The main Ghat (Dashaswamedh Gath) we passed is full of people. Everyone tries to get a place in the first row. I could hardly image to put even a toe in the water. The whole canalization of the city goes unfiltered into the water. Several kilometers upstream goes with heavy metals polluted water straight to the holy stream. And a lot of Hindus drinking even the water. It is difficult to understand for me. Surreal. Like the whole town.
“Here you can see the main burning Ghat.” We passed all the important Ghats of Varanasi and are now in front of a huge fire place. It is about 9 in the morning and the first fires are already burning. “Every Hindu wants to get cremated here at this place. It is the holiest places. Every day more than hundred of bodies get burned here.” A slight smell of burned flesh is in the air. “I don’t know if you have noticed but there are no women at the burning places. The reason is that the women tent to react emotional when they see their lovely relatives. In the past it happened that the widows were jumping to the dead husband in the fire. That is for sure what we don’t want. In our culture we say that we should not cry at the burning ceremony. The place for mourning is at home.” Puja navigates the boat right next to the shore. Photography is strongly prohibited but Puja gives me the permission to take pictures. I don’t really know if it is right when I had my finger at the photo button. But when I zoomed in I decided to not take a picture. I can clearly see legs and a head in the flames. I’ve never seen a human being burned. “We Hindus do believe in the reincarnation. When we die our soul leaves our body and enters in the same moment a new created body. Our achievements of our previous life are influencing our karma which is relevant that we are reborn as a rat, an elephant, human of a lower or as a human of a higher cast. When the person past away the soul left is body. His body must be burned within 48 hours. But not everybody will be burned. Pregnant women, children up to 10 years, Sadhus and people who died from a cobra bite will be plunged in the middle of the river while putting weights on their extremities.” I am imagining how many bones must be stuck in the river mud and wonder whether not some bodies appear at the surface several kilometers downstream. I was happy when we left this place. At this time I didn’t know that I would pass many times the burning places the following days and would get used to it.