Best lassi in Varanasi.
(Varanasi deserves it’s own post+pictures, so I moved it here!).
We’re still in Varanasi, enjoying the best lassi in India at The Blue Lassi Shop and brown bread at the Brown Bread Bakery (omg, so good to have some normal bread). There are two Brown Bread Bakeries in the range of 5 m (the name is the same, but one is fake). Only in india 🙂
”Everyone thinks about death in Varanasi.”
Yesterday we visited the infamous ‘burning ghat’. The atmosphere is strangely quiet and calming. No crying, no talking, only the crackling heat of the fires and the ashes of dead bodies float in the air. Only men participate in this custom as women are too emotional, crying is supposed to be bad for the soul of the deceased and it wouldn’t get the eternal peace. Of course local men try to make profit out of tourists watching the ceremonies and offer an explanation of the process and sometimes want you to donate money for the wood for poor widows. We said that donations are forbidden in our country with a very serious face (and he was like ‘Oh, I understand.’ LOL) but we did have some explanation.
So people want to be buried in the Ganga because they are purified in the holy river and don’t have to go to the ‘birth-and-death-cycle’ again. Some people come to the hospice to die and some bodies are being taken to Varanasi with a car, truck or even plane after death. They have to be cleansed with milk, honey and essential oils at home first. Male relatives take the body wrapped in white cloth and covered with flowers trough the town to the burning ghat, singing a special song (you meet a lot of dead bodies while roaming the streets of Varanasi). At the ghat the body is put in Ganga river and cleansed for the second time. They make a fire from the eternal fire that is always burning (the wood is supposed to be very expensive, sandalwood is the most expensive) and then they burn the body for 2-3 hours. Whatever is left, mostly rib cage and hipbones, a family member has to pick up and trow it in the river. He takes a pot clay of river and puts the fire out. Somehow it doesn’t seem so different from our funerals. Maybe a bit more ashy:) They burn from 200 to 300 bodies every day and they do it 24h/day. I was afraid of seeing this experience but it left me very calm.
Some people you can’t burn like the holy man ‘Sadhu’, pregnant women, children or people bitten by snake. They put rocks around their bodies and trow them in the middle of the river. And sometimes they don’t sink. Well. Ew.
The river is everything to them. You can see children swimming near the burning place, women washing clothes, even men fishing. Never eat fish in Varanasi 🙂