This morning we arose at 5 a.m. so we could be on the Ganges for the rising of the sun. As our guide constantly tells us, this is one of the holiest places in the world, and the Ganges river as it passes through Varanasi is lined with temple after temple.
The early morning is populated by people coming to the river and bathing at the ghats--- stone steps that lead down into the river. The water level of the Ganges varies drastically depending on the time of year, and it has just begun descending from its high point during the monsoon so the ghats are covered with dirt and clay from the receding current.
The traditions here are old, and we pass by ghat after ghat of devotional bathers preparing for worship and the day. The funeral pyres at some ghats burn 24 hours a day, as bodies are placed atop 400 kg of wood and sprinkled with ghee (butter) and sandalwood to hasten their path to heaven. It is all juxtaposed with modernity, as everyone carries cell phones and our young boat driver has earbuds in, listening to the latest hits I assume.
The tone of this city is much different than Kolkata. The modern ideas scrape against the grain of an ancient culture. Tourism is common in Varanasi, so the reactions to our white skin are distinct. Whereas in Kolkata we were curiosities and the locals simply wanted to take selfies with the strange white people, here in Varanasi we are marks, foreign tourists from whom to extract money.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are scholars as well as practitioners of yogic postures, breath control and meditation. They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga.
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