Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Benares... it truly is a city that never sleeps and probably one of the best places to justify the attribute of "Incredible" India. It is the city where people come to celebrate life by purification (swimming in the holy water of Ganges) as much as to depart from the death, by cremation and liberation (burning of the body releases the soul and the ashes are thrown in Ganges).
The walks by the banks of Ganges show a bit of bizarre scenery where people come to take bath, wash clothing, get massages, shave & cut hair to prepare for holy rituals, sell anything you can imagine, sing, pray, meditate, do yoga, perform cremation rituals of their death, or just stare at the crowd... that is usually us the visitors... People and animals are mixed. Religions are mixed... you see Hindus and their Holy men, Buddhist, Jains... performing their way of religious rituals next to each other. It is a site that doesn't lack energy and you feel like you can always see something new.
Benares (or also known as Varanasi) is by accident or not, a site where many key events happened... the site where Buddha performed his first preaching, where 23rd Tirthankars for the Jains lived and preached, and obviously the holy site for the Hindus with the river Ganges in which people find home for many things (ashes of their death ones, death animals, flowers, burning candles). Even though we read many warnings that water is very polluted, and there is no oxygen left in it, the locals will persuade you otherwise... it is holy water and people who bathed in it stayed healthy :-), and that even dolphin has been seen in it :-) We'll we for sure saw fish :-)
We must say, the energy of Benares captured us, and it was difficult to leave it behind, even though we might have approached it with a beat of fear of its crowds and mess of which we've been warned. It is a place in which you may find your feelings and beliefs challenged. The smiles of people you see everywhere and the continuous celebration of life that surrounds you, absorbs you very quickly.