This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Varanasi 2006 Part 1: Malaise and Mortality

View of the Ganges from the Scindhia Guest House

Our 2006 visit to Varanasi was a staging post on the 90 day intrepid circuit of Asia. We had traveled by air via Singapore and Bangkok to Calcutta and taken the train to Varanasi.

To get a commanding view of the city and live in reasonable comfort we had booked an air-conditioned room by internet at the Scindhia Guest House, a huge mansion perched high above the ghat, with panoramic views of the city and the nearby burning ghats.

We arrived in Varanasi late around lunchtime and phoned the Scindhia Guest House as arranged and while waiting for a pickup tuk tuk managed to get a booking on the forward train to Gorakhpur in the tourist office.

Scenes of arrival: Varanasi from the Ganges bridge, view over the outskirts
from near the station and two images from the rickshaw ride.

To get to the guest house we were collected by a tuk-tuk driver from the station, taken to the entrance to the ghat-side alleys and then had a long forced march with the driver taking us post-haste, with us dragging our luggage on a little trolley over the ruts and loose flag stones until by the time we reached the muddy banks of the river, it was all twisted out of shape and had to be reconstructed, although it has gone on to survive this journey and the 2010 world trip! We're well set up here though. The Scindhia Guest House is great. The view is superb. We have been wandering the ghats.

Two views from Scindhia Guest House

Scindhia Guest House from below

After we had the meal of curry on the first night we came down with a terrible case of Delhi belly. We had churning and then in the middle of the night the runs. We managed to keep moving next day, but the heat was relentless and debilitating.
Unfortunately, towards the end of our stay, after a dinner at the guest house, we both came down with a terrible case of the runs, which became intolerable during the night. Even with a private bathroom, we both got it so bad that there was no time to wake up and run for the john and we both ended up convulsively shitting in our double bed. It was only the intervention of imodium (loperamide) alkaloids that managed to put enough of a a stop to this on the day we left to enable us to catch the train north to Gorakhpur without shitting ourselves right there in the seat.

The bedroom and view from the balcony

Precipitous views down from the bedroom balcony

The burning ghats in the middle distance

The guest house has a direct although distant line of sight to the burning ghats, which we also visited on foot.

Because photography is now discouraged at the burning ghats, I have included a section of images I took sensitively at night on long zoom with the video camera in 2000.

Video of the burning ghats at night

Massive amounts of wood are needed for the funeral pyres

Video of the burning ghats in the day

Scenes of recent flooding of the Ganges

On this visit, the Ganges had recently flooded and the rivers edge was muddied and the lower parts of the ghats were still flooded, with half sunken temples leaning askew like wrecked boats.

You can contrast these images with the richer displays along the river's edge in the 2000 vsit in the previous posting.

View of the bathing ghats from the front of the guest house,
which are also downstream from the burning ghats

Panorama of the ghat immediately downstream

A nearby temple

A Nepali Hindu temple close to the river

In the morning we went for a free guided tour of some of the little folk temples in the neighbourhood courtesy of the hotel clerk to see the interiors of of some of the small out of the way neighbouring temples, which you would easily miss because their entrances are on small hidden alleys.

The interiors of several temples on a short walking tour from the guest house

Above and below left a Shiva temple. A separate temple interior is lower right.

The local mosque to which we had to register to be allowed in the courtyard

This shrine next to the mosque had a steady stream of circum-ambulating worshipers

Note the little deities (below) right in the top of this serpent-adorned
river-side shrine

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