|We arrive in the city of Varanasi, the Holiest of India’s City’s and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
The Munshi Ghat, my personal favourite.
|We arrive in the late afternoon. Relax around the hotel, and in the evening, visit the Hotels superb restaurant.
|Early the next morning, we set out towards the Ganges, to see the City awaken.
|The Ganges is sacred to Hindu’s, who refer to it as the holly river.
We look out across the river and watch the sun rise.
Some of the boats, were already out on the water.
|We walk down the steps to our waiting boat.
Thousands of people visit the waterfront steps (known as Ghats) to begin the day.
|As the sun comes up, we travel along the waterfront, and visit the various Ghats.
Despite the early hour, their was a “carnival” atmosphere to the morning, as many dozens of boats converged on the water.
|Sitting in our boat, in the early morning, it was very relaxing.
Several people in small boats, paddled up beside us, and tried to sell us floating candles.
The idea, is that you light a candle, for someone who has passed away.
One of my friends lit one. I have decided not to show that picture, out of respect.
|Some of the colours, when the sun hits the Ghats were impressive.
|Hindu’s consider it auspicious to die in Varanasi and many travel here for that purpose.
There is a ritual when people die, performed by their eldest sun.
Their body is burned on a ceremonial fire, and their remains are thrown into the Holy river.
This is a picture of one of the burning Ghats.
Afterwards, there ashes are placed in the Holy River.
|Rana Ghat where people wake early and perform ritual ablutions in the Holy River.
|A view down the length of the river showing more people washing, who have waded out further into the water.
|The Kedar Ghat, where clothes are washed, and then laid on the steps to dry.
One of the most beautiful mornings I can remember.
|We drove around, on a guided tour, and visited the Campus of Banaras University, the largest in India.
After this, we paid a visit to the Bharat Matar, or Mother India.
Inside is a large scale map of India on the floor.
As it was a beautiful day, I decided to stay outside in the sunshine, and asked the lads to take my camera, go inside, and take a picture for me.
This is the picture that they took, not exactly what I had in mind.
|This is the actual Bharat Matar.
Its most impressive, and I am disappointed now, that I didn’t go inside after all.
|As we walk around back through the City in daylight, you can see just how busy and vibrant, it is.
Many serious travelers that I have spoken too, have told me India is there favourite country, and I could certainly see why.
|We decide to head further afield and see a bit more of the City.
Our excellent guide Indira, arranges some motorized rickshaws, and off we go.
In the picture, you can see the driver smiling.
One of the things that struck me about India. People have an order of magnitude less, than your average person in the UK, and yet they are still happy.
I wonder if some of the “hard done too” people I know, would benefit from living in India for a year !.
|For lunch, we visit the bread of life bakery on Shivala Road.
Its well known, for offering pensions, healthcare and education to its employees and their family’s.
They also contribute significantly to the families of Motorized Rickshaw drivers who have been killed in road accidents.
It was nice to visit somewhere nice for lunch, and contribute to charity at the same time.
|There were plenty of backpackers in there, the place is popular, and practically famous.
I think a lot of people had visited it, to eat some pastries, that remind them of “home”, because it can be quite hard to get proper “pastry”.
Unfortunately, the power had failed, and the over, had broken, so our food options were limited.
|As we left the bread of life, Kevin and I travelled together in the Motorized Rikshaw. I was delighted to see, that I wasn’t the only person that find this kind of transport terrifying.
I took this picture to try and capture the feel of tearing through the streets in one of these things.
|As the Rickshaw stops at the lights (an occurrence that seemed to be rare) I saw this young girl doing her homework as she looked after her fathers workshop.
|Just before dusk, we pass the river, and all the boats are empty.
The river that was furiously busy earlier in the day, is now serene and quiet.
I realized that this must happen every day, and it reminded me, of the circle of life (I do a lot of thinking, when I am travelling).
|We visit a factory, and learn how silk is made.
Obviously, there was an attached shop, and we had the “opportunity” to buy.
Cynicism aside, the stuff in the shop, was superb and the prices far cheaper than we would have paid in the UK.
The loom in this picture, is 80 years old.
|As we head out in the early evening, we travel in “Noddy” cars like this.
When I came to open the door, you could feel the click of the mechanism was smooth and secure, these vehicles are very well built.
|Our driver, like most of the people we met in Varanasi, wore trousers, a shirt and shoes, clothing that would be fairly formal back home in the UK.
At that temperature, I don’t think I could have bare the heat, in the suit I wear for work.
|We take a boat to the far side of the Ganges and visit the 17th century Ramnagar fort.
It was originally home to the Mharaja of Benares (an older name for Varanasi)
It is very well preserved, but then it would be, the king ( the former king ) still resides here.
Sadly we had had such a relaxing time walking up the beach, that when we arrived, the fort was closed.
|We head back to the beach, to catch our boat back to the other side.
We watch the sun set on the Holy River.
|As we reach the other side, we disembark at Dasaswamedh Ghat, where we will watch the nightly Aarti (ritual thanks and blessing given to the river).
|I managed to find a place quite high up, to get pictures and capture the ambiance of the ceremony.
Several people, perform ritual dances, facing out onto the river.
There was traditional music playing out of loud speakers.
|Unfortunately, in the middle of the ceremony, the power failed. The lights went out, and the music stopped.
Power failures had been a constant occurrence throughout our visit to India, but up until this point had just added to the experience.
I wondered what they were going to do ?
They were obviously prepared for this, some musical instruments were produced, and auxiliary power fixed the lighting.
|It’s said that no trip to North India is complete without a visit to Varanasi.
I haven’t seen the rest of India, so I cant comment comprehensively.
What I can say, is that the place was a treasure trove of cultures, adventures and experiences, and I had a fantastic time there.