Varanasi, with all its colour, noise and chaos, isn’t usually the sort of place that springs to mind when you think of the word “dreamy”. But on the dark misty morning that we set out in our little boat to watch the sunrise over one of the world’s holiest rivers, it was just that.
In the pitch black of early morning, our friendly guide told us all about the River Ganges and how thousands of people come to take a dip in its sacred waters every day. We then received a lit candle in a bed of flowers which we sent down the river with our wishes.
As the day started to get lighter, the ghats came alive with people milling about alongside the colourful buildings. People of all ages bathed in the water and washed clothes; pilgrims prayed; others did their morning yoga around young boys playing cricket (because there is always someone playing cricket in India!); and even the odd cow stood in the shallow water washing away their sins!
In the distance we could just make out the dark smoke that billowed up into the air and this was where we were heading – to the burning ghats, where the bodies of loved ones are cremated out in the open. Sitting in our small boat, bobbing on the water, watching this holy ceremony was something I’ve never experienced anything like before, and is an incredible look into the heart of Varanasi. I was so caught up in the ceremony, that I didn’t even notice when tiny flecks of ash from the burning floated onto my jacket and into my hair.
A misty grey fog hung over everything in sight and while it might have added to the pensive atmosphere, I was so disappointed when we started to head back to shore and not a single glimpse of the sun had appeared. But then, just before we reached our drop off point, a little glimmer of sun seeped through the misty curtains and turned the grey air and murky water a much prettier shade of orange. At exactly the right moment, a young Indian boy steered his boat past ours and a flock of birds swept up into the air, giving me the perfect photo opportunity and making the experience a very dreamy and magical one indeed.
Have you been to Varanasi? What did you think of my favourite place in India?