How lovely it was to have the morning open to relax, pack and get ready to depart for the airport for our 1-1/4 hour flight to Varanasi. I forgot to mention that yesterday afternoon, Jim and I went to a nearby shop to have some custom clothing made. The shop had beautiful fabrics in linen, silk and cotton, plus some pre-made clothing. The choices were amazing.
jim always wanted short sleeved linen shirts, so they measured and measured and voila, they came out perfectly. There was a rack of designs to help you create the garment you wanted, which helped a lot. I found a neckline, sleeve length and general shape for a top and had it made in two colors of linen and one in silk. There was a beautiful color of a very lightweight silk that caught my eye, so I designed a top and pants to bring home. All were completed a few hours later. With a little tweaking, the items look great.
We went to the airport and arrived in Varanasi in the late afternoon. A quick freshening and off we went in three auto-rickshaws to witness a ceremony that few see on the Ganges.
Without a doubt, it was the most exciting and frightening twenty minutes in our lives. We darted in and out between cars, motorcycles and other rickshaws, honking the horn non-stop, just like every other vehicle. I tried to video the experience, but had to use both hands just to hold on! The noise was deafening and the ride something we will never forget.
We boarded a boat, oared by two strapping young men, who took us to one of the gantts (docks) to see a fire ceremony that is performed nightly. One minute, the steps and plazas are empty and the next, they are filled with thousands of people, watching, praying and lighting candles that are floated in the water as a prayer.
Nearby, we passed a large area that cremates bodies 24/7, since there are a lot of Indians who have died and burial is not an option. A pyre is built and the body is placed on the wood. The ashes are put in the Ganges and the family mourns for one calendar year. They shave their heads in memory of their loved ones. We could only witness this from our boat, but it is quite a spectacle.
We continued farther south along the river, watching the devotees place lit candles in the water as prayers for their loved ones. We did the same. This ceremony takes place nightly, with Hindus coming from all parts of India. I wish I could include many more pictures, but you can get an idea of the significance of the moment.
Our guide, Ravi, is from Varanasi and has witnessed these light ceremonies hundreds of times. He has never brought a group to see it, because they have been too large. We were the first! It was mesmerizing. Afterward, we had a beautiful dinner together overlooking the river, and a return trip on the auto-rickshaws back to our hotel.
Tomorrow morning, we have a 5:30 call to take another boat on the Ganges for a typical sunrise activity, bathing and sharing the sacred waters of the river as an offering to the gods.