Subscribe for more inspiration
to our newsletter
to our newsletter
India, Varanasi – the oldest city in the world, a place on the bank of the Ganges River that has attracted ancient religions and spiritual practices ever since 500 BC.
I had heard it was hard to digest this experience, but now I felt I was ready. Chaos, but an indescribable chaos, plus a challenge to let yourself carried away by a wave of intense energy that pushes you to face your fears and dreams at the same time.
I started the day with a visit to the Sarnah Temple where Buddha taught the first Buddhist teachings, a colorful and relaxing place.
As soon as I stepped out of that new area of the city, everything changed. On the way to our next stop – the old Varanasi, we got stuck in traffic for an hour because there had just been an accident, fatal for a motorcyclist and the whole crowd on the street had gathered to punish the guilty driver, by beating him.
Then, the car could no longer move forward because of the crowded and narrow streets, so we had to get in a rickshaw.
The old part of the city is that mystical place I heard about long before I planned my visit to India. I knew it would be intense, that it would stir me and that I would witness an entirely different approach on life.
This area is on the bank of the Ganges River, considered by many Eastern religions the way through which you can wash away your sins and through which souls can transcend a series of unfortunate reincarnations.
Here is where I witnessed ritualistic baths, where I saw and took pictures of holy people, people who were meditating and praying, though the hardest part was when I saw the part where people were being incinerated.
We got on a boat and started rowing along the shore, witnessing from afar this ritual well-known in this part of the works. It is said that only the lucky ones who have the opportunity to come here at the end of their life can have a smooth passing to the next plain of existence and in the next reincarnation they will have a leaner and happier life. The Ganges River is a major pillar in the Hindu culture and beyond, being a purifier for the mind, the body, for karma and for souls. You can see in the pictures below, the orange building on the left. There is a kind of asylum where some come right before they die just to benefit from this ritual so worthy of the Hindu religion.
You can see the fires and how all the buildings are blackened by all the smoke which has carried so many souls to another world. I responded quite well, I had only a state of calm and acceptance. It was quiet, you could only hear the wood cracking and people helping out with preparation and with the entire ritual. Near the fires there were only a few family members and more often than not, nobody at all.
During the rest of the boat ride, I lit the wax and made an offering to the river, making wishes and intentions for life. By doing so after my experience earlier, my wishes were purer, rooting from the bottom of my heart.
After also witnessing a Hindu ritual for Shiva, the boat dropped us off an hour later a little lower down the shore, next to another incineration site, but much smaller. I swiftly passed without using my sense of sight not my sense of smell and we started ascending on the narrow streets filled with people, cows, goats, bicycles, motorcycles and many more it was already night. As I was walking with my eyes in the ground, so as to not step into something unpleasant, I ran into a group of rushing locals who were carrying a wooden gurney on their shoulders with a lifeless body to take to the river bank. Maximum panic – I once had a nightmare with this exact situation. For the locals, it was something normal, without a care in the world they were walking by, beneath, over, between, I don’t even know. I chose the only option I could find in that moment, besides passing beneath, so I plunged sideways over parked scooters and bikes.
I ended this experience crossing through the chaos in the street once again, and then another hour drive away by rickshaw until the hotel. When I got there, I found out that an Indian wedding was taking place and we, the foreigners, were the guests of honor. We went and stayed for only 10 minutes because I was under the impression that we had stolen the entire attention away from the event, all the guests and the photographers had shifted their attention to us. Although what shocked me was the lack of happiness from the newlyweds. It’s hard to even look at an arranged marriage and I don’t even want to fathom what was in their souls.
Now when I reminisce through the events from that day, I can truly say it was AMAZING, on so many points of view. I learned lessons about life, love, death and what stuck with me was that it is not worth it to waste our energy, love and time on little things, or dramas created by our minds or by our ego, Varanasi cannot be described in words, so many stories are born and end there each day and it remains an ancient, wise and quiet ancient observer.