I spent 4 days in Varanasi along with Tika and Kelly. It is not a place where you go to relax, that is for sure. I don’t think there is another city in the world quite like Varanasi. Probably Baktapur in Nepal comes the closest. Varanasi is the oldest continually habited city in the world (I was told) stretching back 2000 years. It is the place where people come to die and be cremated and your ashes cleansed in the Holy Ganges River. They have “burnings” 24/7. It is also a very holy city where many religions converge, and there are a lot of very interesting people hanging out near the river or on the main street.
On my third day there, I had a photoshoot on a boat with an older Sadhu dressed in his orange robe and with his incredibly long hair. I got a nice shot of him at sunrise (see below). Just after I got the shot, we witnessed TWO men drown in the river in front of our eyes within 5 minutes of each other. The first guy’s head sunk below the surface to never again emerge while the second drifted with the current. Several boats tried to rescue him, but the current was very strong, and one boat ended up running over the poor guy. He was finally pulled onto a boat next to us, but the boat boys had no idea how to do CPR, so we watched in horror as the guy drew in his final breath. Unreal.
These two back-to-back events hit me hard, and it was tough to enjoy the rest of my day. The Old Sadhu noticed I was upset, and he told me to not be…he said, “Sir, this happens nearly every day…last week I saw a group of five men all drown trying to help one in their group…sometimes, people come and drown on purpose just so they can die in the Ganges.”
WHOA…and this is the kind of place that Varanasi is…intense!!