Pilgrimage to Varanasi

Today, I want to share some photos from Varanasi, a famous holy city on the Ganges in Northern India. People from all over the country bring the remains of their loved ones to be cremated and laid to rest in the river here. The way I first learned about this city is the reason why it's special to me. I never knew it by name before planning this trip but I have been wanting to come here for 9 years.

I was hanging out with some college friends at their apartment in 2004 a day before I flew to Korea to study abroad for the next 3 months. As a group, we were trying to finish the entire "Cowboy Bebop" anime series before I left. It was a marathon run on the living room couch.

By evening, one guy in the group, John Whitehorse, got really sick of the show and proposed we see something different for a bit. It was one of those National Geographic style travel videos which showcases snippets of cool places to see from around the world. For just a few minutes, it panned into a city with steps leading into the Ganges river. A man was bathing himself on the river's edge at dawn. All I retained from that brief introduction was that somewhere in India, there is a city so holy even the architecture seemed to be kneeling in prayer into the river.

The whole travel video went on for over an hour and everyone in the group, myself included, got mad at John for taking so much of our time away from Cowboy Bebop. He left the room in a huff. Poor guy, he had just thrown pearls to swine.

Still, the image apparently got stuck somewhere in my subconscious and I began seeing artwork everywhere which seemed to incorporate elements of Varanasi. I always suspected the idea of this city, whose very stones seemed to sit in contemplative meditation, must have inspired many artists and film-makers throughout time. After 9 years thinking about this place, it felt good to finally make the pilgrimage and touch the waters for myself.

Two cremation fires burning on the water's edge

Later, when I have a faster internet connection, I'll add a short video to this post of Aarti, the nightly ceremony performed on the banks of the river. The music is beautiful.

This post is dedicated to the residents and friends of the Compton House.

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