Saturday, March 20, 2010


Oh Varanasi. The holiest city in all of Hinduism. Varanasi is an amazing place full of devout worshippers who have made pilgrimages to dip into the sacred Ganges River. This is arguably the holiest river in the world and is also the most poluted river in the world. Hundreds of sewage lines drain directly into the river, not to mention the ashes from hundreds of thousands of cremated bodies. Don't worry though, there are uncremated bodies in there too. Hinduism says that if a person dies in Varanasi they automatically attain moksha, or release from the rounds of rebirth into nirvana. This is why so many bodies are burned on the banks with their ashes ending up in the river. For hundreds of years there has been a body constantly burning near the Ganges River. Incredible. The Ganges is used for more than salvation alone. It is used for bathing, washing cattle, washing clothes, drinking, and cooking. When we arrived in Varanasi, we took a sunset boat ride on the river past all the colorful ghats(entryways and stairs leading down to the river from the city)and people dipping in the water. The cultural sights are breathtaking. We watched a ceremony performed by the Brahmins to the river using fire and incense, and set afloat candles resting on lotus flowers into the river. The next morning, we woke up before the sun and went out onto the boat again to see the morning life. We floated past the cremation ghats and saw multiple bodies burning and various body parts sticking out of the flames. The streets of Varanasi are crowded, narrow, and full of cows, goats, people, motorcycles, bicycles, children, trash, autorickshaws, potholes, and ferocious monkeys. Monkeys are cute til they threaten to rip your hair out. We have found more backpackers here than anywhere else we have been. Hippies who think they are Indian and are really roughing it, when in reality, they are living a life of luxury compared to most of India. Varanasi caters to backpackers with yoga courses, organic bakeries, boat rides, and rooftop restaurants. Don't worry, we took part in our share of these amenities. We got bridal henna done and took a yoga class from a energetic instructor hopped up on beetleroot. As we were lifting our arms and legs in the "beginners" lesson, two more advanced students were folding their bodies in half backwards and standing on their faces.


  1. What an amazing experience! Love the colors and the "in your face people" everywhere!

    As Grandma J would say, "Oh murder" on the cremations! We thought we saw something amazing in Bali. This is nothing compared to what you have seen. What fascinating beliefs that have been carried on and added to for thousands of years. This is just incredible. I'm trying not to think about drinking from that sacred river! Cholera anyone? What a story...and so masterfully told! LOVE IT!

  2. i love this post dani! thanks for doing it!!!

  3. You guys are seriously amazing. I had no idea you were over there doing all that! Can't wait to start reading your blog...can't believe I just barely found out about it!! Love you all!!