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  • Day47

    Varanasi

    January 20, 2019 in India ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    Ok. Ok. Maybe an amp that goes to 11 isn't enough and India definitely doesn't need any more cowbell. We've been collecting startling, and awful, and utterly amazing experiences that make India an 11, or off the charts compared to anywhere else on the planet. I'll make an entry on that later, probably on the flight home. In the meantime suffice it to say that Varanasi blows the scale out of the water. India, in its whole depth of history experience is here. Most days it has made me want to hide in the hotel room, except our first hotel room was clearly decorated by men in the 50s and had just grown uglier and tatty with age. No respite there. So out into the streets and ghats we went. Nancy more than me. Remember that she has grown less risk averse in the past several years and I have grown less risk tolerant

    How can one apply a standard measure to a city that is likely the oldest continuously inhabited place on the planet. People have been praying, washing clothes, defecating, building temples, and burning their dead here since before recorded history. Probably over 7000 years. Older than Genesis. It makes me wonder if that is part of what makes a place identifiable as holy, the mere repetition of these common acts over time. Waking each morning to celebrate the coming of the sun and praying each evening to mark its passing. Bathing away one's sins and filth every morning in a body of water. Donning priestly garb and paint to repeat a piece of the story. Are there imprints that are beyond what we are able to directly witness through our senses and our tools? Elements that transcend time? There must be some reason that so many people point to this place and others like it and say, 'this is a holy place.' Either way, it is incredibly impacting. More so than anywhere else I've been in my almost 60 years.
    More photos:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/F4qSDXKH5XtA5Sgu6

    Pooja Ceremony video:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/Ro9evhCf78hrMrK76

    After two nights in the dreadful place we switched to a hotel right in the middle of things overlooking the Ganges with the ghats below. Really interesting and old place called the Palace on the Steps. It was worse for wear, but the owners were really trying and the staff was really friendly and attentive. We were given a room in a circular turret with wrap around windows that allowed us to look up and down the ghats from our bedside. There was also a cool light show that took place on the domed ceiling of the room. I could see Nancy's coming and going quite well from that vantage point.

    As in much of India there were scheduling snafus and disappointments during our stay. We requested Ubers only to have them cancel 10 minutes later. Nancy signed up for a photography walking tour on TripAdvisor that never showed. I arranged a car and driver to the 6 year mid Kumbh Mata gathering of some 60 million people. Driver showed up an hour after he said that he would and by the time we'd have arrived, the morning bathing would have been over. No problem. We took Tuk Tuks, Nancy arranged her own photo and boat tours, and there are enough itinerant priests in Varanasi due to its proximity to the Kumbh that it was quite enough.

    I think I've been able to gain some perspective here. Next we're off to Amritsar and the Golden Temple. We'll see if this somewhat new perspective sticks or shifts in a whole new direction.

    Either way, it will be interesting.
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