India

After a few weeks of Silence, two months living with just a small backpack, and having left India for Nepal and a couple of volunteering missions, one thought kept coming back to my mind: We often see the developing world and poor countries as places that WANT what we have. And also as places that don't have anything we want. From my time in Kolkata—where I felt and saw Joy even in the slums—to Bodh Gaya—where, despite terrorist bombings, people continued to live normally and thank God for being blessed—I keep seeing all the essential things we lost in our modern society. After months of travels and meeting the poorest of the poor, who are living in very simple places, traveling in packed trains or buses and struggling to find toilets or clean water, my view is now that we should give re-birth to what we have let go of in our rich and modern world. What strikes me the most about these past 80 days? The happiness, the joy and the smiles on so many faces, despite the hard conditions of life. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo! Now that I can see what they have and what we do not have anymore, and also the few things we have that they could benefit from, I wanted to share those with you.
A few days ago, I brought you with me to Varanasi to discover the incredible Ganges ablutions, Varanasi prayers and the ceremonies that explain why Hindu pilgrims want to die in this holy city. The week I spent there has been incredible in so many ways. So let me walk with you today (with many photos), through the streets of Varanasi, from sunrise to sunset. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When you wake up at 5 a.m. to see the ablutions in the Ganges and end your day by Puja, the ceremony to offer Light to the river, you are anchoring your day with two spiritual and profound events that allow you to tolerate the intense streets of Varanasi; streets filled with cows (and cow manure), garbage, people, incense and the humid hot air of the monsoon.
If you are Hindu (and more than 900 million in India are), the holiest city in the world is Varanasi, considered to be the place where the physical world and the spiritual world meet. Also, if you are Hindu, there is one thing you want: to die and be cremated in Varanasi, and have your remains deposited in the Ganges. Hindus have come here to die for thousands of years, and it’s said that the cremation fires have never stopped! So as I arrived in Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, I felt a profound sense of excitement and wonder. [caption id="attachment_14611" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]People gathering on the Ganges at the main Ghat People gathering on the Ganges at the main Ghat[/caption] Varanasi is such an extraordinary city at so many levels: not only because it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, but also because it concentrates every superlative you can use for India in one place! More cows in the street than people (another reason for me to love the city), more Pilgrims, more hidden temples, more stories... So here is PART I of a 2 PARTS blog posts on Varanasi.