VARANASI - THE HOLY CITY
Trip Start Sep 02, 2012
42Trip End Oct 10, 2012
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Where I stayed
Hotel Haifa & Restaurant Varanasi
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
I have never seen so many people at a railway station, it was packed, there were people sleeping everywhere - welcome to the holy city. Our ride from the station was un-inspiring, piles of rubbish everywhere, and I do mean piles! To that fragrance, add the stench of stagnant water that has been lying around after the heavy rains and I think you get the picture - best described as an assault on your senses, eyes, ears & nose
We did an orientation walk with DJ down to the Ghats (steps) of the river Ganges, and we were meant to take a boat ride this evening, but due to the high water levels, the boat ride was cancelled. Varanasi is the holiest city in India. People come here to die, as in the Hindu religion, to die in Varanasi means a direct ticket to heaven. We walked up to a section of the Ganges where they build the funeral pyres and there was a ceremony about to take place. It is the eldest son who assumes the duties at a funeral, he shaves his head and it is he who sets the pyre alight. Fred was very interested and wanted to stay and watch the proceedings, but DJ explained that it would be at least another couple of hours before the ceremony got into full swing
There is a religious festival tomorrow and we are told that most of the market stalls will be closed. The celebration is to Ganesh Chaturti - people keep statues of this God in their homes for good luck, then on this religious day they will throw the statue in the river. Fortunately the statues are bio degradable, but just imagine if they weren't - along with the rest of the crap, the Ganges would get totally clogged up with all these half man half elephant statues! I bet there are millions upon millions thrown in the Ganges each year.
By evening, .another celebration has started, and there has been processions, dancing, and the loudest music ever passing by our hotel, this celebration is called Vishwakarmd this is the God of the labourers. Doris & I got caught up in some very noisy celebrations in one of the narrow alleyways, we got trapped between the flashing light machine and the big fan that blew cold air from melting blocks of ice on to the frenzied dancers. These people definitely know how to party. We had a great time exploring the alleyways, there were all sorts of funny little shops, but mostly Varanasi is famous for fabrics, in particular sari fabrics in pure silk. The bridal outfits displayed in the shop windows were simply stunning.
On the way back to the hotel we passed a very large funeral party heading down the street towards the ghats where the burial ceremonies take place. The body was wrapped in sparkly fabric and held above the mourners in the procession. Just a normal everyday occurrence in Varanasi.
The Hotel Haifa is very pleasant and the food is excellent. I'm really looking forward to dinner, shower and bed. It's been a big day, we've walked miles and enjoyed everything we've seen and done. Looking forward to tomorrow already.