasi, locally referred to as ‘the oldest living city and the holiest city in the world’… an incredible place, the layers of time are thick and visible at every twist and turn of the city’s maze of streets.

Up at 5am this morning to get to our own little boat on the river to watch sunrise and the many and varied morning traditions that have been continuing for the last 3000 yrs on the Ghat (the steps on the riverbank).  Its Maha Shivaratri celebration today, the streets and the Ghat overflowing with hundreds of thousands of people. The city streets fill up cars, bikes  animals and people become gridlocked

Varanasi is where the river Ganges flows to before it terminates in Calcutta… It’s pretty polluted at this point and yet you watch as everyone does their yoga or prayers, washing themselves, shaving, doing their teeth in amongst cow shit, urine, rubbish, milk, ash, fires, funeral pyres, professional laundry men.  Incense burns, Mantras and chanting gently fill the air, Naked Sadus covered in wood ash, young boys in yellow, men with their faces painted with white, yellow or red, old woman lighting puja  and offering them to Matta Ganga.

There are thousands of people, locals, tourists, pilgrims, hippies, families, primarily Hindu and Muslim people of every age.

Everyone farting, belching, hoicking, spitting, urinating freely…smiling and happy.  The human body is just a vessel, there seems no shame or very little modesty about all the noisy ways we cleanse it.

It is intense.

The smells, the sights, the colours, the old temples, fish jumping, a huge golden orange sun rises and despite all this humanity, history, tradition, poverty and chaos Varanasi has a deep sense of calm, of blissful peace and serenity. ….everyone stays happy and smiling.

They have a saying that puts it into perspective ‘remember that the thousand petaled lotus grows out of mud’.

Hindu people come here to die and to be cremated here. They believe this will release them from the cycle of reincarnation…. So the funeral pyres burn constantly 24/7.

It’s Shiva’s marriage celebration here tomorrow, this happens every 12 yrs, so the city is full to the brim.  It took about 3 hrs to move about 1 km during the middle of the day!


- Written by MARCH 10, 2013

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