After two lovely weeks in Rajasthan with our international group it was time to continue the journey on my own. And after the vibrant Delhi experience I thought it couldn’t get more crazy, but it did. After the taxi driver picked me up at Varanasi airport, driving to the hotel was the wildest traffic experience I’ve ever had. He told me: “No rules in Varanasi”. Crisscross driving, pedestrians everywhere on the road, bikes, animals, wrong way drivers, honking, etc. Somehow we went with the traffic flow downtown. Even waking to the guest house after the ride was like finding your way in a narrow street labyrinth packed with people who constantly wanted to sell you things and kept talking to you. What an experience. What a craziness.
After checking in at a cozy guest house I went on the sacred Ganga river for a boat tour at night. First stop: The crematorium area. Bodies were burned in public and it is believed that when you’re cremated in Varanasi you go directly to heaven. So I saw people spreading ashes and even throwing two hands which didn’t burn properly in the river. Then our little boat headed to the Ganga Aarti, a traditional daily ceremony. It is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. Candles and flowers float down the river. The offering is made to the Goddess Ganga. You can hear songs and prayers to praise “Mother Ganga”. Ganga Aarti is celebrated at Dashashwamedh Ghat. According to the legend, Lord Brahma created the ghat to welcome Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma is said to be the creator and Lord Shiva the destroyer. Varanasi is the city of Shiva, that’s why people come here to “end their lives on earth” and be cremated in this sacred city. In addition to Brahma and Shiva, Vishnu is the preserver of life between creation and destruction. Full of impressions and tired I went back to the guest house to enjoy some local food and get rest.
The next day was completely unplanned. I walked around in the narrow streets of downtown, watched people, saw temples and suddenly I found myself in the middle of the crematorium. Because I still couldn’t believe that a place like this exists I decided on observing it for a while. I don’t want to describe closer what I saw, but it was a very interesting morning. I decided on walking alongside the Ganga from ghat to ghat when an old, special looking man accompanied me. He tried to explain me the area in English, but it was quiet difficult to understand him. Later I figured out that the guy was a Sadhu, an ascetic holy person in Hinduism who renounces the worldly life and having no possessions at all. Sadhus are about to reach Moksa through their lifestyle and meditation which means they will leave the circle of rebirth soon.
Unplanned days have space for surprises and while talking to the Sadhu I ran into a lovely group of people from France, Colombia and Australia. We talked a lot about traveling and photography and spent a great afternoon together. After all the Varanasi impressions I felt very tired and decided to relax for the rest of the evening. I just went one more time to the Ganga where I met two young guys from Varanasi. We had an interesting discussion about their way of life and life in general. One wants to become a civil servant to have secure life, the other wants to become a holy person, a Sadhu. The next day I left Varanasi to head to the peaceful mountain region of Dharmsala.