This entry was posted on 3/10/2008 9:32 PM and is filed under India.
The next morning at 5 am we joined our friends Jeanette, Davhee, Charles, Teresa and Nadia and took a boat ride on the Ganges, so that we could be on the river before sunrise. We were really glad we did. With Manu
gently rowing upstream, it was quiet and etheric. From the boat you can get such a great sweeping view of the wholeness of the river life. Varanasi's relationship to the Ganges is key, and very much the heart of the entire city.
Peapods on the Ganges...
Everyday more than 60,000 people come to the Ganges to bathe and pray. The Ganges River flows over 1500 miles from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges basin is inhabited by 400 million people, meaning that one out of every 100 persons on earth lives in this basin.
Boats laden with souvenir postcards, floating candles and Ganges brass water holders would row up to us in the hopes that they could make some sales.
Here are the floating candles that we lit and set into the Ganges...
This next movie is not ours, but really captures the feeling we had as we floated along, seeing people come down to wash, to pray, to do laundry, to bring the dead down to the river banks to be burned...
We saw a draped body being brought down to the banks of the river where it would be dunked into the holy water before being offered to the flames. There is also a gas crematorium on the banks of the river where the people are burned who cannot afford the luxury of being burned by wood. The wood is a special oil wood that ignites without
kerosene or matches. Inside a little temple is an eternal fire that
has been burning for too many thousands of years to count and that fire
is used to ignite the funeral pyre. They said the wood for a funeral
could cost as much as $500 and that is astronomical for the majority of
people living here.
We did see a couple of bodies
burning. Next to the main funeral pyres are two hospice rundown
buildings where old and sick people come and wait to die. At the edge
of the river where the burnings happen are the men who sift through the
ashes looking for the gold and silver that the deceased were wearing.
Their sifting is being watched over by their boss/lord who reclines on
a boat waiting for the booty to be brought to him. It was a very weird
scene out of a Fellini movie. Here's a bit of a movie we took of the scene...
As our boat docked at our Hotel,
there was a body right in the Ganges next to us. Bloated, covered in
cloth, feet tied together at the ankles, it bobbed in the light waves.
Our boat guy said that it must have been a poor man whose family could
not afford to burn him, so they tied stones to his feet and just dropped him into the river, but the stones must have fallen out and so he rose to the surface. Just couldn't photograph that scene.
were told that babies, children under 16, pregnant mothers and holy men are not
burned because they are not considered to have bad karma, so they are
just weighted with rocks and dropped into the middle of the river.
Lepers are also not burned and are dropped into the middle of the
river. Cows, bulls, dogs and who knows what else can sometimes be
spotted floated in the river. And lots of trash and septic waste floats in the river
too along with discarded garlands and flowers.
See those two specks that kind of look like people in the Ganges River???? Two people who just swam all the way to that far bank and are on their way back???
those from our group who were determined to swim across this river and receive blessings from the holy waters and
wouldn't you know it, Joss had to be one of them. Maybe we should have
told him to do it instead of DON'T DO IT! Anyway, here are photos of
him and his buddy Paige swimming across and back across the Ganges (and Lauren and Mark B. did it also).
Please let it be Holy Water!