I thought that touring to the Ganges to visit the holy city of Varanasi in India could be an experience that I might regret. I had been warned about the poverty, illness and death with which I would surely be confronted. What I discovered though is that the place is truly amazing and magical, leaving me with a completely new way of peacefully and joyfully viewing the world. The level of compassion and humanity I saw; and the faith, hope and belief asserted by the locals makes this a very moving experience.
The evening before I was introduced to the blessing ceremony known as the Aarti in which all the priests of the area bless and give thanks to the life-supporting water. Now, descending the steps to the water, I passed by the beggars before sunrise and dropped a token coin into their tins as I went made my way to the boats. Here were the things I had been warned about – the funeral pyres burning in the early hours of the dawn, the wrapped corpses too, and public defecation. But there was also a sense of rebirth and newness of life – newborns being blessed, school groups communally having a dip, the washer men cleaning their clothes, the spiritual sitting crossed legged and motionless praying and meditating as the sun was gently rising. Never before have I had the experience where every element of life was on display in front of me. No pretenses – just life – glorious life!!
– Emma McInnes