28th October 2014 – Varanasi, India
This town has its own secrets, clogged in funeral pyres and lights,And in the myriad devotees who visit the myriad temples along river shoresThe water flows still, carrying life, death and everything in between.But even as we pause to observe, the boatsman goes about his chores.
There are many ways to seeing the Ghats of Varanasi, but one of the best ways is to take an early morning boat that rows you around the river.
The mornings have a special photogenic quality here, with the mist touching the river waters lined up by ghats and temples. All the poojas done the previous night, means that there is a thick fog of mist engulfing the river in the early mornings. And a ride on the boat, is one of the best ways to experience it.
A normal boat ride will cost you 500 Rupees if you take it alone. But I found 3 other tourists to share the boat with, and we ended up sharing 150 per head, for a one-hour round trip. The boatsman described, in as plausible English as he could, on the different ghats in Varanasi. He explained where I could find the Naga sadhus, and the Aghori sadhus, who were extreme Hindu devotees who tried to stay away from civilisation. He explained how there were crocodiles in the river before, but the villagers had gone to great lengths to capture every last one of them, and make the waters safe. And he also took us to the other end of the Ganga, where the waters were pure and we could take a swim if we wanted to.
Swimming trunks were the last item I had expected to carry in my camera bag, so the swimming never materialised.