Varanasi – 3.21.2012

Yesterday, we flew to Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and arrived just in time for the evening ceremonies on the mighty Ganges River.  This is a daily occurrence in this holiest of cities on the holiest of rivers for Hindus who believe that bathing in the river causes the remission of sins and facilitates liberation from the cycle of life and death.  We rented a boat and watched the ceremonies from the water while providing our offerings of flower petals and candles as well as flower garlands to Ganga (the personified Goddess of the river).  We also witnessed the cremations that take place here around the clock as it is custom for Hindus to consign the ashes of a loved one to the Ganges upon their death.  A truly magnificent place that feels as ancient, historic and authentic as any place that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit in my travels.

Today, we walked through old Varanasi after our sunrise boat trip and dodged the cows (as well as the “souvenirs” they were kind enough to drop along the way) roaming the ancient, narrow pathways, while stopping occasionally at the exceptional spice and silk shops.  We visited a Shiva temple and received a blessing from the priest, a rare occurrence at this particular temple for westerners, for which we felt fortunate to experience.  Today was the true essence of India experienced in one amazing day.  Some terrific pictures available by clicking the photo above.