The Monsoon Continues
16.02.2013 5 °C
Sunrise boat ride on Ganges was missing the sun but that aside, we had the chance to see the circle of life being completed, in what Hindus believe is a sacred place. On the banks of the River Ganges in Varanasi are a series of steps called Ghats. There are many Ghats leading to the river bank and each ghat has a temple. Where we start our boat ride is called Dasaswamedh Ghat and it is very busy. People returning from Kumbh Mela, Holy washing festival at Allahabad, are washing themselves in the Ganges with the locals. Some just dip a toe but others totally immerse themselves. It is cold for this time of year, I'm wearing a waterproof, they must be freezing. Lots of people are taking Ganges river water away with them to perform rituals at home. Many are wearing orange, a holy colour. The river bank is covered with rubbish [KB - it's full of everything you can imagine!] and it floats downstream giving masses of Siberian birds food. The boat takes us downstream past numerous ghats and pretty temples and then we reach the sacred cremation grounds. Here the circle of life is complete. Relatives and friends bring their dead loved ones to cremate them in auspicious circumstances. Cremating your loved one here is considered the best and holiest place. Huge piles of wood fill the narrow streets by the ghat and we can see the eternal flame burning. There are ash remains in the river just in front of the boat. It's strange seeing how they cremate people so publicly - what is the norm here seems alien to us.
After a breakfast stop we visit Barnasi University and and the University Temple. The University is organised into faculty hostel accommodation, faculty building and a large playing field. It is a huge University with 18000 students. The temple has one of the largest towers in India. Inside the temple people rush in a crazy manner to be blessed by various gods. There is a real buzz around the University. We grab a quick banana float drink from a local stand, local prices, only 60 rupees about 60p. The drink is delicious, with fresh bananas and sweet vanilla ice cream. We also visited the Mother India Temple, this is not just another temple. It houses a large marble carved map of India and surrounding countries. It is an impressive piece of Indian craftwork. The whole time we have been out it has been raining monsoon style. We brave the rain to try a local restaurant called Devanshi City. This is not a tourist multi country cuisine restaurant but a place where the locals are eating and drinking hot coffee whilst sheltering from the rain. The Devanshi Thali is excellent, it's made of 4 dishes served with jeera rice and naan. Yum, yum and best of all under 150 rupees, £1.50. I can highly recommend this place, it was a little piece of real India.
Sunset time, it has stopped raining and we take a rickshaw back down to the Ghats to watch the Aarti Ceremony. Then the rain and lightning returns at full strength, we were two very wet people watching the ceremony. It was interesting however seeing the young monks performing their daily rituals, including wafting fire around and chanting with bells [KB - the rain was so hard that two of the seven monks had their flames extinguished!]. Like two drowned rats we head back to the hotel but on the way we grab some treats from a snack stand. They are samosas and spicy fried meat balls and absolutely yummy - 20 rupees. Our rickshaw driver had patiently waited in the rain for us, then braved the deluge cycling us home - we gave him a very healthy tip. A great end to a day of seeing life like a local.
Stacey and Keith