Monday, January 11, 2010

Goats with Coats

Our final destination, Varanasi. As we step off the plane we know we are back in the North. As we read our Lonely Planet, we are well aware that this city is another tourist scam hotspot, and with knowing that, we take all precautions. The drive from the airport to the main city centre takes much longer than it should, the traffic is terrible!
As soon as we get out of the cab (with the cab driver's "assistant" trying to follow us and take us to a "good guesthouse", one of the many scams that we read about), we shoo him away and haul our backpacks down to the ghats to try and find a descent place to stay.
After about 30minutes of tough walking, up stairs, down stairs, we finally find a nice backpacker friendly place, Vishnu Rest House. With our new German friend (we met on the place and shared a taxi with), we are all excited to walk along the ghats and see what Varansi is all about.
AND what a sight we see. Anything and everything is possible here.
Along with its positional advantage of being on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, this has given Varanasi a place at the forefront of the Hindu religion. Varanasi is considered the most sacred place for all Hindus, irrespective of denomination.
Hindus have long believed that bathing in the Ganges or dying in the holy city of Varanasi circumvents reincarnation and hence provides a permanent place in the Swarg (Heaven). This belief that has encouraged the establishment of innumerable nearby geriatric homes and also the disposal of half-burnt corpses into the river.
A big selling thing for young cute kids is the flower candle cup thing, which you light and then pray, and then send down the Ganges. Only 10 rupees (25 cents). Its tough to say no to these persistent cute kids, but after you do it once, there really is no need to pollute again and again (in my eyes).
An amazing experience you have to see while in Varanasi (and its hard to avoid) is the ceremony that happens every night on the main ghats. Its basically 7 men all in sequence doing light and smoke prayers in front of a huge crowd of people.

The city itself (apart from all the action happening on the ghats) is full of life and excitement in the back alleys, with restaurants, shops, temples and mosques.

Oh, and in Varanasi, make sure you get a photo of some goats with coats. Its quite a sight to see.
We had an amazing time here, and can't wait to go back!

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