Friday, December 11, 2015


Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, in which light soaked in ghee or camphor is offered to one or more deities. This ritual is performed EVERY night at sunset on the shores of the Ganga. Tonight, we decided to go see this. It is  performed in more than one spot on the shore,but it is  the exact same ritual, so the shores of the Ganga are alive with rhythmic chants, clanging cymbals and lots of flaming lights.
There is something else flaming in the night and that is the cremation of so many bodies. We had to pass by many cremations on our way to one of the bigger Aarti displays. It is the wish of every Hindu to die in Varanasi and be cremated by their loved ones on the shore of the Ganga.  That doesn't always happen, but it is the desire of most. It is also why many many people come to Varanasi and literally sleep on the sidewalks at night, feeling if they die, they will be cremated in this holiest of spots and make a better passage to heaven.  We thought they were just homeless bums, but not necessarily...just very devout,whom feel their time is approaching. We wanted to be respectful as we passed these pyres, so I took pictures while in a boat a bit away from the shore.
There were many boats floating across the shore from the Aarti. We joined them, and as the young hawkers were stepping from boat to boat trying to sell chai, I tried to get into the groove. It was very loud! Very smokey from bodies burning and all the wicks.  The pilgrims just flock in great numbers to this version of what we might call a church service. I kept thinking of what we were told over and over.....Hinduism is NOT an religion, but a Lifestyle.  People rarely convert "TO" Hinduism, because it is hard to understand all the do's and mostly DONT's. Lives of Hindus are ruled by excessive rules attached to everything. Everything! It Is fascinating and puzzling to an outsider like me.
I Really enjoyed our sunset float down the Ganga.  It was real. And alive, amongst all the dead. Hard to explain.

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