I learned the name 'Benares' in school, today the town is called Varanasi. No matter the name, it's the same town. India does not want to use the old British name of Benares, returning to the name it has always had in the Hindustani language. Varanasi, in olden days was even called Kashi. It is a very old town. Inhabited since at least (proven) 11,000 BCE.
We all know about the funeral pyres the Hindus use to cremate their dead. Varanasi is the holiest place at the end of a Hindu’s life. After cremation, their ashes are deposited in the holy river Ganga (Ganges). Varanasi is a holy city, one of seven in India. The city is dedicated to Shiva, a Hindu god, but it serves other religions as well. Nearby Sarnath is the place where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, the place where he set the wheel of Dharma into motion.
|Getting There Before Dawn|
|Votive Candle With Flower Petals|
|Carol's Symbolic Gesture|
|Hans Attempting to End Darkness and Ignorance|
|Enlarge to See the Floating Votives|
The boat’s atmosphere was solemn. All we heard were the sounds of the water, the boatman’s oars dipping in and out, a
|Starting a New Day|
|Bathing In the Ganges|
|Doing Laundry In the Ganges|
Varanasi is a town of learning. Not just the religious aspect of life but also the knowledge needed in our daily endeavors. Benares Hindu University, one of 3 Universities in Varanasi, and one of the toughest schools to get into in India, is centered here. It is known for their IT Dept.; 20,000 students study here. It was built by the British in 1916.
Learning and burning, illumination and cremation, etc. are some concepts Varanasi bounces around, kind of jokingly, to show the dualism of modern Varanasi.
|Mahamana Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya 1861-1946, Founder|
|Mt. Everest, Highest Peak in Centre|
|Archeological Site At Sarnath Where Buddha Taught|
Buddha did not want to start a new ‘religion’, in fact he was totally opposed to his teachings even being called a “religion”. And…Buddhism really is NOT a religion in the sense that someone worships a God. All Gautama tried to show, tried to teach, is that there is a way; a way to end all suffering.
Naturally when ‘others’ get hold of a proven idea they start to want to ‘improve’ upon it, some even start to mystify things and start to make a business out of it, and… voila…we have “Buddhism”.
The present day Sarnath is the spot where Buddha had his epiphany and where he started to teach his friends. The rest is story time.
Still, I liked the park, the more or less spot where ‘Buddhism’ started. And I followed the crowds to view an offshoot of the ‘original’ tree where Gautama had his experience. I guess people like this “story-time” world we create around us, me included.
From a Hindu point of view Gautama had a Hindu experience, he was born a Hindu, he died as Hindu. Buddhism is just an offshoot of Hinduism, like the Jains (a passive sect of Hindu) or Sikhism.
|Old Wooden Hand Loom|
|Multiple Colours Of Silk Thread|
|Fabric Is Face Down On the Loom|
|The One I Bought|
|Close-Up Showing the Many Colours Used|
Not only that, this fellow had the fabric in the loom face down. The daily production is about 2 to 7 cm, depending on how many colors he uses. The process is very tedious and needs a clear head, one mistake and weeks of work can be ruined. To remind me of this place and this technique I bought a large sample I want to frame. It was amazing. Naturally they had simpler weaving as well, still the speed and handling of the silk, the acquired dexterity, never mind the old loom, was impressive. John H., you would have loved it. They even used a kind of American Fine Index jacquard to make the pattern, all operated by hand. I wonder who their card cutter was. I could have spent more time there but the group moved on.
|We Had A Reserved Section With Cushioned Seats|
|A Lot Of People Attending, Some By Boat|
We went to the Ganga Aarti via bicycle rickshaws and it was kind of easy to get there, just relax and the man will bike you to it. On the way back it took the genius of Dinesh to get us all in a rickshaw and out of the huge crowds. I felt like a baby being cradled, needing Daddy to get me home. Thank you Dinesh!
Our dinner was a large affair filled with Indian specialty foods at the Great Kabob Factory. Dinesh was in charge and wow, does he know
|Huge Crowd To Get Back To Our Rickshaws|