Hardiwar. 9 hour delayed train. Where 13 hour train journey turns into 18 hour long one though the Indian countryside. Sleeper carriage with beds on top of each other. Gentle heat through the open doors, blushing golden sun setting behind passing fields and trees. Chai man walking though the train carriages. The sound of the rails and horn as we go though the small villages.
3am Banaras. Path through the sleeping people in the station. Crowd of auto rickshaw drivers. Finding the guest house at the peak of the night. Sacred Ganga so peaceful.. Silence.. just the sound of humble pigeons cooing there and here. Few street dogs sleeplessly wandering around the empty ghats. Fine juicy pomegranate tinted crescent moon hanging above the dream river and street lamps enlightening the steps of the ghats and old decaying building. Heavy bags and tired sweaty body. The surreal feeling of this ancient place.
Through the steep steps and narrow alleyway, home. Bright sun through the window in the shaded room. Morning. Banaras in the daylight. Busy riverside, life happening. Boats going up and down the river, as the golden bridge from the rising sun crosses the gentle waves. Pilgrims bathing in the holy waters of mother Ganga. Washing of the clothes. Drinking the waters. Worship and prayer. Complete belief in the sacred river. Ever so purifying, ever so clean. Yet my heart aces as my eyes see her precious body so polluted as by blind beliefs. Would you hurt someone, you love so dearly…
84 ghats down to meet the liberating mother. One of the oldest cities in the world. Crescent shaped with right coast let in solitude of shiny sand desert. Myths and stories of curse. The city of Lord Shiva, the great destroyer, rich with culture where religion merged with the spirituality, with the daily ritual. Hindus from all over the country, travelling to the holy city of Kashi to experience moksha, the liberation, and stop the reincarnation, freedom from the death. The bodies of the past ones, burning in one of the two crematory ghats. Black smoke crowding over the Mother. Piles of wood, cows and dogs walking around. People coming and going.. The cycle of life, birth and death in raw truth.
Kashi Vishwanath. One of the most famous Hindu temple. All covered in luminous gold, shimmering in the sunlight. Hundreds and hundreds of people, all queuing to witness Shiva Linga, the symbol of the most powerful deity, Lord Shiva. The pure consciousness. The creative forces of the universe, feminine Shakti, merged with the masculine, Shiva – that which is not. There is no one without the other. As light from the fire. And through numerous security checks, with the passport in the hand, bare feet pushing through the crowds, finally to the presence of the holy statue covered in prayer flowers and offerings.
Only in the three holy cities that lay by the sacred river, every night they worship the Mother Ganga. From Rishikesh, Hardiwar to Varanasi. Down in one of the main ghats, people gather to watch and take part in the symbolical ceremony. Flower petals flying with the winds, flames of fire making shapes, the sound of the blowing horn and bells. The moment to take it, as the city of lights bright up.
In the capital of the spirituality, all the sadhu’s, babas, aghori.. the wild yogis of India. Spiritual nomads of the world. Every place they lay there head, is home. The whole world, their family. Covered in the holy ashes, with half naked bodies. Some smoking weed. Some sitting under the sun. Deep into their sadhana. Devoted to the life of self realisation.
While the colours of Varanasi mix with the smells of strong incense and messy pathways, flower market fills the air with the light fragrance of freshly blooming rose and marigold. Where the noise of the near by traffic and salesmen shouting the deals, rushes around the courtyard.
Deep breath in… and out. At the times, little overwhelming and yet holding a mystical feel, we say bye to Varanasi, Moon Baba and Mother Ganga and with an overnight bus, continue to the route of the Golden Triangle, Agra.