Let me begin by apologizing for not responding sooner to all your warm and encouraging comments on my India series. For some inexplicable reason, WordPress did not show your comments. Then, I discovered that all your comments were pending! Sorry.
Now, on to Varanasi, which was the most fascinating of all the places I visited in India.
Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, is situated along the sacred Gange River. It is here that the Hindus come to bathe in the holy water and to cleanse their sins.
As one approaches the river, the streets are lined for blocks with men and women amidst roaming cows, motorbikes, cars, rickshaws, pilgrims and tourists. I cannot imagine how social distancing can ever occur here. People are crammed as they are, practically on top of each other. It is extreme chaos. And, yet, amidst all of this there is an intense spiritual mood as they make they their way to the banks of the river for the evening Aarti. Aarti is a Hindu spiritual fire ritual performed by Brahmin disciples to honor the holy river, Gods and deities.
Every evening, seven Brahmin disciples, using lamps, incense and chants face the river as they worship the goddess, Mother Gange.
Further down the river is where cremations take place. There can be as many as a hundred cremations a day. Mourners line up for their turn to dip the body shrouded in cloths and on stretchers into the Gange. The principle griever, dressed in white, registers the body and picks up the wood necessary for the cremation. This dipping of the deceased in the Gange and then purified by fire and throwing the ashes into the river is meant to liberate the body from the cycle of life and death and thus move on to a higher plane of being.
Sunset on the Holy Ganges
What would India be without its sacred cow