The Goddess Ganga – presides at Varanasi too

Our Goddess Ganga presides at Varanasi too.

It’s one of the oldest, continually inhabited cities of the world. At Varanasi long stretches of steps, called ‘ghats’, slip down her banks.

Here people of India wash clothes, do yoga, offer blessings, sell flowers, get massages, play cricket, fly kites, wash buffaloes, take ‘holy dips’ and cremate loved ones.

It’s an intimate affair; this love for Ganga. A tough love …

Death tugs pilgrims towards Ganga. Come breathe your last here and escape the cycle of birth and death. Come incinerate your body here and reach heaven without a sin. Come to the holiest funeral destination.

And the beating heart stops at a Ghat called Manikarnika. It’s a busy place.

Outcasts (called ‘doms’) carry a corpse, a lucky corpse, on a bamboo stretcher. They pass through the old city to the Burning Ghat. Slow steps down to immerse the corpse in the waters of Ganga. Here family members negotiate with wood merchants and cremators. Piles of firewood stack high. Each wood has its own price, sandalwood is expensive. Each body has its own weight. It is an art to completely incinerate a body. Calculate the price and pay. A merchants weighs logs, a cremator lights the fire. Temple priests console loved ones. Bells clang. A body burns. Ashes soften in the Ganga. Complete and perfect. And again, 300 times a day.

Harry and I, stare with others, uncomfortably. But we don’t turn away.

We head off in a wooden boat early in the morning (6am) ... towards the ghats of Varanasi.

We head off in a wooden boat early in the morning (6am) … towards the ghats of Varanasi.

 

...

 

We are definitely not the only ones up ... although Harry was sure we would be.

We are definitely not the only ones up … although Harry was sure we would be.

 

...

 

...

 

 ... even young love and little pups.

… even young love and little pups.

 

And then it gets a little busier (say 6h30 am) ....

And then it gets a little busier (say 6h30 am) ….

 

.... and we see washermen hard at work ....

…. and we see washermen hard at work ….

 

...

 

...

 

And then a lot busier (about 7am)....

And then a lot busier (about 7am)….

 

...

 

...

 

Here water buffalo leave after a drink and a wash.

Here water buffalo leave after a drink and a wash.

 

Even grubs up, while cattle wait.

Even grubs up, while cattle wait.

 

A chit-chat before a dip.

A chit-chat before a dip.

 

...

 

The dip.

The dip.

 

Da Boyz.

Da Boyz.

 

...

 

Mother & Daughter.

Mother & Daughter.

 

And everybody together now.

And everybody together now.

 

And further along ... a spirtitual ceremony ...

And further along … a spirtitual ceremony …

 

...

 

And then in the distance ... the Burning Ghat.

And then in the distance … the Burning Ghat.

 

... with its telltale fires ....

… with its telltale fires ….

 

... and temples ....

… and temples ….

 

 ... and stacks of wood ...

… and stacks of wood …

 

It is already busy 7 am in the morning ... corpse top left, negotiations below, workers waiting in the centre and a priest descending on the right.

It is already busy 7 am in the morning … corpse top left, negotiations below, workers waiting in the centre and a priest descending on the right.

 

Here, you see a corpse, wrapped in orange cloth, on a stretcher being carried down to the Ganges ...

Here, you see a corpse, wrapped in orange cloth, on a stretcher being carried down to the Ganges …

 

... to be immersed in sacred waters ...

… to be immersed in sacred waters …

 

... and to be carried up again.

… and to be carried up again.

 

Larger than life ... loved ones look on.

Larger than life … loved ones look on.

 

...

 

 In the evening the Burning Ghat is at its busiest.

In the evening the Burning Ghat is at its busiest.

 

 

10 Responses to The Goddess Ganga – presides at Varanasi too

  1. Meggan

    An amazing experience!

  2. Anonymous

    Ongelooflik!

  3. Belinda

    That’s amazing. Your pictures bring me right into the scene along with you.

  4. Gail Paton/Henning

    WOW, …. what insights . Glenn is missing you. Almost home time. wishing you safe passage..

  5. Rodney

    Fascinating. No ground being wasted on burials. Pity about the possible deforestation. Thanks very much for sharing. I suppose asking for a daily update is pushing my luck!!! 🙂

    • Harry

      Internet and time prevents this!

  6. Ndaba Ndzombane

    Amazing integration of daily life and death- all in a well orchestrated dance.

  7. Anonymous

    Water = life in most ancient cities. Just goes to show how much the water means to them. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jim and Muriel

    The Goddess Ganga—Varanasi—-just names we’d heard somewhere in the past——Not now——-amazing facts and again wonderful pictures !!

  9. Jan and Gail

    Awesome. You must have done a lot of research to follow what was going on. Worth the early rise. GJ

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