Wednesday, August 19, 2015

India Travelogue 10 - Wear footwear!

Sunday morning (Day 2) I was clear with objectives - I would plan for the day after completing the main ceremony for which I had come to Varanasi. Before that my cousin who was here on her wedding anniversary took me down for an aarti that happened everyday within our building itself. There was a small Siva's temple inside - not exactly inside but kind of attached to the building we stayed in. And guess who joined the priest after a while; one of the junior priests from yesterday night! Seemed like most of them had their food from the same place as us and they also performed the pooja here. He didn’t ask anyone for money over here.

Around 9:30am, I was told that I could go to see the priest. One of the boys working in the trust led the way. I didn’t wear slippers since anyway for the ceremony I won't be wearing it and we would be traveling to the place by a rickshaw or auto. I dressed in a t-shirt and dhoti; I didn’t have a belt and hoped that the dhoti would stay.

We took an auto that dashed through side lanes and took us to a Ghat. The network of lanes is quite amazing. We walked a few metres and then my companion said, "Looks like iyer is not here. He has gone home."
It was 10am and the Ghat was kind of deserted. We walked through narrow streets and I got a friendly pat by a couple of cows who were flipping their tails. Finally reached his home. There was already one pooja in process and mine was the next. About 45 minutes was what it took; some words to be repeated, some sentences to be said and some pindams we made for my ancestors. Today was amavasya (full moon day) and that is considered very auspicious. In Varanasi, when they do this ceremony they do it recollecting 3 generations of ancestors on the mother’s and father’s side and even consider close friends or teachers who have passed away; the ritual is performed to cover all of them as well as anyone who passed away but didn't have a successor; in which case no one would have performed the ritual for them and so my doing it would cover for them as well. I guess it was all about closure and reflection.

"Do you usually do this on the Ganga?"
"Yes. We can even do it on a boat in the Ganga. But in this heat no one can sit there."
After the function was over, he told me to immerse the contents of the plate in the Ganga excluding the dharba (special grass) which had to be cleaned and returned with the plate. It was about 11pm when a boy known to the priest led me to the Ganga. As I went barefoot, I knew why everyone wore slippers. The ground was too hot when the Sun was out. As we neared the Ganga, my foot was burning. There was hardly any shade on the way where I could get respite. Even on the Ghat there was no shade in sight; just concrete steps which were scorching hot. I was ready to plunge my feet into the Ganga. Fortunately on the river bank, because of the boats there were areas which were in the shade of the boats and those were very soothing. After emptying the contents in the river we went back up the stairs.
"There's the electric furnace," he showed me the building. He also said that it is only one of the two Ghats were bodies can be burnt.

I desperately made use of any shaded areas, I put my foot in places where there was water since it felt cool and at one point I wondered about whether cow dung would be cool or hot on the ground! Fortunately I didn't have to experiment since the guy got me a rickshaw soon.
"Rs.20 you can give him when you get down."

The rickshaw driver was a very old man with thick circular black glasses. He was extremely lean and dark. I felt sorry for him; at this age he was manually toiling. I had shade but he was under the mid day sun. Was he doing so for earning a living or was he doing so because he was bored at home? I paid him a little extra though he never asked for anything extra.

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Anonymous said...

Where are you? You left us with bare foot in Varanasi.....please dont publish.... just wanted to check.....

Unknown said...

We're back! And i hope you meant "please do publish" and not "please dont publish"!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! You are correct! Its a typo :-)