Blogger: Lauren Lucy Crowley
Our last stop in India before moving on was the sacred Varanasi. Often referred to at the spiritual epicentre of India; religion, belief and good karma are very much at the forefront in Varanasi.
We travelled overnight from Agra to Varanasi, and so we were quite tired on arrival, however as time was limited we only briefly stopped for a quick coffee and a bite to eat at our hotel before heading out to explore! The streets were lined with vendors, packed with rickshaws, and the sound of beeping horns was just as loud as the other Indian cities we went to visit! We hopped on a tuk tuk and travelled to the main street where we decided to go and explore!
The crowded stalls sold everything you could possible imagine: textiles, clothes, sarees, bags, jewellery, flowers, beds, fruit, toys… the list is endless! It was noticeably cheaper in price than other cities we had visited! As we browsed through a stall of brightly coloured glittery bangles… a young boy approached us and asked if we would like to get some henna done… we smiled at each other and thought it sounded like a great idea! Little did we know we were headed for a local Indian lady’s house!
It was such a bizarre situation when we found ourselves in an Indian home off a back street, getting henna done by two sisters! Such a typical example of the random things that happen when in India! They painted the henna on our hands and feet, it was fascinating to watch them draw such intricate designs so quickly! Although they had quite broken English, we chatted away to them best we good as we enjoyed some delicious home- made masala tea and biscuits!
It seemed as though our newly found friend Baboo had our whole day planned out for us! As soon as our henna was completed and left to dry, he led us down to the river Ganges sharing all his local knowledge with us! It was absolutely beautiful! The sun shone down on boats that were dotted along the waters edge, there was an abundance of people bathing in the sacred water, and multiple shrines and people practising yoga along the waters edge! It kinda felt as though we had walked into a whole different world!
Baboo led us down to the most Westerly point of the river where he explained how Varanasi is the most desirable place for Indians to die. Bodies of those who have sadly passed away are transported from all over India (and beyond) to be cremated at the Ganges river. Over 200 corpses are cleansed in the river on a daily basis before cremation at the waters edge. Women are not allowed to attend the ritual as there is a belief that if anyone cries the soul of the deceased will not go to heaven. It was so interesting to get such an insight into a culture so different to my own!
Every morning and evening there are multiple ceremonies along the waters edge, with the main one attracting thousands of people! Although there is an option to watch on the river from a boat, we chose to attend on foot (it was a lovely sight to see so many colourful boats pulled up behind us!). We looked on in fascination as five men in brightly coloured clothes stood on a raised platform and performed an array of rituals (lasting about 45 minutes) with fire sticks in their hands to the sound of loud chiming bells and traditional music. The entire place was light up with tea lights… it was captivating! After the ceremony, we purchased a flower tea light on a float made from leaves from a local lady… and made a wish as we sent it floating off onto the Ganges river! The entire evening was such a magical experience!
Although quite a short trip, I truly enjoyed my time in Varanasi! It is possibly one of the most unique places I have ever been to visit! I highly recommend taking a trip there! If you have any questions or queries about Varanasi, be sure to let me know, I would be more than happy to help! Simply e-mail me at: Lauren@ontheqt.ie, or OntheQT.firstname.lastname@example.org!
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Namaste, Lauren x x