Mark Twain said of Varanasi that the city is “older than history, older than even legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Varanasi, birth place of Ravi Shankar, famous for the sitar. His daughters, one of whom is Norah Jones (who I listen to in my studio) scattered his ashes in the Ganges last month. This was to be the spiritual centre of the trip, I knew this going in…
Every Hindu has the desire to come once in their life time to take a dip in the Ganges. If one died here, they would attain “Moksha” or salvation, and in turn be removed from the eternal cycle of reincarnation. Taking place 24 hours a day here, on two ghats or series of steps, are the cremations, the ashes of which are put in the Ganges. I asked the kind guide if it was so very sad here, with all this death. In response, he talked about the different Gods, like Shiva, destroyer of evil and Durga, Goddess of power and energy, and he seemed energized. He described the ritual evening prayer and how one can be cleansed of all sin if one is cremated here. And then, he quietly said: “Every one dies.” That was it for me. I cried.
The Ritual Evening Prayer is a sight to behold. Seven Brahmin priests are surrounding by crowds at the river’s edge and swing huge urns around and around weaving smoke into the air. My new camera, a Canon SX280 HS zoomed closer and closer despite being in a boat far from the action.
At night, within the corridors of the old city, my daughter feels on guard at all time, and I am guarding her. We are walking between hoards of humanity, people lacking limbs, peaceful sari clad women, men every where beckoning us to buy, children too. Cows every where even in the narrow ally ways. Competing scents of garbage and essential oils. A night never to forget.