Thursday, April 12, 2012

People and Experiences of Varanasi

With my last post, I do not want to give people the impression that Varanasi is not a holy city-it is very much a holy city, but there are just things and people that make it unholy as well.

Here are some things/moments that I enjoyed about Varanasi……

-Walking down the tiny, alleys filled with mini temples(there are temples everywhere inside the shops, in little corners), shops and shops selling everything for poojas (flowers,cactus looking pots, rice, mala beads, puri, and rings)

(My apologies I did not spend enough time to learn the terminology and learn about the ritual)

-Running into kindred spirits on the streets, the ghats-babas, swamis, and gurus.  Receiving the spiritual energy lift up my spirit

-The amazing Lassi
On the street, there are local women with huge pots of curd making fresh lassi and selling milk sweets

-The craziness of the streets
They have night bazaars that are crazy packed, but I enjoyed running through the bazaars(literally)having to get to the Aarti on time 

-Groups of men chanting through the streets day and night and such devotion towards the Gods and preparing pooja for temple. 

-The Vishwanath temple aka the Golden Temple 

Going into the temple there is tight security checking you once, twice, sometimes three times to make sure you do not have anything, but money and ID on you. 

It is very crowded going into have the pooja and receive your blessings.  Locals are constantly pushing you to go inside the temple and then you have guards pushing you to go out.  I sat with twenty locals sitting in the main area meditating and praying.  Even with all the commotion, I was able to have a good, solid meditation session and tune out the distractions.

Blessing on the Ganges

Approaching the river, I sat and observed a holy ceremony on the river with Sri Rama.  I then had my own holy ceremony repeating his mantra over and over and chanting. He was rubbing sandlewood powder continuously on my forehead while chanting.   Down we went to the ganges to throw the flowers in and I received his blessing.  He then asks me for some money and I give him 50 rupees.  To get change, he pulls out a huge wad of money.  Oh Varanasi-holy yet profitable.

The Evening Aarti

This is what makes Varanasi worth coming to-a ceremony at the Dasaswamedh Ghat with five young boys performing various rituals: fire, throwing flowers, and local dancing.  They are dressed in traditional beige outfits standing on hundreds on flower petals amongst the dark sky and holy ganges river.  After the performance, everyone lights up the flowers and send them off in the water saying a prayer or making a wish. 

After the performance, I meet a man who looks so familiar.  It turns out I do not know him, but he runs a local NGO for female empowerment in Khujaro(a place I wanted to go to, but had to skip due to time constraints).  He kindly introduces me to his 15 year old daughter and his wife.  He asks me over and over to please come to Khujaro where he would like to show me his NGO and he would also like to take me for sight seeing(the amazing hospitality of India-so sweet).

Blessed with Meeting a Truly Holy Man

My friend Baba and I sat together after the ceremony in silence.  The spiritual presence of this man is amazing. Reading my book by Sri Rama, the speaks of his amazing times with spiritual figures sitting in silence-this is a time for learning.

When this man sits, he sits gracefully with his eyes staring up into the air-fully connected with Shiva. 

After our session, he gives me his mala beads off his wrist.  I shake my head and say,”Please I do not want to take your beads.” He says, “Please you take.” He tells me to chant “Sri Ram” on each bead.  I sit and chant, “Sri Ram” over and over and over until the last bead.  I cherish these beads, I really cherish these beds. 

They are serving food and I ask if he would like some food.  He says, “No, I only eat in the morning. “Only 3 bananas and milk.” Each day he eats three bananas and milk.  A sign of a real spiritual figure: they do not sleep much, they do not eat much, and they do not need much to live. 

I had to catch my train, but the little time I had with this man was precious.  Thank you to my higher power for meeting this man-he really made my time in Varanasi worth it. 

Sunset in Varanasi

Sunset boat rides are famous in Varanasi and definitely was a beautiful sight.  I would have liked to see the sunrise, but leaving Varanasi on the night train.  Due to my poor scheduling, I had one day in Varanasi, but one day was just enough for me.    

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