Asia | India – Varanassi, a holy place on a holy river – or so they say…
This entry might prove to be a short one… because to be perfectly honest, I was way behind with keeping my diary upto date in Varanassi, hoping to pour out my thoughts straight onto the internet once arrived in Pokhara, not knowing internet would cost a fortune there… even with almost a week of doing nothing in Pokhara, somehow the Varanassi writing bit never materialised.
Basically this means it’s one month later, I don’t have any notes and, very truthfully, do not feel like writing loads about it.
Not that it wasn’t nice, on the contrary I got really carried away with Varanassi…
But you’d better see for yourself;
‘Will you check it out or shall I go?’ was our question at the first guesthouse we wanted to see. Being 2 in Varanassi is definitely an advantage: as the old town is build up of small, narrow, winding alleys, even the tiny autoriksjas can’t get to most of the guesthouses on the ghats (riverbanks) of Varanassi. Means you have to walk the last bit, which is a lot easier if one of you can keep an eye on the luggage in the riksja and the other than can wander off without the heavy pack…
Decided that with Bal speaking Punjabi, he’d probably secure a better rate, so off he went.
After some inspections, we ended up in a nice little guesthouse having a rooftop terrace with view on the Ganges!
My first feeling on Varanassi that afternoon were that I did not like it. I loved the river and its views, but got really upset about having to watch every second where to put your feet, or you’d step into either cow shit or some shattered garbage…
Having somebody at the burning ghat trying to morally blackmail you in buying several kgs of burning wood for the poor didn’t help either…
I am probably too Western conditioned to be able to understand how people can heavily pollute a river which is so holy to them… not only with the burning ghats, but also all the sewage that just pours into the holy waters…
The good point was the cricket playing kids who enjoyed being photographed and wrote their address down sotheycould get a copy! Off course this created again a minor get together of some 20 people who were wandering around at the time.
With an early dinner on the Ganges viewed terrace, we called it an early night also.
Which we needed, seen that we were getting our obligatory Ganges sunrise boat tour the next morning at 05.30 am!
We were joined by Josh, a Berlin guy who had arrived just an hour before.
Probably this is where my dislike turned to admiration and wonder, and I truly started to love it.
Was it the amazing, magic light of the sun slowly rising above this holy river?
Or was it the large stairs and palaces rising out of the water in a glory that has long faded but still leaves the old days to be imagined?
Or was it all those different people, united in one and the same ritual of the morning bath in the Ganges?
Or was it the peace and quiet on this large river, with on one bank an old impressive city rising up and on the other banknothing but swamps?
I don’t know.
Fact is, that once we got back I kind of felt at home in this weird town, whether it was having breakfast with a view of the Ganges, or strolling around the old and narrow alleys of the muslim silk district of town.
After this, it only got better: a make shift swing with a small boy playing with his sister, the stunningly beautifull silk sarees woven with this ingenious card system by young boys, the tasty food on the streets, a short but revigorating massage near the Ganges (tucked away behind a small bench so as not to attract all of the male population having a look at all my muscles being manipulated), an interesting religious ceremony on the main ghat in the evening, but also animated and interesting discussions about India, travelling, food and ways of life with Bal & Josh…
So you see, first impressions do change, another proof is this entry, can’t really call this a shorty, can we?