Sunrise on the Ganges/ Astrology Session
May 18, 2008
Jul 20, 2008
This morning we forced ourselves out of bed to catch a sunrise boatride on the Ganges. We found our boat friend and set out on the river at 5:20AM. It was pretty light out already, and many people were already out and about. On the shore of Asi Ghat where we are staying, there was a morning fire ceremony happening and some people bathing and praying. The shore was lined with people bathing, praying, brushing teeth, washing clothes, singing, swimming, drinking Ganga jal, and fishing. A few other boats of tourists were out as well. The sky was overcast, so there was not a good sunrise, but the point was to catch all the life on the water at dawn. There were a few ceremonies with music and prayer that we caught on our way downstream. We floated past the cremation ghat, where fires were blazing as vigorously as they had two nights ago. There are 350-400 bodies burned daily at this ghat, so there are non-stop cremations taking place. The thick black smoke of a fresh fire sort of upsets your stomach when you think about what you are breathing, but it also gives the place its spiritual and ancient feel. At home, we are faced with human death maybe a few times in our lives, but here, the eternally-burning fires serve as a constant reminder of the temporality of life. Maybe that's why the place seems so ancient.. After breakfast and a nap at the hotel, I went with Sarah to an astrologer Mr. Sahi, the hotel owner, hooked us up with. I didn't intend to get my palm read or astrology done, but after recording Sarah's for her, I decided it was worth the 12 dollars (discounted price from $100-200 for foreigners). The world famous astrologer teaches at Benares Hindu University, the biggest university in Asia (according to our guide yesterday). After pulling up my chart, he started out by talking about my older brother and comparing us, before I had spoken a word to him about myself or family. What he said was true and something that I have thought about in the past as something that has had a big effect on my life. He told me what my biggest problem is, which was really not so bad (focusing too much on what I've lost when I make a choice), what a succesful relationship would be for me according to my personality, some career suggestions, etc.. Really, everything he said was pretty accurate and more specific than I expected. He explained that he reads the chart to get an idea of personality, then is guided by God as to what advice he gives. On the way back to the hotel [on the back of Praveen's scooter (the awesome guy who runs the internet cafe next door)], we saw a cow with an extra leg growing out of his back. He was being led by a sadu down the road and had lays on his neck. Praveen told us that the cow had special powers. If someone were to ask the cow a question such as "who took my money?", the sadu would whisper it into the cow's ear and the cow would walk right to the guy that took it. Praveen said that the cow was "right 100% of the time!" Praveen was very helpful. He told us about the future of India's economy one night while we were using his computers (which are the fastest in town), took us on his scooter to see the astrologist and found my lense cap after I dropped it on the way, put good indian music on for us while we blogged, and sent his driver to take me to the market for a pocket knife and a flashlight. He tries hard to keep the kind of hospitality that Indians "should" give to their guests amidst the westernization and fast-paced life that is affecting the culture. The hotel owner, Mr. Sahi, also tries to make his guests feel like family. I am greatful to have a break from all the hustlers, beggers, and scam artists that we interact with here most of the time, just trying to get our money.