Saturday, 18 December 2010

Monday 6th December - Varanasi

After a good night’s sleep we were collected by our guide and taken to Sarnath, 10km from Varanasi, the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment.   We visited the archaeological museum, saw the ruins of many monasteries and stupas.  It was very interesting seeing where history was created.

Our guide asked us if we would like to do the evening riverboat ride on the Ganges which of course we did.  It was a fantastic sight, a vast array of small boats rowing down the river towards the outdoor crematorium.  The chief mourner of the family wears all white clothes.  There is no crying at the funeral, women are not allowed to attend due to their “gentle heart”.  The family stay with the body until it has been fully burnt, approx three hours they then go to the temple to pray.

There are rules as to who cannot be burned at an open cremation; pregnant women, children under the age of ten, those who have died due to a snake bite and those suffering with leprosy.   These bodies are cast adrift in the Ganges far upriver from where all the temples are.  

From our boat we witnessed an amazing ritual carried out simultaneously by five young priests in which they made offerings to the gods including incense, fire, feathers and water.  There were huge crowds gathered on the steps of the Ghat.  Bells were rung constantly and there was chanting and music. 

After we had got off the boat we mingled with the crowd in the busy streets where there were several wedding processions taking place.  We ate at a great vegetarian restaurant recommended by our guide then went home to bed in the hopes of getting lots of sleep.  Our next excursion was a dawn boat ride on the Ganges to see the pilgrims bathing.

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