Varanasi is built on the Ganges river and every thing happens on, in or around the river.
Our evening trip on the river was very spiritual and as we came back to the jetty the 6pm prayers (Ganga Aarti) of thanks to the river where already well under way. Indian pilgrims and tourists come to watch and thousands descend on the Ghat to be part of the ceremony.
Every year after the monsoons the water rises so high that the ghats are covered in mud. The government insists that each year the ghats are cleaned and maintained. The following photo shows just how much mud is deposited on the ghats. Farmers carry away the soil to their farms as it is rich in nutrients.
Shaving and haircuts take place all along the ghats and after you dip in the Ganges it is important to be shaven. What this picture fails to capture is the dogs, cows, goats, touts, beggars and street sellers who meander by - a bit scary if they nudge or bump the guy with the cut throat razor
Pilgrims from villages and towns save up to come to visit Varanasi and its many temples
The mad holy man and the Cobras - This guy was demonstrating what he could do with his snakes. They're only small but were quite feisty and kept hissing at him. In return for the photo, John expected to make the obligatory 'donation' and asked me for some change. We gave him 5 rupees which the holy man looked at then handed back saying in Hindi "take the money back, its free'. John and I thanked the Holy man and as we walked away we remarked how unusual this was. Our guide then pointed out that the guy had actually said that even the Indians give 10 rupees and that in effect we were tight fisted foreigners and we could keep our money
You have to have your wits about you on the ghats. This game involves whacking a short sharp piece of wood into the air - you learn to keep your head down when you hear the whack
Similarly, the cricket games also pose a hazard as one poor tourist can verify, after she was struck full in the mouth with a sizzling drive - luckily the games are played with a tennis ball and she wasn't badly hurt.
just at the back of the ghats is the daily fruit and veg market
The Ganges River has many temples and more than 80 ghats. Each is maintained by different sponsors. The views up and down the river are impressive. Perhaps the best views are from the river itself
John's artistic shot -
If you look closely you should spot lots of people flying kites. Some of the more business oriented kids hire rowing boats to scoop out those kites that have dropped in the water - after drying, the kites are resold.
You get the idea
This partly submerged temple is just beyond the Manikarnika Ghat
The ghats also host the local laundries. The washing is done in the Ganges using purpose built flat stones that jut out into the water
And the broad ghats themselves make excellent drying facilities
Mist and fog has been an issue during our stay but it does make for some atmospheric shots
So that's our trip to Varanasi just about done - A fantastic place that the photos don't really do justice
Join us soon for our post from Kolkata. Happy New Year