Varanasi is the centre of Hinduism and is a hectic metropolis of almost four million people. We visited last year and I wrote extensively on the cremations and the spell binding effect it has. So this entry will simply cover what we have done. For the emotive information on Varanasi go to last year’s entry at http://thesummerholidayofalifetime.com/?p=203
Varanasi is where people come to die and where the dead are openly cremated on the banks of the Ganges. Basically the bodies are carried through the town wrapped in fabric, they are drenched by the water from the river Ganges and then laid on wood and set alight. Children are wrapped in fabric and then released into the river and weighted down and so the river is full of corpses and their remains.
We took an Auto Rickshaw to Assi Ghat which is about 2km south down the banks of the river, the intention was to walk along all the Ghats and make our way back to our hotel. Our plans were scuppered once we saw the Ganges, it was at its highest level ever and so had flooded where we had planned on walking. Undeterred we tried to find a way, we failed and eventually had to retreat back to the main road and walk up along that which runs almost parallel with the river. It was brutally hot and so we found a clothes shop which looked like it would have air con and loitered in there for a bit to cool down. Eventually we decided to make our way back to the river, we were much further up and as we did we saw people weighing out wood. I asked a teen boy where the cremations were since the river had flooded and he led us up through some tiny alleys and we saw smoke. After a few seconds we were faced with 2 cremations about 4 metres away. One of the bodies must have been burning a while as we could quite clearly see the hip bone and thigh bone with no skin or muscle on it. Abi took one look and immediately looked away and decided she wanted to see no more. As we left we saw a body being drenched and the face was open to see, it was an elderly man. I refused to let Abi see and turned her head, Charlie looked and then commented he wished he hadn’t. It was actually one of many bodies we would see during our three days in Varanasi.
We decided then to head North of the city to a place called Saranath, it’s a huge park and has a fun fair there. It was extremely hot and it cost 20 Rupees in, the rides were between 5 and 15 Rupees each which is pence. There was a Ferris wheel and Abi decided she didn’t want to go on it, so Lisa took Charlie and her kids on it. Abi went on a few rides as they were on the wheel but got completely overwhelmed by the attention she got, there were crowds of people watching her and she got quite self conscious about that.
About twenty minutes later I realised they were still on the Ferris wheel and it was going really fast. It looked dodgy anyway and so we waited under a tree for them to eventually finish. When they did Jhad looked green, I had a little giggle. Then I found out what had happened – Jhad suffers occasionally from travel sickness and so as he had started to feel nauseous he had shouted for the wheel to stop so he could get off. The guy must just laughed at him and the inevitable happened and he threw up and it landed on the guys head who by this point had stopped laughing and was now going mad.
Charlie loved it and spent much of the remainder of the day in bursts of laughter as he recalled what had happened.
The second day in Varanasi and we found a pool to relax. The kids absolutely loved it and I just chilled out on a lounger as they laughed and played and took some sort of respite from the searing hot sun.
That afternoon we were at the guesthouse and all the kids were playing on the roof, there are loads of monkeys and they have these awesome laser pens that shine really far. They have been using them to confuse kids and people and so thought it’d be a great idea to go wind up the monkeys on the surrounded roof tops. I was busy doing nothing but relax and heard screaming and the sounds of people breaking the speed record coming back down two flights of stairs, I saw the fear in the kids faces and saw monkeys chasing them. The kids bolted to one of our rooms and slammed the door shut. As they did a few guys from downstairs (owners of the guesthouse) came flying upstairs with chairs and sticks on a mission. The monkeys retreated and the kids had learnt a very valuable lesson; Though it was pretty funny.
Our train left Varanasi East bound for Khajuraho, which is where the Kama Sutra was penned. We left about 6pm and there were few people in our carriage which was great. We were supposed to arrive about 5am and so I set my alarm. Once up I couldn’t get back to sleep and so decided to grab my IPod and stand at the door of the train carriage. They are often left open and I stood at the door as the train sped through the stunning countryside of Northern India. I watched the sun rise to the sound of an Essential Mix from 2001. It was as amazing as it was surreal.
We arrived late into Khajuraho at about 7.30am and as we stepped off the train there were people performing some dance with music which appeared to be to celebrate the arrival of the train. We ignored all the hassle and outside the station were extremely grateful to be amongst greenery, beauty and a seemingly tranquil vibe – Something we had craved.