Today I walked in cow dung in streets so narrow you could barely get a motorcycle thru and watching a motorcycle get around a cow was quite entertaining. I visited an ashram that existed more than 200 years. I had the best food in all of my time in India and squatted to pee in a bathroom too gross to describe. I bought silk sheets for less money than the one day sale at Macy’s. Old men smiled at me with the red betel juice between their teeth I floated down the Ganges River at sunset while thousands of pilgrims on shore sat on the steps of the ghats and sang “aarti,” devotional chanting and the lighting of candles.
Varanasi which was previously called Benares and centuries ago was known as Kashi is the oldest city in the world. This city of Light is a vast crowded landscape and at the same time a deeply moving spiritual center– a microcosm of India. It is a shadow play between the both mundane and sublimes played out at the ghats, stone steps and walkways, along the river.
Along the shores are ancient castles and estates that over centuries the wealthy and privileged have built so that they could come to this most holy of places to die. It is believed that to die in Varanasi greatly improves one’s soul’s progress.
Over centuries India’s great souls have inhabited this city—Ananda Mai Ma, Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Buddha, Trailanga Swami and some say Jesus visited here.
At twilight there ia moment of complete stillness when the sun sets over the river. Boats are lined up filled with many international tourists but mostly with Indian pilgrims who have come here at great sacrifice. They float little flower packets down the river to ask the blessings of Mother Ganga. Light on the temples domes heart stopping.