Tuesday 16 September 2008

Traveling India: Stage 4: Amritsar - Agra - Varanasi

It has been a while since I have been able to blog, but the last week was one of intensive traveling with little time to find a quit internet cafe. Every other night we spend sleeping in a train, sometimes peaceful, sometimes extremely irritated by the unmannerly co-travellers (spitting inside the train, putting Bollywood hits on the cellphone at 7am etc.).

After the theater at the Pakistani border closing ceremony in Attari last week, with a heavily partying Indian site and a small delegation of 3 tourists on the Pakistani side, we took a train from Amritsar to Agra.

at the Pakistani Border in Attari

The Taj Mahal is as magnificient as they say and we both loved it. Our train had 4 hours delay though and upon arrival in Agra, we got to know the Taj Mahal is closed on friday (meaning the next day for us). We kinda had to rush to make it before closing time, but still wondered around the taj for more than an hour and had a great view from our guesthouse rooftop afterwards. We also got to see the Taj in the pouring rain :)

Except for the Taj Mahal and the Fort, Agra looks more like a big slum and the Taj Ganj is dirty and congested. In addition sales people, autodrivers and others are very pushy and annoying. We got what we came for, the Taj and the fort, and left in the evening for Varanasi.

Varanasi, formerly known as Benares, is the most sacred place for Hindus and life here evolves around the sacred Ganges river. We took a guesthouse right next to the Mani karnika burning ghat, so we actually smelled the whole time some bbq smell (of bodies being cremated). The tiny streets near the river are so small that no traffic can go through, yet cows are blocking the alleys everywhere, filling them with their fresh 'packages'. Very nice to walk on slippers here...

The next morning we took a boat ride along all the ghats. It's a colourful and lively combination of people washing, swimming, drinking, praying, and offering in and from the Ganges. We also took a close look at the burning ghat and saw bodies being cremated and blessed with water from the Ganges. Parts that do not burn, such as hips and some other bones are disposed in the river. Holy men, sadhus, pregnant woman and children are just thrown in the river, their bodies are supposed to be pure already so don't need to be burned. In the same river, 100m further people are drinking andf washing their clothes...pretty strange. Yet, the rowing guy of our boat ensured us that the Ganges is a very clean river!

manikarnika burning ghat & people washing 100m further

Now we are in Jaipur, Rajasthan the desert state. We have to visit some stuff still, but tonight we are already leaving for Udaipur. I guess I'll talk about that later...

Till the next one!


1 comment: