You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them.”
― C. JoyBell C.
Our all too brief stay in Varanasi was chaotic, intense and multi-layered. I’m therefore splitting my post into two parts.
We were up before dawn on Wednesday for disembarkation, sadly parting with the wonderful staff of the Ganges Voyager 2. The flight from Kolkata was short and we were in Varanasi by mid-morning. Varanasi is the holiest of Hindu cities, and one of seven holy cities which can provide moksha, meaning liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. All Hindus hope to visit Varanasi in their lifetime.
Before our visits to the ghats on the bank of the Ganges, however, we stopped by to meet The King of Brocade. With much fanfare, Mr. Mehta described his family’s centuries-old silk brocade business. The weaving is so fine and intricate that an entire day’s work results in no more than three centimeters of cloth. It doesn’t take a lover of fabric like me to appreciate the beauty of the finished work.
We made a quick turnaround at the hotel, then headed out for our first visit to Varanasi’s famous ghats. Ghats are a series of stone steps leading to a river. Varanasi has 87 of them, used for mundane purposes such as laundry and bathing, as well as Hindu puja ceremonies and cremation.
We had a wild twenty minute pedicab ride through the streets. Photography was not possible; I was hanging on for dear life. We shared the streets with buses, cars, and motorbikes with horns blaring, as well as cows, goats and dogs and oxen. People would dodge vehicles as they cross the road. Road travel in India is not for the faint of heart.
The last fifteen minutes were by foot. I had expected beggars in Calcutta. We didn’t find them there, though they may exist where we hadn’t visited. Varanasi streets were full of them. The most disturbing were the mothers carrying unnaturally sleepy babies. We’re told they’re professionals and we shouldn’t support them.