We have revisited Varanasi and come to the beginning of the end for this trip. For our retirement it’s just the end of the beginning and there could be no more magical place to contemplate these conundrums of time and space than Varanasi.
This Holy City is the Hindu’s Jerusalem, Rome or Mecca. To a traveller just passing through it appears to be made up of two parts.
The Alleys leading to the Ghats are dark and long, studded with hole in the wall shops, big monkeys hanging from the guttering, nimbly prancing from rooftop to rooftop.
Cows and dogs of every description.
The cows huge hips taking up fully two thirds of the path, their swinging horns covering most of the rest. Another meditation as you ease past them and realise that one errant swing of their great heads could have you heading to the happy hunting ground of the ancestors pronto.
Funeral processions throng the alleys, the dear departed at the head, sometimes on a bier, sometimes a single bed, covered in flowers, looking asleep as they are borne to their pyres to cast off this set of old clothes and take up a new shining set. Will they awake to find themselves surrounded by busty houris clad in silk offering sweet treats as they recline on brocaded cushions in a marble palace, or will it be a hard outer shell as they sit on the branch of a tree rubbing their legs together and wondering what went wrong ?
Then there are the Ghats, the world’s most magnificent stepping stones to Eternity, running up and down, and up and up,
and down and sideways and then down, then up….then sideways…..then down.
These great ancient stone steps link the Mother Ganges with the Towers and Forts, Castles and funeral pyres, kite flyers and chai wallahs, Momo makers and cricket players, tourists ambling with their jaws on the ground, sadhus and gurus and yahoos and baby hippies, kurtad and cowled, striding defiantly up and down, the anklets tinkling above their bare feet, the ordure and ashes squelching between their toes.
Kama Sutra 101, the Kitchy Kitchy Koo.
Some beautiful locals and some local wildlife