In most of Varanasi temples, one comes across lots of colours, thousands of bells hanging from the ceiling and it is regarded as auspicious to ring the bells while entering and while coming out from the temples. This picture shows a typical temple in Varanasi and all the bells at the entrance are quite visible here
When you are in Varanasi, you will come across many walls (of streets, houses, shops, temples, everywhere) where you will find red or orange coloured paint pasted on some photos or may be sculptures or even just on the walls. The reason!!! well these are not just colours, but sacred Sindoor (vermillion that Hindu married women wear on their forehead) which people put on the walls or idols of god as a sign of worship or holiness.
Cows are regarded as HOLY in Hindu religion. Varanasi, being the seat of traditional Hindu beliefs and values, pays great respect to Cows. So, if you are in Varanasi, try not to get irritated at the sight of cows all around.
A Dhobi Wallah basically means a laundryman or washerman and wherever you find water in India, they'll be people washing clothes in it (however dirty the water looks). What is interesting is that next to Lali Ghat is a ghat where cremations are carried out. To reduce water pollution, and to keep pace with the number of corpses needed to be cremated in Varanasi, the government of Uttar Pradesh has constructed an electric crematorium here. The ghat was built in 1778 by the Raja of Banaras.
This is one of the offerings made to the holy Ganges which is a type of puja. I think it's called Pushpam Samarpayami but don't quote me on it! It's one of the 27 steps that a typical puja might involve. These flowers offerings are available to buy from young boys who sell them to tourists along the ghats. I bought this one and laid it on the water and watched it float away.
The best time to visit Varanasi is between October and March if you want to witness some of the major festivals in the city.
Kartik Purnima is held during November and December and is one of the most liveliest festivals. Known as the festival of lights, the Ghats are crowded and ablaze with bright lights with pilgrims wanting to honour their dead.
Another festival is the Ganga Festival which is held in October or November. Hindus visit the river to pay homage to the river Ganges and believe that bathing in the river at this time will give them salvation and free them from rebirth.
The summer months can be hot and humid even climbing up into the mid 40C’s. Winter months can be the opposite and nights can get down to 5C. Monsoon time begins late June/early July where there are heavy downpours and often foggy mornings. Probably the best time to visit is from March to September. Certainly when I was there in March, the weather was quite pleasant, warm but not humid
In the old quarter of Varanasi it can happen that suddenly a herd of waterbuffalos push their way through the narrow alleys from or to the river Ganges. So before you get run over by a stampede - yield to the waterbuffalos, since you are on the lowest step of the foodchain in traffic........... The way on this pic is still wide enough, but some lanes are so narrow, that you have to jump into a shop to avaoid any contact with the animals.
You can see that in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and also in India. The lack of firewood makes people creative. They collect the cow dung, put it into handy portions (dinner plate size) and let it dry. Nothing else but recycling. Using the rare natural resources carefully!
As you could see. the children who took photo with me all look clever and active. I asked nothing about photo taking but they did to me. There dresses, hair style, the light of the face and the innocent smile tells they are from rich family. On the contrary, the girls are very different.... their born family decide what they are now.
India's sacred cow have alot of function other than religious importance. Not only do they provide the luxery of fresh milk, but their excrement is used as cooking fuel. Here in Varanasi like all over India one can wittness the drying of the dung. This is a smart fuel from time immomorial.
Like much of India Varanasi has a huge range of religious objects, ikons, statues, figurines etc. Some are subtle and others much like the one pictured. Hindu art is widely known for its sexual imagery - this stemming from a time when sexuality was more liberal within the confines of that religion. Objects small and large can be found where ever you go in India. Its not a hard thing to pic some of them out!
Everyone may have heard about the India's "sacred cows". The cow is a sacred animal in the Hindu religion. There are alot of misconceptions however concerning these cows. Many people who have never travelled to India have this belief that the sacred cows are just free roaming wild cattle and useless in a malnourished society. Nothing could be more further from the truth. In fact these animals all have an owner, cattle are expensive in India and dairy products are a true luxury. These free roaming cattle are restricted to some areas and they do a good job with eating waste vegetable scraps thrown out in the towns and cities, including the posters on walls which are often put up with the use of a flour and water based glue. Their own waste is hastily collected to be used for cooking fuel and or fertilizer. Unlike cattle in Australia or America these cows and bulls are generally more docile, however do step aside in the narrow lanes and streets when one is comming your way. On occassion one will witness a cow or bull stampeding a crowded street, it can be quite a spectacle. These animal do indeed have a good life - protected by religeous doctrine while also having a useful function in a populous society.
It is really amazing how many different things you can do in one river. Ganga are used for people cremation, as a place for laundry, as bathroom, as a place for meditation and even as the place where let into all town's sewerage.
But also it is interesting, that even everything happens in one place, nth bad happens with locals. I mean in Western countries everyone would be afraid from different diseases, but in India noone is worried about that. I have heard that in Ganga water there is very high percentage of silver, so that is good way for disinfection and nth bad can happen. :)
maybe next time i have to have some morning swim in there?! :))
After the death Hindu people are getting cremated and it is a big honor to be cremated in Varanasi, as it is a holy place.
As one local told us- everyone is very proud to be born in Varanasi and to die in there.
Near the river there is few places for cremation and actually i was a bit surprised that from all that ceremony people are making kind of show. There is very loud music, a lot of local people who are just watching the burning and many boats with tourists in the river.
So the dead body are getting burned and the quantity of the wood for each person depends on his caste- as higher it is, as more wood u get. So poor ones sometimes maybe burned not proper ;)
All ashes after the fire are thrown into the river and family of the dead are going into the water to do some traditional swimming.
Yes, but there is still some people who are not getting burned, like pregnant women, they get stone around they neck and after they are thrown into the water.