Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Spiritual Varanasi

Varanasi day 1

Arrived in Allahabad at around 5-5.30am, then we took a 3 hr deluxe bus ride to Varanasi (this was an amazing bus, we had it to ourselves!). Arrived at our hotel around 9 and then we had an amazing breakfast – not! They hadn’t a clue what they were doing, and were telling us to have things we didn’t want and then took an age to get the food and bills to us – a group of 15 tired, hungry, fed up tourists should not be messed with, especially our group!

We then just checked in and spent the day lazing around on the roof terrace dozing and sunbathing. Our room hadn’t been cleaned, typical, so we had to wait while this poor little man was scurrying around at neck-breaking speed, cleaning it for us.

At 4 we all met up for our evening boat ride. We took cycle rickshaws to the ghats, but there was ANOTHER festival happening (I swear there is a festival every day in this place), so we had to take tons of diversions and then eventually they had to drop us about a 15min walk away. Lucky for us the festival procession was in full swing along the road we needed to take – que being jumped on, trod on and shouted at. It was all in good nature however it was quite scary as it was all men and boys. We ended up having to jump onto the breeze blocks in the middle of the road to escape the crowds. Yash to the rescue, we managed to get away from it and walked down to the ghat where we were taking the boat from. We took a short ride down river, towards the burning ghats (where they did funerals – 200 people a day get cremated there!) It was quite eery watching the fires knowing that people were under them being cremated. But it was also strangely spiritual and calming.

We then did our floating candle ceremony. In India the Ganges river is one of the most holiest places, and they set light to flower ‘offerings’ to the gods, for prayer, good luck, thank you’s – you name it - these flowers and candles mean the world to the hindu religion. So we lit our candles and lowered them into the water hoping they wouldn’t go out and at the same time praying our hands wouldn’t touch the filthy water! We then watched as they floated downstream and took a boat-seat at the main ghat to watch the evening prayer ceremony for a bit.

After our boat ride ended we then went to have something to eat, by which point we were all pretty knackered – me and Laura had previously made a pact we were going to paint Varanasi red that night – however, the long stint at the prayer ghat had totally diminished all energy we had and severed the pact! Ice cream was had after (I had cardamom with pistachio and butterscotch – was yummy) and then the long walk back to our cycle-rickshaws commenced, before a loud, bumpy ride back to the hotel. We then just called it a night as we had to be up and out at 5.30am the next day, for our sunrise boat trip.

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