Varanasi – City of Shiva

Posted: January 22, 2012 in 2011 Winter - India, India

So, from reading about Varanasi it is the holiest places in India, city of the destroyer god Shiva is where Hindu pilgrims come to wash away a lifetime of sins in the Ganges or to cremate their loved ones (after death in general!)

It is a much nicer than Delhi which was just one big shabby, grubby, frantic and over run  effluent pit. Don’t get me wrong it is still pretty frantic and dirty but offering a more of a colourful, charismatic or ‘spiritual’ retreat for Hindu pilgrims who visit the ghats that line the shore of the Ganges.

The city represents,

…beating heart of the Hindu universe, a crossing place between the physical and spiritual worlds, and the Ganges is viewed as a river of salvation, an everlasting symbol of hope to past, present and future generations…

I must admit that watching my first human public cremation was both rather exciting and surreal, although the white English gentleman in me couldn’t help to find the whole experience rather pagan. Dancing, singing, music, wailing, flowers thrown, etc. Mind you, it definitely beats being put in a box, slowly lowered into the ground with lots of tears and somber words. Although the ceremony is done in public it is not polite or acceptable to take photos, each one taking about 3 hours and the ghat is in operation 24 hours a day.

I spent a good few hours wandering along the very busy side streets trying not to get run over by rick shaw or scooter drivers weaving around piles of cow dung. You may be surprised to know that Hindu’s think cows are sacred and not only do they not eat them, but traffic in general will actually give way to them crossing roads! They also think monkeys are the animal of the creator god Brahma and offer them food treats as they scamper around on telegraph wires and rooves, hoping that god will bless them in return.

By the way they have a third god called Vishnu who is the maintainer or preserver, thought I would complete the trio rather than leave the uneducated amongst you hanging.

    

So, a quick reminder for myself… eating beef or monkey is bad, where do I stand with chicken rice!? Hungry now you see, photos will be added tomorrow

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