A Travellerspoint blog

Ganges and Ghats

If you haven't read the post on our first thoughts of India- I suggest you do. It will help frame a little more of our story from there...

After an early start (we are becoming Creatures of the morning... 630am dance parties and all) we decide to venture out to find out what India is all about. After a bit of a detour (we zigged when we should have zagged) we finally got to the ghats (Ghats are stairs which lead down to a river, and the ghat on the banks of the Ganges are quite significant as they hold spiritual meaning for life and death for the Hindu people. Many people will come once in their lifetime to take a Holy Dip in the Ganges to wash away their sins).

Much like the streets, anything and everything imaginable is on the ghats. Cows, dogs, beggars, goats and street children alike. Newly married couples are being paraded down the ghats by drums and dancing. New wives shrouded in red hooded saris, adorned with gold and jewels, are tied by a long scarf to their husband who leads them to the Ganges to be blessed. The three of us watched, confused, until we are told by a passer by what was going on (it's always so awkward staring at things that you know are being done for a purpose but you're not sure what).

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We wandered the alleys for the afternoon, trying to keep our bearings. Honestly the spidey-sense just could not kick in in this place. Once in the alleys by the ghats there are no panoramic markers to help aid your wandering. After weaving and hopping our way through crowds, mud and cows- we stopped and had a reprieve at Cafe Sala. It was a lovely bakery hidden away in the ghats. If I knew how we got there I would say, but there is no way I know how we got in- or out- of those streets! We enjoyed scones, boiled eggs and masala chai before deciding we should make our way back to the hotel to meet the group for our sunset flower ceremony and evening prayer.

Spidey-sense- fail. B and I picked a landmark to remember our turn home, and it turns out (we found out later) there are two identical "Baba Blacksheep" signs in busy intersections near the ghats. Predictably we got lost again, heading in the opposite direction of our hotel. We'll get this figured out eventually. We did however find a restaurant for some chai, which had our favourite breakfast items and chana masala and palak paneer on the menu... We vowed to go back.

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Our group took an evening boat ride on the Ganges to witness the evening prayer and flower ceremony. As I mentioned previously, the Ganges holds significant meaning for life and death. Many people are cremated on the shores of the Ganges, and then their ashes are sent into the river. It was a very different sensation to observe the cremation of life on open fire at the banks of a river which holds so much more meaning to a culture than it does to us. The ghat was piled high with wood and bodies cloaked by orange tarps lie in waiting nearby.

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The evening prayer was a spectacle. From the river, boats upon boats lined the shore to observe the evening prayer from the water. Spectators at best. On the shore- mass amounts of people packed into the open square we had witnessed the marriage ritual earlier in the day, together in prayer. Young children carrying large pots of hot chai hopped from boat to boat, serving us all steaming hot cups of magical goodness. Oh how we are starting to love our chai!!

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The Ghats during the evening prayer

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Chewy, lighting our candles for the flower ceremony

After the ceremony, we headed back to the hotel (Hotel Pallavi) and had a late dinner of Thali (basically a variety of veg curries and roti/chipati/naan). The hotel is in a decent location (off the main street, about a 15 minute walk to the Old Town and the ghats). It is relatively clean, they offer laundry service (which we took advantage of and were very pleased with), and has a wicked little restaurant on the corner beside the gate to the hotel which serves fantastic Thali. The beds are however reasonably uncomfortable- but when in Rome, right?

Another unforgettable day-
The Creatures of the Morning

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Posted by ellie nicole 12:01 Archived in India Tagged sunset flower hotel river varanasi ghats ceremony evening prayer pallavi

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