India: Varanasi, like nowhere else…

Varanasi is one of the most sacred places on earth. Hindus who die here believe they are freed from the cycle of rebirth. On the ghat, every night is held the Ganga ceremony, where people gather around to prey and watch priest playing with fire and flowers on live percussion music. At two specific locations near the Ganga are held burning ceremonies. All day long, all night long, bodies are soaked in the Ganga, burnt and returned to the Ganga. If the familly of the deceased is rich and can buy enough wood, ashes are spread, otherwise, part of the body will remain when drown in the river. The water is sacred for Indians and the Ganga is the most sacred of all waters. When walking or taking a cruise it is easy to spot how life is organized within a few meters of concrete near the water. Hindus doing yoga, sadhus praying, farmers cleaning their buffaloes, staff doing hotel’s laundry, believers bathing, bodies burning and inevitably, a ton of harassers ready to follow you and lie to you until you give them money, more money that you could agree to give in the first place, always more. If you refuse, you’re insulted. Oh no, tourists are not so welcome here, but money, yes. Respect? Nope. Not even for the dead. You want to get closer to the ceremony and stay with the family while their loved one is being burnt? No problem! You’d rather stay up here and watch from afar? Well you have to give to whoever for whatever and if you refuse, oooh the flow of racist comments. “You don’t want to give me money, you think you’re at a movie?”

No, they do not like westerners. Hiring a guide does not change anything and he certainly won’t help you get away from the fake priests and whoever comes annoying you every other second.

Is it difficult to see death everywhere? No, I guess it’s better this way, at least the untouchables think this is their last life of burning bodies,  dealing with sewage or building roads bare foot. Most people walk around bare foot anyway in the old Varanasi, a labyrinth of tiny streets to share with cows and piles of trash.

That’s what you do in India, you watch the completely overwhelming and bursting culture that holds a decayed society together through religion.

Oh but wait, all those colors! It seems they make up for everything for many people but they were not enough for me to look away from the common misery. What pisses me off the most: when I look at my photos, I can’t help to find the whole place fascinating. I will never go back. I saw it, I think it was worth the journey.

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A goat with a shirt on on the ghat. Completely normal.

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They were struggling to take a selfie, so I offered my help. Then they asked that I took photos of them with my camera. It was right before the Holi and a lot of people were already playing with colors.

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The locals watching the Ganga ceremony.

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Watching the sunrise on a boat, getting some quite time.

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