Liquified Wisdom

Varanasi is the oldest continuous living city in the world.  It is 5000 years old.

Buildings along the bank of the river Ganga

Buildings along the bank of the river Ganga

For 5000 years, people in Varanasi have been

performing the same rituals

chanting the same mantras

speaking the same language

reciting the same prayers

Varanasi is Jerusalem and Mecca for Hindus.

Early morning sunrise boat trip along the Ganges.  Overcast skies made for monochrome boats

Early morning sunrise boat trip along the Ganges. Overcast skies made for monochrome boats

Our hardworking oarsman

Our hardworking oarsman

Varanasi is the biggest center of pilgrimage on earth.  Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism are the three major religions of Varanasi.

As the day begins, thousands of pilgrims take their holy dip in the waters of Ganga-ji

As the day begins, thousands of pilgrims come to pray and take their holy dip in the waters of Ganga-ji

This city never sleeps.  As Arvind says, “It is a city of learning and burning.”  Varanasi’s universities attract thousands of people and the two ghats along the Ganges River burn with cremation fires continuously.  Here, in Varanasi, the drama of life never stops from womb to tomb.

the west bank of the river is filled with old palaces and homes.  the east bank of the river is bare of buildings and represents the spiritual world.

the west bank of the river is filled with old palaces and homes. the east bank of the river is bare of buildings and represents the spiritual world.

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Varanasi street dog

Varanasi is a city of devotion, a city where 62,000 people walk to the Ganges River daily to honor the river.  Once every 144 years, there is the grand Maha Kumbh Mela, where millions of Hindus make the pilgrimage to nearby Allahabad to dip in the holy water of the Ganga-ji, the Hindu name of the Ganges.  The Maha Kumbh Mela is happening right now over a period of 2 months, so the city is more packed than ever.

Ganesh

Ganesh

Last night we attended the Aarti, the evening ceremony that takes place every evening at sunset, to say goodnight to Ganga-ji.  The British took the name Ganga-ji, the honorable name given to the river that is The Great Mother of India, and renamed her The Ganges.  Ganga-ji is more than a river for Hindus.  She gives life, cleanses impurities, takes away sin.  She is a maternal figure.  She is mother, and she is celebrated and honored every morning and every evening with devotional ceremonies.

feet: riding the bicycle rickshaw with Arvind

feet: riding  on the bicycle rickshaw with Arvind, on our way to the Aarti.

Arivind told us that Ganga-ji is Liquified Wisdom.  How I love those words:  Liquified Wisdom.

We were among a crowd of some 75,000 people.  This morning, in my head,  I can still hear the drum beat and loud devotional music set to Bollywood tunes ringing in my ears as thousands of Saraswati devotees paraded the streets celebrating the festival of the goddess of Wisdom.  We linked arms and did our best not to lose anyone in our group.  Miraculously, we all stayed together.  I think our guide, Arvind, was a shepherd in another life, as he is very good at keeping us together.

Tens of thousands attend the Aarti, the nightly ceremony to say good night to Mother Ganga. the Ganges River

Thousands attend the Aarti, the nightly ceremony to say good night to Mother Ganga. the Ganges River

7 Brahmin priests perform the nightly Aarti.  Bells and conch shells deafen ears, mantra sung over loud speakers, peaceful feeling among the crowd praying to The Great River.

7 Brahmin priests perform the nightly Aarti. The 7 priests and 7 platforms represent the 7 levels of consciousness. Bells and conch shells deafen ears, mantra sung over loud speakers, peaceful feeling among the crowd praying to The Great River.

Brahmin priests at the Aarti Ceremony

Brahmin priests at the Aarti Ceremony

Varanasi is also known by her spiritual name, Kashi, the City of Light.  Yesterday, Peggy gave me a beautiful hand written prayer that she carries around, a Muslim prayer that reads more like a poem.  I read this poem and carried it around in my pocket all day yesterday.  The prayer/poem is a universal prayer and you don’t have to be a Muslim, or any religion at all, to feel the words.  I felt it calmed and grounded me as we explored the inner sanctum of Varanasi.  In fact, amid all the chaos yesterday, I felt completely present in a way I have never felt before on my three previous trips to Varanasi.

The Duaa of Light  (to Fran from Peggy)

Oh Allah, Place light in my heart

Light in my tongue

Light in my hearing

Light in my sight

Light behind me, light in front of me

Light on my right, light on my left

Light above me, light below me

Place light in my sinew,

In my hair and in my skin.

Place light in my soul

And make light abundant for me.

Make me light and grant me light.

Bob taught me a new word yesterday:  phantasmagoria.  India is Phantasmagoria!  Events, images, information, sound, sensory overload keeps coming at us faster than we can process them.  India offers up a visual representation of events that are OVERWHELMING.  Phantasmagoria isn’t necessarily a negative phenomenon.  In fact, yesterday, I dug my feet deeper in the earth, cleared my mind, shut off my internal dialog, tuned in to my breathing, centered my being, took it all in, and became one with everything and everyone around me in Varanasi!

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6 Responses to “Liquified Wisdom”

  1. Kathleen Conroy Says:

    Fabulous update and gorgeous photos, as usual. Glad the trip is going well. Safe travels.

    Like

    • frangallo Says:

      HI Kathleen, The group leaves late this evening. About to teach my last yoga session for the group this morning very soon. So hard to believe how quickly this time has gone by. And tomorrow, a second adventure begins as I stay on in Delhi and meet up with my college-days friend, Anita Saini, and her family! Can’t wait. Then off to the Maha Kumbha Mela with Kelley, Arvind and his family. We are back in Delhi but I am still buzzing from being in Varanasi

      Like

  2. Jeroldine Hallberg Says:

    Hi Fran – I’m enjoying your posts from India. After reading this one, I wonder if the phantasmagoria of Viranasi’s rituals contributed to the development of sophisticated meditation, simply to deal with it all, Jerry

    Like

    • frangallo Says:

      Could very well be! The mind boggling numbers of people and human activity brings you to your innermost place of refuge. I feel my posts from India have been choppy and not so well written because I am always trying to “fit” in a quick writing..i may have more time after the group leaves and when I am with my friend Anita and her family. I will be with Anita and the Saini family as of tomorrow. Am here until end of Feb. love, Fran

      Like

  3. andre Deklaver Says:

    “Love the way you describe the incredible experience of this 5000 year old city Fran and I am sure that Tone is enjoying it to the fullest.
    Tomorrow is her birthday and somehow we have not been able to connect. Will you please wish her a happy birthday from me and a safe trip home. I’ll be there at the airport to welcome her back! Andre

    Like

    • frangallo Says:

      Your tomorrow is our today! That means today is Tone’s birthday. I am so glad you told me because I had no idea. She is doing great and having the best time ever. I will let her know you wrote.

      Like

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