Sunrise Boat Ride & The Burning Ghats

6.11.2012

 Our second day in Varanasi we woke up before sunrise and hopped on a boat to ride the holy Ganges river.  We bought prayer offerings, released them on the holy water, and enjoyed watching the Indian people go through their daily tasks of washing their clothes, praying, and bathing in the water.  We were able to see the burning ghats from afar and were only able to take photos from a distance for respect, which is the 8th photo on this post.

If you don't know anything about the burning ghats I will try to sum it up as best as I can.  In the Hindu religion they believe in cremation unless you are one of the 5 genres: a pregnant woman, a child under 10 years of age, a holy man, a diseased man, or if they had leprosy, those 5 genres are wrapped in fabric and dropped in the middle of the Ganges River.
We were told the flame had been continuously burning for over 500 years and this was the flame that was used to start each cremation.  We went there that night where we could watch the bodies burn as close as we wanted to get.  It was such a surreal experience, to say the least.

I feel like I can't really explain it and give this amazing experience justice so instead I'll take an excerpt from my journal I wrote,

          "We got to see all steps of the ceremony as we were breathing in the burning bodies.  I still remember how distinct the smell was.  Not that is was gross, but how it was a smell I've never smelt before.  It was so distinct and intense.  Just the thought that I was breathing in a burning human body turned my stomach... We saw them bring down the body wrapped in gold fabric covered in flowers, I even saw the dead man's face which was only a foot away from me, I remember my stomach instantly dropping.  We got  to see them bring down the flame to set the body on fire and lastly, I still remember so clearly seeing the skull and chest cavity left to burn.  The fires were constantly crackling from all the oils dripping from the human body.  It was a once in a lifetime experience, so surreal and one of the biggest things that will forever impact me.  There was something so different seeing the body burned to ashes, something so final.  It made me realize how short this life really is."

25 comments:

Rachel said...

A beautiful description...an experience that will stay with you I imagine!

Jenn and Chris said...

That's crazy sis. I don't think I would have liked that too well either. That was a great description!

Lindsay Rondo said...

wow... you've got some amazing stuff here chica. your photography is beautiful and your travels are fascinating. Glad I came across your blog.
Lindsay

Lindsay Rondo said...

and i am loving your illustrations. wow.

Emily said...

Every time you update with another India post, I relish it! The pictures are just beautiful, Brittany! You really catch emotion, not just snapshots of what is happening.

Miss having you guys next door!

PrinceAcid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kristina said...

Wonderful shots! I have heard and read a lot about the burning ghats in Varanasi, it must be a real experience to witness this in reality. Some friends of mine have been there as well and their stories made me speechless!
Your pictures are beyong beautiful, as always!

The Locklins said...

Your sharing your travel experience here is so moving. I had read of the burning ghats but hearing about it from someone who has been there is very different. Life is short. And lovely, even in the gritty, sad, final places.

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