Tigers , temples and trains – 24th October – 6th November
Newly arrived in Varanasi, all Hindus must visit this most holy place once during their life, we left our hotel by bus to somewhere in this city of 2 million, where we transferred to cycle rickshaws, two to each for an amazing ride through the rush hour with cars, motor cycles, phut phuts, other rickshaws, pedestrians, dogs, cows, noises, smells, lights and more!
We were seated in fine seats to view the evening ceremony of ‘Aarti’ – prayers offered to the holy river amidst the sounds of temple bells, chants and rituals before altars at the river edge using light, fire, flowers, incense; seven Brahmin priests , in perfect co-ordination performed this while thousands were out on the river casting lights onto the water. We went out at sunrise – now we could see the River properly – unbelievable, seen so often in pictures, we were truly here. As the sun rose clear over the far side of the river casting myriad colours on the water, we saw the devout bathing, washing their clothes, swimming, taking holy water – even we, could dip our hands into the water symbolically to wash them in the filthy water and to place our lights. We saw two areas where cremations were taking place but can only remember them, as photos would have been wrong. This evening and morning will be unforgettable.