Varanasi, India ~ Ganges River Boat Ride at Dawn, Prayers, Bathing and Cremations

Wednesday, March 26th, Varanasi, India

Ganges River just before dawn

Ganges River just before dawn

This was our last full day in India and it started early.  The first scheduled event was to witness the morning rituals along the Ganges River by boat.  On the bus at 5:00, we got to the water before dawn.

There are several things that happen first thing in the morning – bathing, washing clothes, presenting offerings and praying.

We paid a few cents to get a flower offering.  After choosing your wish or prayer and lighting the candle it is set adrift on the river.  Here is what my offering looked like before the candle fell out and got lost down the side of the boat:

Flower offering

Flower offering

Beautiful sunrise on the Ganges

Beautiful sunrise on the Ganges

Floating

Floating

A few shots to show more of the ghat (steps leading to a holy body of water or riverside)

l

Ghat

Loading up her boat

Loading up her boat

As more arrive it begins to get crowded once again

As more arrive it begins to get crowded once again

Since Gus did not get to see the Taj Mahal, we decided to break him out of the suitcase today to show him the Ganges.  I did not get a very good shot with a blurred background, but for anyone that has not already seen him, please say hello to our fellow “around-the-world” traveler.

Gus on the Ganges

Gus on the Ganges (Good grief I need a manicure)

It was time to make our offerings and several in the group participated.

A few of our group getting their offerings ready.

A few of our group getting their offerings ready.

Not a flattering angle for me, but I posted this just to show how dirty the water is.

Not a flattering angle for me, but I posted this just to show how dirty the water is.

Even in a boat on the river we are not protected from the hawkers.  I got a laugh at this boat that had two venders on the left side and another on the right trying to sell their goods.

No where is "safe" from vendors trying to sell you some reminder of India

No where is “safe” from vendors trying to sell you some reminder of India

If you saw my last post, we had been at this same spot the previous night.  There are continuous cremation being done along the banks with the cremains then put into the river.

The Hindus consider this such a holy place that many people make pilgrimages here, some specifically to live out their final moments.

It is the ultimate wish to die here, be cremated and have your ashes put into the Ganges.  It is said that if that happens then the spirit reaches Nirvana and is released from earthly incarnations.

As dirty as the water is, it is still considered a religious ritual to bathe here, however for some this is also a social occasion each morning.

Men bathing in the river

Men bathing in the river

Women praying and preparing to enter the water

Women praying and preparing to enter the water

There are also lines of people doing laundry.  I’m hoping that those are not our hotel sheets drying up on the hill…

Pounding laundry and drying it on the hillside

Pounding laundry and drying it on the hillside

Another part of the morning ritual is devout Hindu devotees offering prayers to the rising sun.

Devout Hindus praying to the morning sun

Devout Hindus praying to the morning sun

Cremations are done at all hours of the day and night along the river.  The dead must be cremated within 24 hours, as the body starts decomposing rapidly in the heat.  We walked by one on our way back to the bus.

It is OK to take pictures from a distance, but not up close out of respect for the grieving family.  I took this from quite far away, and still felt like a bit of a voyeur, but I felt it was an important part of the Ganges River and Hindu story.

I know this will be a little too morbid for some to see.

That being said, it still fascinated me at the same time.  For those who choose to look, please note that there are several dogs and a goat also in the picture.  This is simply the way of life here, and the final step for (as they believe) the lucky few.

Cremation on the bank of the river

Cremation on the bank of the river

And that was just the start of our day…

GRATITUDE MOMENT:  Today I am grateful for believing that wishes can and do come true.  I think that wishes are simply your hearts prayers.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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2 Responses to Varanasi, India ~ Ganges River Boat Ride at Dawn, Prayers, Bathing and Cremations

  1. Marie Cambre says:

    I so enjoy your post. Chuck & I were talking about y’all last night. Safe travels and maybe we will cross paths again someday.

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