The Holi Ganges at Varanasi

Not a bad view of the Ganges from the balcony of the Vishnu Hotel, Varanasi. In fact, if you would like to see the featured panorama full sized, click here

The Ganges is a holy place to Hindus, so much so that as the train we were on crossed it, most people showed some respect by touching their heads or hearts or something. Maybe they were just grateful we were almost there after a 4 hour trip, the last hour of which was spent 19km from our destination. The very Indian part of that is that the “delay” was part of the schedule…

The countdown to Holi had begun and as we wandered along the ghats there were some people splattered with colour But it wasn’t clear where it came from.

Then we reached the cremation ghat and it was truly bizarre. A full on doof in amongst the burning bodies.

The guy in the orange turban isn’t some sort of holy man, he was dancing to deafening music on the edge of a crowd of about 500 people as a cremation took place right beside him. On one hand it all seemed disrespectful, on the other, what a great send off, into the Ganges with people celebrating life around you.

In what is something of a miracle, after the required haggling, we paid close to local’s price on a boat ride along the river. It is a great way to see the full extent of the ghats, especially the big old buildings above them.

I had spent at least 2 hours over the previous couple of days searching for an ATM that worked. Because of the Holi festival, seven I tried didn’t work, maybe they were out of money. Four were locked up. I was starting to get a bit nervous about paying our hotel bill until I found out that (unusually) they accepted credit cards. My search took me as far as Assi Ghat where I had stayed in 2015 and I was reminded of somethingwith which I could surprise the Tall Girl.

Her first stepwell. Or more accurately, a Kund, which is Hindi for “infinite” because they don’t know where the endless supply of water comes from (which is actually unlikely because we were 50m from the Ganges). Although it is a working Kund, with people washing and praying, it is locked to prevent easy access. But Tall Girl came to the rescue, befriending a young woman who spoke great English and let us in. We decided to be very careful about going near the water as the Kund attracts worshippers due to its reputation that if couples come and immerse themselves, they will have a child within a year. And we don’t want anything unplanned.

Varanasi was a place to chill after our first 4 or 5 days in India, travelling a fair bit. Tall Girl got to do some more art…the photos don’t do it justice

There’s also a pretty large Puja (holy ceremo y) carried out each evening. The crowds were particularly big due to Holi happening – the photo doesn’t include the dozens of boats jammed up against each other.

And what better way to protect the statue of a God built in the middle of a road than with a wall of cow dung.

By the way, apparently we have all been saying it wrong. It is not Vah-Rah-Nah-See, each syllable with equal weight. It is pronounced VarRar-NarSee – I don’t think he was pulling our leg.

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