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Festival of lights or health and safety nightmare?

sunny 30 °C
View Great Escape to the East! on Tam-Jo's travel map.


It is now 2am and Tam and I are trying to recover from a near death experience, the details of which I shall reveal in due course. First, let me start by announcing that we are now in Varanasi - the religious centre of the world and somewhere I have been anxious about arriving at. Sited on the river Ganges you imagine somewhere peaceful and beautiful, but I learnt a few weeks ago that it was going to be dirty and noisy and generally full of corpses. It does not disappoint on that front!

During our orientation walk we were near deafened by all the horns, were hard pressed to avoid all the cow poo, and were constantly harrassed by beggars. Then down the to river for our sunset boat cruise. I apologise in advance for my less than spiritual attitude, perhaps Tammy would be better at writing this section. I'm afraid mine will be a rather frank entry! Our main fear while waiting in the boat to leave was that we would see a dead body floating in the river (not too rare a sight here!)! Let me explain. Hindu's believe that if you submerge a corpse in the river Ganges, burn them on a funeral pyre on the banks of the river and then sprinkle the ashes in the river then your dead relative will be out of the cycle of birth and rebirth and will reach nirvana. Hence the large number of corpses in Varanasi! They literally line up near the banks of the river with their corpses waiting for space to create a funeral pyre. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Babies, pregnant women, people biten by snakes and priests cannot be burnt, so stones are strapped to them and they are thrown in the river - hence the not so rare floating bodies! Not to gross anyone out, but people wash and drink from this river...... :-S

Anyway, alas we did not see any floaters, but we did see both of the main burning sites. We then did a candle ceremony where we lit candles and let them go on the Ganges with a wish and a prayer. That was nice. Then came the setting off of the fireworks.... on a wooden boat, on a river filled with dead bodies and ash. This was because tonight is the main night of Diwali, the festival of lights! So we had to set off fireworks! But this madness was only the first of many health and safety nightmares!! After watching the evening prayer ceremony from the boat we headed towards home for dinner. Then back to the hotel for some drinks and more fireworks. This time our guide set them off from the middle of a very busy road! Even the cows seemed unfased by the noise and close proximity of explosions!!! Next health a safety nightmare, a firework flying so close past Tammy's face that she felt the wind from it!

Later that night, after watching an insane number of fireworks go off (from 4pm constantly until now!!! I have never seen anything like it!) me and Tam were alone on the roof terrace with Raghu, beating him at poker, when we saw a green flash coming towards us..... surely the firework was going to go over our heads and land elsewhere? Oh sh*t! Clearly Tam was the most awake amongst us because by the time the firework landed on the two seater table we had been sat around, Tammy was half way across the rooftop, cowering behind me, while I was half hiding under the table and Raghu was just staring at the lit firework in disbelief! And then BANG!!!! Yes, it went off! Luckily it was one of those pathetic ones that just shoots out a little light, a firework that we had been complaining about only half an hour ago for being so unimpressive! Thank God for the unimpressive fireworks though! Had it been something more impressive I would probably be without one of my shoulders, Raghu without a face and Tammy crying in corner!!!

Next came the hysterical laughter, and now we're waiting for the adrenaline crash!! I think we will both be fast asleep before long! So ends another eventful day here in India!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 05:31 Archived in India Tagged varanasi

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OMG!!! Just as well we didn't know about the near death experience until afterwards!! Keep safe. Loads of love, Mum and Dad xxxx

by Mum and Dad (Ven)

I am sooooo pleased you are ok! Hope you have no more of these incidents. Keep safe. Tons of love Mom and Trev xxxxx

by cathy hodgson

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