Bathing in the Ganges

I love water. As weird as this sounds it is absolutely true.  I love lakes, the ocean, ponds, rivers. I love watching water; I love hearing water.  That being said, this morning we had the most marvelous opportunity to go on a boat ride at dawn to watch the sun rise and see people bathe in the Ganges (and it wasn’t even raining!). Words cannot describe the experience; it was too beautiful, too peaceful, and too much for words. But a picture is worth a thousand words is it prepare yourself for the wordiest post yet!

So the very first pictures of every day always look steamy as the camera takes a few minutes to adjust to the humidity:

And then our lovely sunrise experience:

Even at 5:30am, the river was lined with people praying and religiously washing themselves of sin:

We had a fantastic time:

A neat part about visiting the Ganges and Varanasi at this time of the year was that we also got to see a religious tradition in which people travel a minimum of 40 kilometers in all orange—the color of energy—to Varanasi. In Varanasi they visit a temple—the Golden Temple (which only those who are Hindu can go inside)—and collect water from the Ganges to take back to their homes. We saw many people in all orange during our stay. 40 kilometers! I don’t know how they could walk on these streets full of garbage and rocks so far—I think my feet would fall off. Oddly enough it reminded me a bit of the pioneers and a bit of the Hajj that Muslims make. Religion is so fascinating. And as Bryan frequently talks about, I too love seeing “doctrinal debris” throughout the world and in almost every religion.

(This last picture is off a group on their way home; they were elated!)

Cremation is also practiced in Hinduism. The smoke from the crematories along the Ganges were indications of cremations.

We also happened upon a cremation alongside the Ganges.

It was surprising to me to see how exposed the body was.  Still it was a fascinating experience.

Following the boat ride we then were able to walk through the small streets of Varanasi. It was amazing. There were holy men, families, dogs, flies, cows, poop galore, garbage, beautiful scents, putrid scents, temples, and so much more. It was dirty, yet beautiful. We zigzagged through the streets until we reached the outside of the Golden Temple—again we couldn’t enter but we gazed in from the outside. The people were all so beautiful. Just like it is so important for us in the LDS religion to attend the temple, it is so important to these people. I loved it!

Throughout our adventuring we also had some great comments that should be noted:

To Bryan: “You body builder?” (This happened multiple times.)

Then of course the never ending, “Husband? Wife? Girlfriend? Boyfriend?” Explaining that we were engaged and actually had met in Varanasi was a bit difficult. We often resorted to finally just saying we were married. Which reminds me: the culture is more conservative in Varanasi which makes arranged marriages different. According to our guide, Santos, the bride and groom do not meet until after the wedding! Can you imagine? That is why it was often difficult to explain we were not married; it was more culturally acceptable to say we were married. That and many just couldn’t fathom that we were together and not married. Isn’t culture fascinating?

Oh yes, we had another street vendor run in. Street vendor John. Though we definitely had never met him before, he came up and began,

“Remember me from last night?”
“Yes, it’s me! John. Remember?”
“I don’t.”
“Buy something.”
“No thank you.”
“You break my heart.”
He too showed up again almost thirty minutes later,
“Now you buy?”
“No thank you.”
He cracked me up.

Oh geez there is so much to share. Another random but fascinating thing we learned was that people don’t have toothbrushes. Well, not in the Western sense. Instead they use sticks. There were vendors selling small sticks everywhere. Apparently you chew on it for a minute; once it softens a bit it works perfectly as a toothbrush. Then you just discard it on the street.
After walking through the Old City, as they call it, we changed gears from Hinduism to Buddhism. Varanasi is not only important in Hinduism, apparently, but also in Buddhism. In fact, it was in Varanasi that Buddha gave his first sermon. We went to the ruins of the site of his first sermon. It was lovely.

We definitely got suckered into purchasing something from the cutest little boy there! I believe his name was Radik (or something close to it). He followed Bryan and I around for well over thirty minutes. He was a stud. He kept asking Bryan if he was the Undertaker or a body builder. It was hysterical. He then tried the funniest line in hopes of getting us to buy something: “You have the most beautiful eyes. Can I have them? Oh no, that would be impossible. Buy one?”  I was dying. That was one I hadn’t heard before. In the end we purchased a 50 cent replica of a statue there. He was elated. Loved the kid.

Santos then took us to a silk weaving factory. Silk is huge in India, but particularly in Varanasi. It was fun to see the people work.

Look at how beautiful:

They also showed us some of their saris—beautiful! I tried to find one for my wedding dress, but failed (again I’m kidding). Talk about amazing though! It’s all hand woven and hand stitched. Which reminds me of the dress in India. Everyone always looks immaculate! The colors of the women’s clothing is so vivid and bright. And the men look so nice in their slacks and button up shirts all of the time. Indian culture really is amazing!

Then we drove to the airport....note the leftover rain:

And of course the airport was sweltering hot. Oh India. But from Varanasi we had a quick flight to New Delhi, a rapid layover, and another flight to Chennai. Weirdest moment: as we boarded the plane and were looking for our seats I suddenly heard people calling my name. Looking around I was thinking, who in the world knows me in India?! I was elated to see that my wonderful Aunt, Uncle, and three adorable cousins—Katie, Sarah, and Amy—were all on the same flight! We were all heading to Rising Star for the week (unplanned) but both toured separately before. They were too cute! It was fun seeing them there! Love family!

Ps: please appreciate how I decorated my bag so that it is simple to spot!

(Yes I did attack Bryan's bag with the same yellow duck tape pattern as well!)

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