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Kiara's Amazing Travels

Varanasi

INDIA | Monday, 22 November 2010 | Views [1540] | Comments [2]

This really was our first dead body about to be burnt!

This really was our first dead body about to be burnt!

Varanasi – where do I begin? Like a fungal infection, it grows on you!  It was one of the most incredibly overwhelming, in your face and intense places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I shouldn’t forget that it’s probably one of the most disgusting places that invades all your senses at once and quite successfully succeeded in placing me well outside of my comfort zone.  Matt’s initial reaction on the other hand, while still thinking the local streets were disgraceful, was not as shocked as mine. On some level he expected all of India to be like Varanasi which luckily isn’t the case.

 

Maybe this short description will help you imagine Varanasi and understand what we felt on our first few days there. Rubbish, goats (many of which are dressed up in clothes), cows, chickens, dogs and a variety of shit line the street and all combine to create a putrid aroma. Matt’s most memorable moment was walking home and stumbling across two particularly joyous dogs feasting on a dead cat. When they realised their midnight snack had been interrupted, they picked up the limp body by the neck and carried it around the corner to continue their feast elsewhere. Matt was shattered we didn’t get a photo and I’m so happy we travelled all this way for that to be his most memorable moment!! The ‘sacred’ Ganges is the filthiest river contaminated by all of the above, combined with sewage and dead bodies. The locals still believe in the cleanliness of the river and utilise the water to regularly bathe, wash clothes and drink. Our romantic boat ride on what we have dubbed as ‘shit creek’ was severely impaired by our sighting of a dead babies leg, ghastly white and decaying floating only metres from us.

 

Despite this horrendous account, Varanasi has a lot to offer in the way of experience and certainly opened my mind further to accept different cultures.  The public cremations, although they sound disgusting are actually quite a beautiful thing to witness and somehow opened my eyes to the spiritual side of Varanasi. We learnt all about the ritual burnings from a local who explained the different colours the corpses were wrapped in – gold for old men, white for young men and red for females.  The corpses are brought down to the river by only the males while women are not permitted to attend because apparently they lack the strength,  are weak of heart and their tears will make the souls unwilling to leave. We found it most interesting that not all bodies are cremated but rather young children, pregnant women, holy men, snake bite victims and lepers are all pushed into the middle of the river to be devoured by the fish. The justification for this is that these particular groups of people are thought to have pure karma and don’t require cleansing from the burning ritual – it also explains the manky leg we saw.

 

In the end Varanasi turned out to be an awesome stop, not only for the dead bodies we saw burning but especially for it’s disgusting nature which you get used to. It’s a place I’d recommend but not for the faint hearted.  Hope I haven’t put anyone off because you can’t travel to India without seeing this amazing place. It contrasts so highly with the other places we’ve seen so far, and that’s what makes it amazing in its own right.

 

Ki xx

 

 

Comments

1

G'day Ki
Just read your story on Varanasi, fantastic writing mate very descriptive and instead of scaring people off it would intrigue people to visit there and to do so with an open mind and not be so shocked by what they encounter.
I keep forgetting you are travellling again.
I will try to keep in touch with your wanderings, Thanks for the blog.

  Norm Nov 22, 2010 10:29 PM

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