The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. – Mark Twain.
Varanasi certainly is a city that cannot be described in words, but that has to be experienced. The atmosphere in the probably most important city inthe Hindu religion is overwhelming, and I can honestly say that I didn’t find anything comparable during my past six months in India. The city’s popularity originates from its location directly next to the holy Ganges river, which is said to wash people’s sins away and to enable a breakout from the continuing cycle of rebirth if the ashes of a deceased person are strewed in the river.
Subsequently, dead bodies are burned close to the river at the so called “Burning Ghats” and it is not surprising that the Ganges itself suffers from tremendous pollution. The levels of Coliform bacteria is more than 2800 times higher as considered safe by the World Health Organisation.  The problem not only originates in the amount of burned ashes that are distributed in the water (apparently, the burning of the several Ghats basically never stops, and on the main burning Ghat I counted up to eight fires while passing by), but aggravated by sacrificial offerings, huge amounts of sewage and the corps of those that are not burned. Fortunately I didn’t witness anything like that, but there exist reports about corps of babies, Sadhus or pregnant women that are washed up on the river banks. The bodies are released into the river with the hope that the person’s soul will be saved and immediately guided to heaven, while busy bathers hope to purify their souls by diving into the water.
I will spare further details at this point, as I would suggest anyone interested in the topic to do a deeper research on this topic on their own – I promise it will be a fascinating lecture.
We also visited Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached for the first time after his enlightenment in Bodhgaya. It was not necessarily one of the highlights of the trip, but still an interesting area to explore. Instead, one highlight was that Sonja, the girl I met in Delhi and travelled with to Agra, joined us in Varanasi for the rest of the trip, as she wanted to visit me in Pune! 🙂
Diwali celebrations didn’t quite meet our expectations – as we found out, the festival we were looking forward to was the “Dev Diwali” – which took place two weeks later. 😀 Also my birthday did not turn out as planned, when after our sunrise boat tour I wanted to take some pictures of me in the Ganges (yes, I knew about the pollution…) but slipped on the stairs and – as I tried to safe my freshly made Mehndi – fell into the river… You can check out the result in the photoshoot. 😉
Bisous from Kuala Lumpur,
PS: I will update the last India posts as soon as possible before I continue with Malaysia, where I’m travelling since Dec 30th 2015.