So I have been trying to get myself out of the house more and see more of Varanasi. The other day I decided to go and do some homework on the stairs of the ghats and watch the sunset. Peaceful right? The ghats had another plan for me.
I didn't even get 20 meters into the cascading stair cases that are the ghats when a man called to me and then fell into step with me. His name was Padro and he spoke Hindi, English, Spanish and Japanese. He had never been to school, he was a grown up street kid who had learned all he knew from the tourists walking back and forth along the ghats. He invited me to sit and drink chai with him and his Sadu (holy man). I did for a moment, but moved in after realizing they only wanted me to pay for a drink and smoke with them. Maybe some other time? I was trying to get some homework done.
I waved goodbye and set off again, trying to get through the throng of Sadu tents set up on the ghats so I could find a place to peacefully read my books and do some homework.
No more than 30 meters along I was hailed by Happy and his friend Sabu. They own a chai shop very close the the main ghat and they also have a boat in which they take tourists along for a few rupees to see the ghats from the river Ganga (Gangees). Happy started talking to me and walking with me, as we passed a group of girls dressed in many colored punjabis, he asked me if I had seen the burning ghat.
I said no but I would very much like to.
He took me through the old city, down winding roads and crooked alley ways, past more shops then I had time to look at, and more chai shops then I could have visited in a lifetime. He took me into his friends shop where he told me I could get a sari for myself or for my sister and mother.
We walked down the main ghat and to the burning ghats, where they burn the dead bodies. I've never seen a dead body before, and I had never seen a burning body before either. I thought I would have a more visceral response to seeing body parts in fire, but my first three thoughts were as follows. 1. Woah that's a dead person 2. It doesn't smell like anything, but it sounds like grilling steak 3. I bet that's what Darth Vador looked like when they burned him on the Ewok planet.
Ill just let that speak for its self.
Happy took me through the burning ghats and one of the workers there gave me a tour and showed me each funeral pier and each fire. He said it takes 3 hours for the body to burn, and when it is done, the hip bone is left from the woman, and the chest bone is left from the man. They take the hip bone or chest bone and then throw it into the Ganga. They say the people burned here are sent directly to heaven.
I wasn't allowed to take pictures, or I totally would have, but It would have been a disrespect to the families standing by and watching.
As we walked back Happy asked me if I wanted to see the giving thanks ceremony that happens every night on the banks of the Ganga. Of course I did!
I can't quite describe what it was like to see it...
Hundreds of people, every night come to see this gratitude ceremony. From all over India people come to give thanks and make a wish. It was beautiful and stunning to be a part of.
To keep me from being late, Happy and Sabu gave me a ride on their boat! I got to see the ghats at night, that was beautiful, the picture doesn't do it justice.
Loving India and loving this place. More soon. If the sketchy Internet allows.