Wednesday, February 14, 2007

varanasi has completely blown me away

on one side, hindu pilgrims bathing in the ghats(steps) of the ganga
on the other, a wedding on the ghats
a lineup making offerings to the goddess river ganga
ok, do you remember what i wrote in last week's blog about delhi being so intense? well forget that. the intensity of varanasi is delhi on steroids with a few hits of crack. you read about it, see it in photos, and hear it from other travelers, but nothing can prepare you for the visual onslaught. i do not recommend this place for prozac users. everything happens in the river ganga (ganges).
yes that's right, everything.
these photos barely skim the surface. (as we speak, a procession with a dead body set for cremating has just walked by)
sadhu chilling in the nude
after awhile, seeing cows everywhere becomes passe
a favorite sadhu pastime, smoking ganga on the ganga
a young 18 year old sadhu smiling as he's packing a bowl
varanasi is the holy city of shiva and hindus believe being cremated here leads to heaven. it's a city of life and death and at times somewhere in between. sometimes i feel like i'm walking in a half world because the things that i see, my mind cannot comprehend. naked sadhus bleached in white walking around, cows and goats crapping everywhere, westerners smoking dope with holy men teaching them the meaning of life, a dog eating a mouse, monkeys running around on the roof of my hotel, weddings, sacrifices given to the river, people bathing, cleaning clothes in the river, parakeets flying above, touts selling everything, tourists with eyes wide open, bodies being cremated 24 hours a day by the river side, and a dead baby attached to a rock dropped in the middle of the river (children under 10 are not cremated since they're considered pure). i find i have to run back to my hotel or hide in a restaurant for awhile, just to decompress and come down from everything i've seen. i tried to describe delhi two entries ago, but that description didn't do it justice. so i won't even try to describe varanasi in words.
to even get an inkling of what it's like, do this: take a hit of acid, read my description of delhi backwards and search for hidden satanic messages, listen to enya and slayer mixed together, throw a tarantula down your pants, watch a david lunch film in slow motion, and jump into a washing machine with the extra rinse cycle turned on after taking speed. do this all at the same time. that's what your mind on varanasi would feel like. it's the greatest people watching place i've ever seen. but amidst all the chaos, there is something incredibly enchanting and beautiful about it all. i find myself unable to leave this place after a week.
bodies being cremated at the burning ghat. first the body is dipped into the ganges, being carried there by lower caste workers. the body is then placed on a pile of wood, with the amount of wood based on the weight of the body (so that the body completely burns) the oldest son shaves his head except for a small tuft in the back. he lights straw from an eternal flame, walks around the corpse 5 times, representing the elements and then lights the wood. it takes about 3 hours to completely burn, and watching workers with a pole twist limbs and torsos around in the fire so that they burn completely is mindnumbing
this is perhaps the most bizarre thing i've ever seen. this sadhu would put his testicles between his legs and have them hang out the other side under his butt. he would then wrap them around a pitchfork/pole a couple times and then do jumping leg squats, henceforth stretching his nuts. then he had another sadhu stand on the pitchfork, balancing himself, and putting all his weight on this guy's nuts (i've got video of this). who even thinks of these things?!?!? then afterwords, he took a big toke from a bowl, and everyone rushed the stage and he blessed them with white bindis and a blessing.....of course, most of the people rushing the stage were young males seeking holiness from their idol. now i can truly say i've seen everything.
but not all in varanasi is shock and awe

i've been in varanasi for a week, sort of being stuck here because of a festival for shiva (all trains out of town are completely full), and sort of can't pull my eyes away from what i've seen. i've made of friends with some locals here (half the adults want to sell you silk or clothing, the other half want to sell you hashish), including these kids below, who i see every day. it's interesting, they just want to have their photos taken and don't ask for money like most people. everyday i pass them by as they're playing, and everyday they yell 'hullo hullo! photo photo, take photo!!'

a couple of adults were watching me taking photos, and decided they wanted their picture taken. of course they didn't smile as is customary for those 21 and over.
but these kids were the stars

watching a twilight puja (religious offering to the ganges) and floating candle lit flowerebeds down the ganga is a heavenly experience.

a holy sadhu contemplating past lives, current life, the afterlife, and

Dónde está Ché Pelotas?


At 4:19 PM, Blogger alex said...

holy cow, shiva!


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