Last Day in
Sunrise boat ride.
Monk praying at Sarnath.
October 29, 2007
Wow. What a morning.
I was going to say we started ‘bright and early’…but what is so bright about being out in the pitch black? It was that early – 5:
15am, to be exact, when our rickshaw left to take us to the river. We met up with Vijay and off we went.
At this time of day, it was quiet and peaceful. The sky was beginning to lighten a bit as the sun was making its way up. Things
were only getting more and more beautiful.
We began today by going in the opposite direction of where we went yesterday evening. We were on our way to the other
On our way out there, we passed numerous men and women bathing in the river and praying at the ghats. Many were also
starting their day with a morning swim. Many others were ‘brushing their teeth’ by putting the water in their mouth and then
taking their finger to rub along their teeth. Everything going on around us was such a scene. Watching the people praying was
beyond captivating – so many people; so many different forms of prayer. Some were lighting candles, others were painting
their faces, others were deep in meditation.
And then we got to the burning ghat.
This one was different from the one we saw last night in that it was smaller and natural fire wasn’t used to burn the bodies.
The bodies weren’t wrapped in the bright fabric either. This was where the bodies without families came.
Vijay then explained to us about the different people that are allowed to be put in the river without having been burned:
children under the age of ten, pregnant women, people with lepracy and people who have been killed by a cobra bite. All of
those people are seen as holy. We saw one body ready to be dropped in – it was wrapped in a plain white sheet tied above two
large slabs of rocks. While we were pretty blown away by this, it didn’t compare to what we would see a little bit later.
A fireball of a sun was coming out of the sky and now there was a huge amount of boats of tourists going down the river. It
totally pays to hire a private boat ride as we got explanations of everything and could sit at peace while watching. The other
boats were jammed with people and the man rowing the boat was simply there to row. And then there was the ‘market’ that
followed each boat – a local on a boat stocked with all types of kitsch that he was trying to sell to them.
We were eventually back at the other burning ghat where we were last night. A few cremations were just getting
underway…but nowhere as many as last night. But Vijay had us look in a different direction that towards the fires. He pointed
in the river. To a baby. A dead baby. The body was bloated and a bluish color. Neither of us could believe what we were seeing.
Christine was wishing he hadn’t pointed this out and shared this information. I know this sounds sick…but I didn’t feel that
way at all. I found it fascinating to actually see some of the extremes that go on out here. We were just confused as to why the
body was floating and wasn’t weighed down with rocks. Hmmm…
At the end of our boat ride we also saw a dead pig in the river. Now that was pretty disgusting.
And they say there are no diseases spread in this river. I don’t buy that for a second!
We are at the train station waiting for our train.
While we just passed several hours hanging out at the Taj Hotel enjoying some wine, dinner and great conversation with other
people we met there, now we are doing the opposite of ‘enjoying’ things.
Train stations in India are just things that need to be seen to be believed. Bodies upon bodies upon bodies sleeping on top of
each other at the main entrance. It’s almost impossible to get through the main part of the station to the platforms – but once
you do, you are then amongst all sorts of people with deformities that you didn’t even know could exist asking you for money.
Many were missing limbs; one man had one arm that truly looked like the equivalent of jello while another man was walking
around with feet that were facing backwards. I think a place like this would leave American doctors in
Our train is delayed. They keep saying that it is coming. That’s at least more encouraging than one of the couples we met at
the Taj who were supposed to be on a 5:00pm train to Agra that was then delayed to 10:30pm. We just saw them here – now
they have received word that it isn’t leaving until 2:00am. That poor, poor couple.
Our train is here! Our train is here! Time to head to Satna (all part of the journey to get to Khajuraho)…
One of many who pray at the ghats.