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Mist and celebration in Varanasi: Photos

Just love the look on the monk's face!
December 20th: Whatever you do, do not miss Varanasi.

It is hard to describe Varanasi.. A cacophony sounds--bells, chants, horns. Streets that haven't changed much in the last 500 years save some hanging electrical wires. "Dentists" sitting on the street with their tools spread about them and what looks like actual patients sitting across from them (yikes.) Bodies being moved through the streets on the top of SUV-type vehicles in joyous processions and covered with flowers. Cremations that are carried out in the open on the burning ghats without great fanfare, just as a natural part of the process of life--"The business of death" . Narrow streets and alleys only wide enough for two people. Soldiers with rifles outside the mosques. Pilgrims on the ghats looking to the Brahmin priest for guidance on praying to their lost relatives (and negotiating the fee for the advice). Floating on the Ganges at sunset watching the nightly celebration and not believing they can actually perform this extravaganza every night. Children jumping from boat to boat like cats on a balance beam selling flowers for tourists and pilgrims to float in the water and make a wish/request to whatever God you believe in. Cows everywhere.

Morning too foggy to go on the Ganges at sunrise. However, the eerie fog makes the ghats very mystical. Instead of the sunrise boat ride, we visited a havali (courtyard house) a few minutes walk from the ghats. It was a great house and very interesting to see how people who live near the ghats live on a day to day basis. There were two cows living on the first floor along with a workshop for the man who owned the house, Rammi, who sells essential oils and masala (spice mixtures). Rammi also happens to create the essential oils for Goldie Hawn, so of course, I had to buy some essential oils--I bought "Noor" (flowers) and "Green Grass." They really smell wonderful, but I have no idea what you are suppose to do with essential oils. On the second floor of the havali was Rammi's family. The children were in the living room lying on pillows studying, his mother was cooking, and his wife made us piping hot Chai. All three floors of the house look down into the courtyard. I was glad that the morning was so foggy--it gave us an opportunity to meet this wonderful family. As we left the house we continue to walk through the town to the other end of the ghats. By then, the fog had lifted and we hired a boat to take us back to the beginning of our morning journey. It was fascinating seeing all the activity on the ghats in the morning. We were the only boat and had the river to ourselves. Soft chanting, laundry drying, people bathing. Amazing. Everyone on in Varanasi seems to have a PhD. Three tour guides that I met had a PhD in archeology or something or other. Must be hard for them to be tour guides.

That afternoon off to Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon. It was moderatly interesting, but I could have skipped Sarnath. I'm sure if I was more interested in Buddhism, I would have found it more compelling. I did get a great picture with a Buddist Monk however; love the look on his face ;-) Back at the hotel (Taj Ganges), got stuck in the elevator--emergency lighting is not a concept in Varanasi--it was pitch black. This was just one of the multiple power outtages we encountered during our trip. You get used to them and carry on. Fortunately there was a bell hop in the elevator with us who assured us the elevator would be moving within a minute. Between airplane landings and elevators, Varanasi is not without hazards! Oh, yes, there are many mosquitos in Varanasi. Back to Delhi for an overnight and then by car to Agra
Permalink | Posted by Patricia Pomerleau on Sunday, January 22, 2006