Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Varanasi (Benares)

Varanasi is one of the oldest (2,000 years) and still habited cities in the world. And it is a most sacred place. Kathleen and I hooked up here the day before yesterday (me returning from the Kumbha Mela and she filled with adventures in gem shopping from her week in Jaipur.) Everything feels sacred here. The temples abound...each with its own flavor...some with intense dioramas of Hindu gods ripping their hearts out and others the transmutations of Hinduism (Buddhism and Jainism). The streets are filled to the gills with auto-rickshaws, bicycle-rickshaws, horse-rickshaws and cars, too. Skills needed by Indian drivers include a quick foot for braking and ready access to their horns to warn pedestrians, etc. that they're inches from being hit! The light here in the evening and the morning is especially beautiful...and particularily along the Ganges (Ganga) River.

As for me I finally washed the Kumbha Mela dust and smoke out of my hair, slept a bit more soundly and very much took in the beauty of this gorgeous place. It is the prime spot for Hindu cremations...bodies are transported by foot, car and plane from all over India for riverside cremations. The fires are witnessed by family members...and are too sacred to allow photography.

We're off on an overnight train to Calcutta (Kolkata) this afternoon....