Varanasi 3 | bellsandtrance's Blog
Subject: Varanasi!!! 3 I love this place!
What an awful sleep on the train. Our first class upgraded cabin was freezing and the scratchy blankets and thin pillows did not do a lot for very peaceful slumber conditions. The screeching and creaking wheels felt as if they were ingrained in my brain, but finally dawn arrived and we picked up our weary bones to see the view. We were ambling through the countryside and we had wonderful views of people taking their morning toilet routines to the total extremes. They just do their business wherever, seriously. A room with a view ha ha.
When the train stopped in Varanasi I told the kids to stay in the cabin and our very friendly waiter / porter came along for his tip. Now understand this......you are dirty, tired, taking care of children, helping the elderly, sorting out money and some pesky little man sits and complains about you only giving him a 20 bucks tip for folding four blankets...your patience takes a dip. The kids where running around screeching and not listening so I stormed into the cabin to give each a good smack on the bum....the pesky waiter was staring in amazement and as I finished with the three I looked at him and said your next...I was angry....Charmaine was standing next to me laughing so much that tears where running down her cheeks. The pesky porters mouth dropped centimeters and he never asked for a tip again.
Anyway so I thought that Delhi had crazy traffic, boy oh boy was I wrong. More about that later though....... Varanasi is about750 kmEast of Delhi..population 3.6 million. The oldest living city in the world, they reckon about 5 thousand years old.
After a couple of hours resting at the swanky Ramada plaza hotel.....oh the softest beds after that train. We were of to Sarnath temple....new guide Santos and a very grumpy looking driver.Sarnath is where lord Buddha gave his first sermon and has the oldest known statue of Lord Buddha.....he looks nothing like the way we know him! Hinduism is the oldest religion in the East and Buddha is a Hindu creation ....Buddhism only came along much later,interesting fact.
Ok so now we were about to see the river Ganges or as it is known here Ganga....mother goddess. Varanasi is the most sacred city in India as it is so old and also because of the Ganges.
You cannot drive to the Ganges. You drive for a while and then you walk. We all boarded rickshaws. Two people on one. We were on the back of rickshaws driving about a km down the road as the sun was setting...it took 30 minutes.Remember the rule of thumb....if its bigger and behind you it hoots. There we were in the most crazy place I have ever been in my life. There were trucks, tuck tucks, rickshaws, bicycles, cows, dogs, buffalo, pigs, goats, people, children, food carts, motorbikes,delivery vehicles, police vans with sirens, army vans, horses, chickens. There is not one space where something is not happening. Everyone moves together in a snake like wave. There are hooters going off on average every three seconds. The road is full of red blotches that look like blood but is actually chewing tobacco called paan as people love to spit(their mouths are all stained red) There are lights and music and chanting and vegetable stalls. The buildings go high up and the are all covered in electric wires(glad I'm not an .electrician in India) there are mosques, Hindu temples, Jain temples all next to each other and each one has their own chanting going on. There are monkeys and baboons on the roofs ......it's frightening and fantastic all at the same time. Nowhere else on earth is this bad they say and I truly agree. Not Cairo not Bangkok not Soweto shanty town rush hour has a patch on this....it is MAD and yet really beautiful and exciting all at once. I closed my eyes sometimes out of fear but everything just flows......and the most amazing thing is everybody is so chill and friendly.....nobody has road rage. There was a guy with a huge sack on his bicycle in front of us, it fell down I though oh no! Here comes an accident but we just smoothly dodged him and went on our way.No experience on earth comes close to this regarding traffic.
The walkway down to the Ganges was filled with stalls and beggars and kids and people and dogs and cows and real holy men and fake holy men and pilgrims and priests and Muslims and some tourists. We watched as they did the evening ritual on the river....seven Hindi priests on seven altars with bells and incense and flowers and flames. It was so awesome. It was just the most crazy thing we have ever seen. I want to see it again. We left the way we came and then it was even busier as the evening got more frenetic and more people came. The touts and beggars just don't leave you alone and I am getting used to it.....so are all the kids and Ma and Pa struggle a bit with all the craziness but I think they are enjoying themselves.
Next morning up at four to leave by 5:45 to go to the same place with the same route.
But now it's morning, the vibe is so different. Still busy but everyone is calm. They are all going about their morning routines.....urinating, eating, drinking tea, talking, sweeping, patting cows etc. We climb on a boat and watch the beautiful sunrise on the Ganga. There are birds flying all over and there are many many boats. The eastern shore is deserted and the Ganges at this point is about as wide as 5 rugby fields. On the western side are the ghats (concrete steps going down to the river) it is on these concrete steps that daily life takes place. The are garlands of old flowers and papers and rubbish all over. There are lots of people bathing, there are even more dipping and chanting. There are real holy men sitting on the banks meditating and doing yoga. Fake Holy men touting tourists.There are flute pla
Back on shore there are even more beggars but we all get blessed my a real Hindu priest. Little children follow us everywhere, there are brides and grooms sitting on the banks ready for their dip in the Ganges ...this is to bless their marriage. There is an old man with monkeys and snakes who do tricks for him.
In the evening there are three Hindi weddings at our hotel, one of them is the police commissioners daughter and there are 1000 guests. The first thing you see are two villagers on Rickshaws they have two generators with heavy cabling running off them. Behind the rickshaws are about 20 villagers walking in a circle. On top of the villagers heads are what look like pot plants they are holding. In the pot plants about a meter or so high are various lights, some look like two fluorescent bunny ears, some have big circles with flashing LEDs. They are all joined by cabling from the generators that look very dodgy. Behind them is a brass band playing full blast.Behind this is the family with guys playing djembe drums very loud - they are dancing like mad. Behind them is the groom on a white horse! All around are people watching and all the guests are dressed to the tee and the saris and punjabis that the ladies wear are over the top.
There were two of these groups entering the hotel at once. It was really noisy and full of lights.
The venues had disco lights and a huge stage covered in jasmine and beads and silks and orchids. There was food everywhere and the music was playing. The one wedding looked like the Tekkie fees! They really go over the top and it's totally awe inspiring. We walked around watching the spectacle and awe! We had never ever seen anything like this in all our lives! India never fails to amaze.
As I write this we are overnighting on the train on route to Agra 500 km from Varanasi ... Agra ..the city of the Taj Mahal.
Oh yes and in closing.....we couldn't get first class tickets for this ride (there,is no first class) so We are in carriage A. Ha ha ha ha what an experience....narrow bunks and dirty toilets and Indians everywhere!
The railway tracks by the way are full of human excrement as that's how people go on the train, huge brown rats, litter, beggars and people. What a place!
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