The city of life (and death)


Varanasi, the holiest city in India… It is the place where everything is forgiven by Indians and to westerners it is unforgettable and unforgivable.

It is a city where you can open your bowels where you like, even at the kings palace door. I could never figure out why the palace is such a popular place to take a dump. Men can also pass urine where they desire. And women, well I’m not sure if they take a more dignified approach or just don’t go.

You can walk completely naked in the streets, or jump in the Ganges naked for a swim. No problems.

Speaking of the Ganges, known as Ganga to Indians, it is surprisingly relatively cleanish looking. But don’t be fooled, 32 sewerage pipes in Varanasi go straight into the Ganga. There should be less than 500 faecal coliform bacteria per litre for safe for bathing. But in parts of the Ganges there 1.5million per litre!!! I won’t be putting my big toe in. Indians swim, bathe, open bowels, wash clothes, pray, and have ceremonies in the Ganga. There guts must be made of iron!

We saw a few cremation ceremonies at two of the burning ghats. A wrapped body is place onto the top of a log stack and takes about 2 hours to burn. One ghat is designated to males and another to females. We also saw a cremation on a higher podium which we were informed was for people of higher caste. Babies and children are covered and then thrown into the Ganga, no cremation for them. I hope not to find a body down stream.

Female cremation


Burning Ghats

The locals come to the Ganga every morning and night to perform ‘puja.’ Morning puja is a ceremony at 6am to ask the Ganga for what you want to achieve in the day, and have a bit of a wash. Then they return at 7pm to give thanks for what they received that day.


Boat ride

We took a boat which was rowed by a cute old man at 7pm and the sights and sounds are magical. He took us from one end of the city to the other. We lit a candle and let it float off with all the others, looking like little stars. The whole shore is transformed with lights, colours and chanting. Hundreds of people sit following the chants and rituals of holy men. You see other lone figures knee deep in the water praying and some dip their heads in or take mouthfuls of Ganga water.

Boat Man


Puja Evening Ceremony

It is said that if you live and die in Varanasi you will go straight to heaven, no other place in the world offers this benefit to Hindus so many come here even if it means living on the streets. We’re also informed that being a nurse brings good karma too. Lucky Jill.

For others here cricket is the main religion. We had a great night watching IPL (Indian premier league) with our hotel manager, and the rest of the staff stopped to watch when they could. The 2 month season has just started and he got us up to date with who the better teams are, how much the better players earn and a myriad of facts about the players while sipping on his ‘special’ marijuana lassi. It was funny to see how quiet the streets were on the night Delhi and Mumbai, the 2 strongest teams, were playing each other. We are looking forward to going to a match when we get to Delhi.

Jill on the Ghats


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9 Responses to The city of life (and death)

  1. Kathy says:

    Hello guys, I’m sure you are wondering who the hell am I! I am, an old (damn) freind of Jill’s Mum. She told me of your adventures and shared your blog with me. I must say, I am impressed by your sense of adventure, and am happy for you that you are both building liftetime memories on this trip….priceless. I will admit that India was never a destination on my list, but since reading your blogs, which have been amazing, descriptive, articulate and really have made me, a vegemite on toast kinda person, begin to understand the depth of the Indian culture….I wish you happy travels, a safe journey and many more happy memories…..Cheers, Kathy.

    • MattJill says:

      Hi Kathy. I have heard about you from mum. India is a great place to travel, you should do it one day. It’s so different to Australia. I guess that’s why we love it. Glad you are enjoying our blogs. Happy reading Jill

  2. Awesome guys, Varanasi was one of my favourite places in India. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we saw a guy drink urine straight from a cow. Lifted up the tail, collected the golden liquid in a cupped hand, and poured it down his gullet. Yep, anything goes in Varanasi, enjoy 🙂

  3. Marita says:

    Wow, what an interesting time you’re having – love the pics. ……….dare you to walk around naked. Oh that’s right, you’re probably in New Delhi now!! (bummer). Kathy’s right about the lifetime of memories – and it’s awesome that you’re sharing them so articulately with us. (I had to send postcards home to the family when I travelled in the 70’s. You guys still have your sense of humour, so I guess the bowels are settling down (not that they should be related), Love the bit about cricket being the second religion. Sarah’s comment about the guy drinking urine from a cow was interesting!! Going straight to heaven is appealing – how long did you say you have to live there for??? Keep well you 2 – you’re very precious. Much love

    • MattJill says:

      Hey made it to new Delhi today, so yes I think we keep our clothes on here. Although gave our washing to a man today and I turned around to leave only to see him holding my undies up in a busy bazaar!
      We have been offered postcards, I thought about getting some for the novelty but by the time they arrive to you guys it will be old news.
      I said to Matt yesterday I would like to do a writing course so I could write a book or make some money from the net. Who knows where this travel adventure could lead me. I love the excitement of the unknown 🙂

  4. Doris says:

    I wonder how much life has/hasn’t changed on the Ganga in the last 100 years?? And then how life will be there at the end of this century?

  5. Robert Boyd says:

    Hi Jill and Matt,
    Love your interesting blog of travels. Hope you are keeping well and immune from the Delhi belly syndrome. I look forward to hearing more of your travels as they come to hand. All is well here with some pretty nice weather at the moment.
    Love and Blessings Robert

  6. aimeetrial says:

    Loving the blog guys, I’m all up to date now! You guys are having an amazing time can’t wait to see the next adventure! Xx

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