Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Front row at Puja (Varanasi)

The previous post is a bit vague and confusing. Varanasi is a strange place. i can't really explain it. But hopefully this post will help explain what i mean when i say that life just goes on.

Puja is ceremony that takes place every evening on the banks of the River Ganges. We were lucky enough to be on a boat to watch the ceremony (a free boat ride courtesy of the hostel we were staying at). In fact, we weren't just on any boat. We were in the boat at the front. In front of about 80 other tourist boats, our boat man sneaked his way into a roped off section at the very front for the best seat on the Ganges.

It was a bit like cars turning up at a drive-in movie (well, like you see in the films anyway), hoards of boats sat watching the Puja ceremony.

The ceremony was peformed by five brahmin holy men under the strict gaze of their guru. The ceremony involved lots of smoke, incense and flowers. The holy men waved around candel sticks that weighed 3kg, wafting the smoke everywhere. Then they would trhow spices and petals to the river. It was very hypnotic. The whole point of this nighlty offering was to give thanks to the River Ganges, Shiva and to wish for World Peace.

BUt more interesting than all of this were the little boys who stood in the shallows of the water.

Money is regularly offered to the river by people as a way to repent sins, they throw their coins into the river.

So while this ceremony was going on, the little boys were stood their with magnets on the end of a string fishing for the coins. It was quite lucrative. Every time they threw their ropes in, they got something back. They stuffed the rupees in their pockets and collected what they could.

Brilliant.

There we were in the holiest place in India, watching a deeply religious ceremony, and there were all these kids sweeping the river for money. Well, i suppose it's better off in their pockets than on the river bed.

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