Monday, July 21, 2008
The Great Indian Journey 8
BOMBAY TO BIHAR - A ROAD LESS TAKEN
DAY 6 - THE GANGA AT BENARES
By Manuwant Choudhary
I am not religious. And when I bought my car I did not take it to a temple as is the practice in India.
Yet, I decided to visit Benares, the most sacred place for Hindus.
An uncle lives there so I decided I must go see him. Also, a holy man (who is no more) had predicted my birth, so Benares interests me.
Benares is about mystics and saints and those who care for the unknown.
It is said if you die here you get `moksha’ or you escape from the cycle of birth and death or simply put you go straight to heaven. Many Hindus buy houses and live here all their lives. And when they get old they don’t even travel anywhere lest fate come in the way and they die elsewhere and miss the chance to go to heaven.
I have been here several times. Benares is always congested – an ancient city of gulley’s with cows blocking them!
So you cannot really drive around. Take a rickshaw early morning and you will see Benares and life and death, everything.
My uncle is a very religious man governed by religious views, views of pundits, society, planets, the sun and the moon….you name it, and despite being a doctor all his life, he is God-fearing.
Yet, to my surprise while he spoke to me on the verandah of his home, he told me something I did not expect hearing from him. He told me how he had once as a young man gone to meet Bihar’s first chief minister Sree Babu at his residence. There were no portraits in his office except a quotation,
What They Say.
Let Them Say.”
When in Benares I always visit the ghats and the Ganga. They have started a Ganga aartee here just like in Haridwar. I rushed to make it for the aartee at 7 p.m.
In saffron satins, pundits chant ancient Sanskrit mantras (I did not fully understand) but yes a few lines were how our world is one.
The waters of the Ganga reflect the lights from the aarti, you could start looking for the meaning of life itself.
You remember those who have loved you and those who still do.
PS: A backpackers view of India can be read here but its not for the faint-hearted or children.