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Banares Silk or 'Hindu Madness'

INDIA | Saturday, 20 February 2016 | Views [389]

There is a description of the lenght of time encompassed by one aeon which involves a very large rock and the rubbing of a piece of fine Banares cloth. I had not connected Banares to Varanasi before this trip but, another thing learned, found them to be one and the same.

At 5.15 am (I know!!) one morning Manidhamma and I awoke to make the short trip to Varanasi from Sarnath. I was keen to do the trip on several counts: friends who had loved the place and one of Guru's enigmatic/ unelaborated comments that I should go there. I was also delighted that we would be travelling by motor bike, a Honda Hero Splendour in particular. You can see I have the motor bike bug.

The journey to Varanasi in the misty morning was beautiful and quiet, the only slight problem being Manidhamma coming to terms with an unfamiliar machine that, in my expert opinion, was in desperate need of a service. Still, I loved it. We arrived at Assi Ghat, listened to some raga (?) music over chai and whilst Manidhamma bargained with a boatman I watched a bunch of Hindus doing their collective yoga practice, some pranayama and vigorous up and downing of arms.

The boat journey along the Ganga river was stunning in the early mornig light and Varanasi and the river reminded me at times of Turner paintings (I've never 'felt' much for Turner but will reconsider now) and images of Venice. Our rowman took us as far as a burning ghat, where bodies of the faithful are auspiciously cremated and where we floated for some time, an experience that I found unsettling, wanting to leave and stay at the same time.

On the way back to Assi Ghat we were dropped about half way and slowly made the journey back the bike on foot and after a good breakfast at a cafe with a great view of the river. We alsi dropped by at the Ashram of Anandamayi, I believe, in whose company and at whose ashrams Sangharakshita had spent some interesting times on his Indian wanderings.

The journey back on the motorbike was altogether different from our fairly solitary trip over, involving the usual Indian confluences of rickshaws, cars, motor bikes, bikes, cows, dogs etc and taking about three times as long. Still, it was a lot of fun and a good end to one of the highlights of our trip. 

I have some good photos but am struggling to upload these at the moment, rather frustratingly..

Hindu Madness, by the way, is a Manidhamma term and not a complimentary one. Fortunately I have not had to be on the receiving end of this or centuries of caste based discrimination so I have rather enjoyed the colour, noise and exoticism of it (people throwing themselves into the Ganges or holding their noses and repeatedly self ducking, to wash away their sins for example). There is a contrast to the serenity and poise that comes with a statue of the Buddha but one that appeals to a part of me. Maybe I am looking to integrate the two (well definitely).

I am now in Nagpur, to bring you fully up to date, having travelled by train from Varanasi arriving after 17 hours at around 12pm yesterday. I am staying at Nagaloka, a campus for students of Buddhism, Ambedkar and Sociology that is much larger than I had imagined The boys I have met are charming and it has also been a delight to find that Akashamitra, a friend from London, is also staying here at least until tomorrow. 

What I shall do I am not quite sure yet. So far I have been recovering from the Hindu (and Buddhist) madness..

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