. OnHiatus.com > Journal 1 > Day Index > Journal Entry: January 25, 2001

Thursday, January 25, 2001
Varanasi, India
India's FlagUttar Pradesh's Flag

Varanasi, India:
Latitude: 25° 28' 43" North
Longitude: 83° 0' 54" East
Altitude: 195 feet
From Seattle: 8710 miles
Lodging: Hotel - Scindia Guest House

Today's Travel:
Country: India
Region: Uttar Pradesh
Linear:13 miles
Weather: Sunny

Available Photos:

Rooftop view of the Gangas River Varanasi, India

Alamgir Mosque Varanasi, India

Minarets Alamgir Mosque, Varanasi, India

Boats on the river Alamgir Mosque, Varanasi, India

Boats on the river Alamgir Mosque, Varanasi, India

Temple roof Alamgir Mosque, Varanasi, India

Birds Alamgir Mosque, Varanasi, India

Bird in flight Alamgir Mosque, Varanasi, India

Monkeys Alamgir Mosque, Varanasi, India

Candles on river Varanasi, India

Launching Candles Varanasi, India

All photo images © 1997-2000 Anthony Jones - Images may not be used without prior written approval.

Click on map to Zoom in...
Trip Stats to Date:
Day: 1386
Linear Dist: 270333
Countries Visited: 74
Regions Visited: 277
More stats...
Hotels: 525
Friends / Family: 338
Camping: 130
Hostels: 262
Transit: 87
Other Lodging: 13
Beers: 4514

Journal Entry:
I slept in a little. When I finally got up I took a long shower, took my laundry in to be washed (it's supposed to be holy to have your clothes washed in the Gangas, plus I don't have any clean clothes left), and wandered down to the Shanti to have breakfast. The Shanti was recommended in my guidebook and was where I tried to go when I first got here yesterday. I found the food ok, but far better than last night. After breakfast I came back to my guest house and worked on my journal and email for awhile. In the afternoon I hiked north along the river to the Alamgir Mosque - an imposing stone mosque that dominates that part of the river. Getting to the mosque involved several hundred steps and some twisting alleys. The mosque itself isn't open to non-Muslims, but for a fee (10 Rs) you can climb to the roof (just what I wanted more stairs) and the view from the top is spectacular. I spent a good fifteen minutes admiring the view (and catching my breath) and then another fifteen minutes chasing monkeys and the green parrot like birds around trying to get photos.

From the mosque I walked back to Jalasayin Ghat determined to make myself watch some of the burnings. I stopped on a balcony overlooking the burning platforms. I'd planned on watching an entire cremation all the way through but it wasn't necessary. Yesterday I'd guessed there must be at least six fires going - today looking down from above I realized the number is well over twelve, so there is some phase of the ceremony going on at all times. The body is carried down to the river covered in gold and red cloth on a stretcher. At the river it is carefully bathed and covered again. Then it sits waiting for it's turn (there always seemed to be a queue of three or four). Different amounts of wood are used - I assume depending on the cost - but are stacked at least two layers, then the body is unwrapped to a single layer (sometimes white, sometimes gold) and put on the pile, then another layer or two of wood and some sandalwood pieces are scattered around the top (to control the smell) . All the coverings (mostly gold cloth) are stuffed underneath the pile with a lot of dry straw and the fire is brought down from the temple. depending on how the fire and cloth burns the results can be a little goulish - I definitely saw recognizable bones in some of the pyres - but the bigger (more expensive?) fires seemed to keep everything pretty veiled. Near the end there is a tender who sits there with some longish sticks and picks up pieces and places them in the middle of the fire. When the fire is done burning buckets of water are brought up from the river and cast on the smoldering remains. A young girl then goes through and picks up certain pieces and ashes which she puts in a bag - I assume to be dumped in the river. Surprisingly, the whole thing really didn't bother me - though the ashes and smoke still make me a little queasy if I think about it.

I spent over an hour on the internet - a very slow connection and some problems left me there longer than I'd planned. I wandered down to the festival where the same ceremony (with the men, fire, and bell) as last night seemed to be going on. Maybe it's because the wind died down but tonight the candles on the water were more like what I expected last night - hundreds (thousands?) of them sketched out the flow of the river on the darkness.

Related Sites:
CNN: Current Weather in Varanasi
US State Department Consular Information Sheets: India
CIA - The World Factbook: India

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