Varanasi (Hindustani pronunciation: [ʋaːˈraːɳəsi] ( listen)), also Benares, Banaras (Banāras [bəˈnaːrəs] ( listen)) or Kashi(Kāśī [ˈkaːʃi] ( listen)), is a city on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, 320 kilometres (200 mi) southeast of the state capital, Lucknow. It is holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism. Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest inIndia.
The Ganpati Guest House is situated on the banks of the river Ganges, or mother Ganga, as the locals call it. I have stayed here before and the owner and the staff are very pleasant and always helpful. The hotel is full 9 months of the year and 3/4 full the rest of the time.
The high water mark during the rainy season is to the top of the Ganpati (Ganesh) elephant in the photo.
The burning ghats. 200-300 bodies are cremated here every day of the year. They come from all over India as this is the most holiest of places to be cremated if you are Hindu. Women from the family of the deceased are not allowed to visit the ghats during the cremation of their family members. This is to stop the crying and weeping and to keep them from trying to jump on the fire.
The lowest class of people are not allowed to be cremated here. Also, holy men, pregnant women, lepers, snake bite victims and people killed by animals are not cremated. They are tied to flat slabs of stone and sunk in the river.
Not only do people get water from the Ganges, they bath in it (it is very holy to do this). Along with the bodies and cremated ashes that are deposited in the river, all of the sewage, most of the trash and pretty much everything else that is no longer of use, ends up in the water. And somehow fish survive amongst all of this.
A group of us from the Kopan course got together and offered 108 floating flower candles as a light offering to the Buddhas of the 3 times, the river and all of the sentient beings everywhere.
Cameras were not allowed at the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Sarnath so I was unable to take any. These were some young monks on registration day.
I got this photo from the web. There were 6000 people attending. 2000 Tibetans, 2000 monks and nuns, 600 westerners and 90 registered media people. The rest were from the rest of the world.