Varanasi - Maha Shivratri

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5:30am, still dark, on a paddle-boat in the fog on the Ganges. The sky and river melt together in a thick, velvety grey. Just the dunking of the oars into the still surface. Nothing else. No focal point or sense of perspective, we've all been swallowed by the velvet grey and we're slowly paddling down its never-ending throat. Smooth peace on continuous repeat, with a dunking oar for a heartbeat. Directly above us, a small, suggestive circle of bright blue. 






Varanasi






Our senses wake up with Varanasi; distant splashes and shrieks of the more than usual morning bathers at the ghats. More than usual because today is a holy day, Maha Shivratri: The Festival of Shiva, the God of destruction. Women wring out their sarees. The city is vibrating with devotional chanting from the temples. The air around us becomes a lighter grey. Morning puja, the worship of Mother Ganges, at Assi ghat: eerie female voices sing over a tanoy, four figures in the fog raise flaming triangles. At Dhobi ghat laundry men slap clothes against flat stones where the shallow water meets a muddy bank. Bodies plunge their heads in and out of the Ganges.






16. angusfulton / varanasi






Varanasi






If Varanasi wasn't intense enough, try a festival in Varanasi. Someone pulled us into a doorway as the road cleared and filled with a parade of manic drummers, white uniformed trumpet players, black uniformed bagpipes, gyrating dancers slithering along the floor, a transgender lady, in India commonly considered outcasts and hired to perform for 'special occasions', lunged into the crowd, children on horses painted like gods, a baby painted like a demon and strapped to a pole-top platform with a snake around its neck...






Varanasi






Varanasi






15. angusfulton / varanasi






Varanasi






We did as is done at Maha Shivratri and had a bhang lassi with extra malai, just to multiply the intensity by 1000… Sure enough we soon found ourselves dawdling around in a stoned haze for 4km, in and out of temples and cubby holes and the thousands of things going on around us, following a group of boys walking bare foot who Angus swore were part duck.
'Om Namah Shivaya'.
We hung around at some ceremonial fires at the ghats; groups of men sat in circles and threw offerings of ghee and grains into the flames whilst doing animated, conversational chanting to each other. Entrancing became too freaky for our bhang-distorted brains. We found some recognition in the pastry syrup folded heaven and two misc. orange squares from the sweet shop, the best things we had actually, ever, tasted, and fell asleep at 8pm mumbling about the chanting conversations and the folded pastry heaven.






5. angusfulton / varanasi 2015






Varanasi






Sunrise at Harishchandra ghat, the nearby burning ghat; chickens peck around the scales, male goat chases female, dog chews bone in warm ashes. Our final morning in the Varanasi dream world. The sun came up over the Ganges on the morning puja; gold vessels lifted high. The sandalwood-selling family emerged from their home inside the sandalwood piles. Following the sound of a young voice singing, we watched 30 boys aged 7-13 from a nearby gurukula doing their morning yoga class. The singing voice was mesmerising, from a boy sat at the top of steps above his school-mates, tiny next to his guru. High-pitched, filled with effort and concentration, not leaving himself enough time to breathe.






Varanasi






Varanasi






11. angusfulton / varanasi






Varanasi






Varanasi






Varanasi






06. 17 Feb - 22 Feb 15 CLE Ekt






We said sad goodbyes to Sunil and Muhesh at the hostel. Sunil grabbed a Snickers and a Mars from the counter and handed them to us as we left through the gate, 'Beautiful chocolate for beautiful people'. Teary waves to those wonderful two.




'Since I am convinced that reality is in no way real, how am I to admit that dreams are dreams?' - Saigyo Hoshi






8. angusfulton / varanasi






2. angusfulton / varanasi 2015





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