From Lucknow, we flew to Varanasi. arrived at the airport and took a taxi to the home stay we had booked. We stayed with Harish and his wife, Malika in their home in the city center off a small alleyway. Very nice and hospitable stay.
Varanasi is the religious capital of the Hindu’s and the Ganga river that flows through it is considered to be very holy to Hindus. To be cremated here is akin to reaching Nirvana. Due to this religious significance, Varanasi is very busy with thousands of pilgrims and local’s; and can be overwhelming at times.
So having the homestay which was in a semi-quiet neighborhood was very welcome. Varanasi has a number of Ghats (stairs going down towards the river) along the Ganga river to allow the pilgrims and the people to access the river water for spiritual cleansing, performing religious ceremonies etc. So there are many of these around, and have a lot of people on them.
There are several crematorium sites along the Ganges where multiple fires are used to do the cremation 24hrs a day. The ashes are then poured onto the Ganges. There are several kinds of bodies that are not cremated; Sadhu’s, children under puberty, pregnant women and Lepers. For these kinds of bodies, large stones are tied to the bodies, and then dumped into the center of the river Ganges. Apparently, several species of fish have evolved over time that consume this human flesh.
All in all, a great trip to these cultural centers across northern India