Thumper…

January 12, 2017

India Day 14 – Varanasi Sunrise

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:49 pm
Tags: , , ,

14/10/16

Today we were up at 5am to go down to the Ganges River and see the sunrise over the river.
On the edge of the river each morning and evening they have a Hindu ceremony, just before/as the sun rises and just after it sets.

Morning hindu ceremony, Varanasi

Morning hindu ceremony, Varanasi

We headed to the middle of the river, then just drifted a km or so down the river over the next hour, listening to the silence, waiting for the sun to rise, enjoying the nice pale purple glow. Once the sun actually appeared, it came up quite quickly, turning the water to a glistening light orange, gradually strengthening to a bright orange sun that slowly brought the heat.

Bright orange at sunrise on the Ganges, Varanasi

Bright orange at sunrise on the Ganges, Varanasi

As we started motoring back, the ghat steps along the river began to come to alive, telling of life in Varanasi: bathing in the river, clothes washing, offering to the gods, it all happens just after sunrise, while it’s a lot cooler.

On the steps in the morning, Ganges, Varanasi

On the steps in the morning, Ganges, Varanasi

As the day dawned on the second cremation site, it looked like nothing more than an area where a few people had enjoyed a party around a campfire, the main site though, which is a lot busier, was really untidy. The ashes from the cremations are scattered over the Ganges, but despite the uses of the river, apparently it is still fairly clean and has a high oxygen level because the water comes fresh from the mountains.

Main cremation site, Varanasi

Main cremation site, Varanasi

The Ganges also has a reputation for having dead bodies in it. We saw no dead bodies floating in the river, but if you do see one, it is either a holy man (ie priest), a child or pregnant woman, as none of those can be cremated according to hindu custom. After the bodies are placed in the river, they have to end up somewhere and often on the other side of the river down steam a bit where the poor people recover them and eat them, or the dogs eat them.

Contemplating, on the ghat steps at sunrise, Ganges River, Varanasi

Contemplating, on the ghat steps at sunrise, Ganges River, Varanasi

After returning from the sunset cruise, I had breakfast then went for a walk into the town area with Miriam. It’s chaos in the centre, with people and vehicles (rickshaws, tuk tuks, cars etc) everywhere, but we found a little haven in a small supermarket shop that sold spices and stuff, as well as normal food, and spent a while there. I always find it interesting checking out what’s sold in other countries. Plus it was air conditioned, which is always good in very hot humid weather. I tried to buy a small packet of popcorn, it was the last one I could find on the shelf. But when I got to the checkout, it scanned as “out of stock”. The cashier kindly informed me that I couldn’t buy it because we don’t have any of these left, as he studies the item in his hand a little closer… It was no use saying anything, his computer system had told him it was out of stock and there was no way he could sell that item in his hand!

Power, Varanasi

Power, Varanasi

Just over the road we found a store that sold sweet lolly / chocolate type stuff, except it wasn’t chocolate (just looked like it), and we also spent some time there… we bought a couple of things and stood there in the shop and ate them. Yes, it was also air conditioned…

We left the chaos behind, at least for a time, on the way back, wandering back through some of the small back alley streets that were people’s homes. With narrow alleys lined by taller buildings, it was much cooler (but still warm), as the suns strong rays didn’t quiet reach that far. We had no idea where we were, but we just headed in the general direction we wanted to go and followed the paths. It was a lot quieter here without the hustle and bustle. To start with these little lanes were clean, but still smelt terrible; as we went deeper they weren’t clean and still smelt. At one point there was a visible change, it was clean and tidy, but you could also feel the change in atmosphere. I looked around, and realised we’d just entered the Muslim quarters. It was a Friday and there were lots of men in white robes and hats hanging around. The other areas had women out and about, but in this area there were no women, apart from one muslim lady, head down, who was being led by a young boy, maybe 7 or 8, presumably her son.
Got some strange looks through all of those alleys as I don’t think they see any foreigners through that area. Found our way back to the main road and eventually made it back to the hotel. A 4 hour walk in primarily the heat of the day… Not surprisingly I didn’t do much for the rest of the arvo.

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