Pictures by Kristin :)
Varanasi was Colin's favorite place thus far, so he wanted to write the blog this time... enjoy! xoxoxo
Okay, I'll just be honest. That was one of the most powerful, spiritual, thought provoking and bombastic weeks so far on the trip. I'm really not quite ready for the fullness and the raw power of what Varanasi, India has to offer. I only hope to come back when I am more ready. I have work to do first.
Funny, because it was the first time in 2 months in India that we were somewhat ill for days on end. Diarrhea. Kristin was even throwing up some--once even throwing up in a filthy nasty squat toilet in an airport! Oh India. But it was still my favorite week thus far. I saw some things that I don't really feel comfortable just laying out in detail here. I'll save some of it for talking in person.
I will say though I saw a closer look into real in-your-face life and death than ever before. For example, riding at dawn one morning in a small boat rowed by a delightfully precocious young Indian boy--oh wait, there is half a human body floating by--and 15 ft away loads of people having a short earnest ceremonial dip in the "Ganga". Oh and over there on the bank of the ghat is an infant who died prematurely being wrapped and tied to stone so it can be sunk and given back to the mother Ganga. Oh my. The cycle of life was put so starkly in front of our eyes.
The Indians feel it is such an honor to be burned and set afloat or cremated and sifted into the great mother Ganga. The devotion and respect of that river blew me away. I feel it now. It changed me.
I could talk for hours about the Ganga now. It's one of the most important things in India. I had no idea.
1. Susie from Asheville meeting us and showing us around crazy Varanasi. She is so awesome!
2. Meeting 2 Indian studs who frolicked with us all day exploring and got us invited into the tent of some Naga babas! (Big stories to tell...)
3. Seeing the old man daily who lived on a bed with his monkey on the side of the street near our accommodation. He even would take it for a ride on his bicycle and the monkey would have both hands on the handlebars! And every night you'd see a small mound where they slept under a blanket together. Their soft radio played all night.
4. An amazing labyrinth of tiny streets filled with shops and people and cows and motorbikes. A giant organism somehow all flowing together. Mind boggling.
5. Kumbh Mela. The world's largest gathering. Saw millions of people taking a dip in the Ganga. So massive. It attracts pilgrims and holy men from all over. Expected to have 70-100 million people show up over a 1 month period.
6. Huge nightly Puja (devotional ceremony) at the main ghat. We got to boat down to it one night and tied up with 50 other boats to watch.
7. Personally invited to a young guru's house to share a meal with his family. Very poor with at least 20 people living in the 5 small rooms of the house.
Enjoy the pictures. Wait till you see some of the videos.
I miss you all.
on our way to Varanasi ...14 hr train ride from Calcutta Colin brushing his teeth at a train stop... and gargling
Our first place in Varanasi was horrible. Nasty dirty... paint peeling off the walls from a river of water from the bathroom above running down the wall. And the sheet on the bed smelled like all the stray dogs in the neighborhood had been sleeping on it. We only stayed one night.
One of the many mysterious sludge piles in India
view from our rooftop ....ahhh... so nice
traditional indian squat toilet... took a while to get used to ... especially as a woman with a long skirt, long shirt, scarf, etc. ... lots of fabric to hold... a bit tricky... but I've got it down now.
free food for everyone
even the cows love it!
Sunrise on the Ganges... we hired a boat at 5am and went out to perform and witness the morning pujas .... beautiful. The Ganga was so peaceful at that hour.
I actually love that we're out of focus in this picture.... The beautiful sacred ceremony happening behind us was more important.
kids with magnets fishing out jewelry and coins
washing their clothes in the river, doing puja, drinking the water,... then a dead body hit our boat. Reality check
We watched as this stillborn baby was wrapped in cloth and tied to a rock to be sunk in the river. Life and death wrapped up in one little package.
flowers for our altar
Sadhus and holy men were everywhere because of the Kumbh Mela happening at the same time.
Colin receiving a blessing from a naga baba
from inside the Naga Baba's tent. The penis trick... whoa! More details to come on this one. ( and we have video )
taking a boat out to see the nightly puja... beautiful
Oh beautiful Susie... we love you so much! The three of us crammed into a cycle rickshaw
Ha! I love these no honking zone signs in the middle of the loudest intersection in Varanasi. The contradiction makes me laugh all the time. Same with the no littering signs right next to what looks like a landfill of trash. OH India!
Kumbh Mela (on an off day) estimated 100,000,000 people pilgrimaged to Allahabad to bath in the Ganges River to wash away their sins. Beautiful ceremony to witness
A guy with leprosy bathing in the Ganges. I love this picture with the guy swimming right next to him... I watched as a woman helped him into the river to bath... it was touching, to say the least
old and young... a family affair for sure
I walked through, trying not to be noticed... yeah right. I stuck out but was respectful so nobody cared too much that we were there.
Most people were excited to see white people. So many people wanted pictures with us... it was quite cute actually
The sweetest lady came up to me, blessed me and was kissing my hands and cheeks. Not sure what it was all about, but it was beautiful... SHE was beautiful
poor little baby... they put eyeliner on the children to ward off evil spirits... but it was just burning her eyes. I tried to explain to the dad, but he didn't understand.
brushing teeth with a stick... super common
little girls dressing up for money
that aint a dread... THIS is a dread!! Whoa! He was hitting people over the head with it and blessing them ... There were so many photos that I missed at the Kumbh Mela because I thought it was inappropriate or I just wanted to "be there" and not just be a spectator, but this shot I couldn't pass up.
Oh,... the sweet beggar kids. I normally just take their pictures and show them... it brings them out of sad work mode and makes them giggle and laugh. I love it.
I wanted to take this little beauty home with me. So precious!