Varanasi

Varanasi is the spiritual heart of India and the holiest of the 7 sacred cities in Hinduism. After watching the travel documentary, "Departures", it was the place I was looking forward to the most while visiting India.

Varanasi was a fascinating place, and the high points of the trip lived up to most of my expectations, but I still left a little disappointed. I realize Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world, and India is still a developing country, but the sewage, drainage, and sanitation of the city were failing before my eyes. I talked to many travelers and I heard the same reoccurring theme, Varanasi is really polluted. 

I'm a little conflicted about criticizing a place as an outsider, however, this is the holiest city in India. I couldn't help but think that the city, especially the Ganges, should be protected like the Taj Mahal. The river that runs along the city bank is worshipped like a goddess (Ganga). Hindus come from all over to bath and wash themselves "clean" in the river. Spiritually the river water is pure and that's a false and potentially dangerous assumption. 

I wouldn't want my rant to discourage anyone from visiting Varanasi because it's still a magical place. I just hope that future generations will also be able to visit such a holy and important city. 

1st Row: Varanasi is believed to be where Buddha founded Buddhism. 

2nd and 3rd Row: Life on the Ganges. The city has 87 Ghats (access areas to the waterfront). Many celebrations, religious ceremonies, washings, and cremations happen at the various Ghats. 

You'll see bodies being transported throughout the city. It's a scene I will never forget... A body held over the heads of family members, mourning and chanting. All the bodies are kept in a few large buildings by the waters edge until it's time for the cremation to occur. Hindus believe that this is a "rite of passage". It prepares their life for the afterworld.   *Picture taken from google images because you're not suppose to take pictures while observing the cremations. 

You'll see bodies being transported throughout the city. It's a scene I will never forget... A body held over the heads of family members, mourning and chanting. All the bodies are kept in a few large buildings by the waters edge until it's time for the cremation to occur. Hindus believe that this is a "rite of passage". It prepares their life for the afterworld. 

*Picture taken from google images because you're not suppose to take pictures while observing the cremations. 

There's an average of 80 cremations a day. It's a 24 hour a day process that is very intense to witness. The many families grieving their loved ones, the smell of burning flesh, it's a powerful scene that brought me to tears.    *Picture taken from google images because you're not suppose to take pictures while observing the cremations. 

There's an average of 80 cremations a day. It's a 24 hour a day process that is very intense to witness. The many families grieving their loved ones, the smell of burning flesh, it's a powerful scene that brought me to tears.  

*Picture taken from google images because you're not suppose to take pictures while observing the cremations. 

A picture of  Manikarnika Ghat,  "Burning Ghat". It's one of two cremation locations in Varanasi. I choose this picture because it shows the different hierarchies of the caste system, even in death.   *Picture taken from google images because you're not suppose to take pictures while observing the cremations. 

A picture of Manikarnika Ghat, "Burning Ghat". It's one of two cremation locations in Varanasi. I choose this picture because it shows the different hierarchies of the caste system, even in death. 

*Picture taken from google images because you're not suppose to take pictures while observing the cremations.