The highlight of today was two separate boat trips along the Ganges or River Ganga as it’s often referred to around here. As the sun emerged the backdrop of the ghats and old temples along the river looked great. Many of the pilgrims were already out and paying devotion to the river. Blessing yourself with holy water seems to entail getting right into the river, head under and all. I looked into the water quality of the river in Varanasi and the results weren’t great. Nearby sewage pipes discharge all sorts of nasty stuff into the water and there’s obviously the likelehood of a few corpse pieces floating around. Tests have shown that levels of e-coli and faecal matter are off the charts. Ajay said that he’s been in twice and a couple of people from his tours have taken a holy dip in the Ganges, surviving to tell the tale!
Most of the daytime was spent taking it easy, reading and blogging. Later on was the sunset boat ride. By this point there were a few cremations taking place. It’s a bit of a culture shock to see corpses being burnt in plain view. Just as the sun went down the bloke driving the boat lit some flowers containing candles for us to let go into the river. Apparently they’re all biodegradable so no environmental harm will be done. The sheer number of them on the deck could have easily set the boat alight, resulting in an impromptu Ganges swim! The flower ceremony is supposed to be for good luck with the person placing it in the river making a wish. On the way back to shore there was ceremony taking place on the ghats. The colourful occasion was quite impressive.