Friday, April 02, 2010

Mankarnika nightmares

We have been staying at the horrid Shanti Guest house on the Mankarnika ghat - the main and most auspcious burning ghat for the Hindus. Yesterday, we were lost as usual and we ended up at the ghat up close and personal with the funeral pyres. It turned out that we had to cross them to get to our next destination. (Our hotel is not at the ghat, but near it).
It was dark except the blazing fires of the burning dead. I somehow felt so troubled being so close to it all that I couldn't sleep at night and kept having nightmares featuring Mankarnika. The name sounds so evil somehow.
Otherwise, it's been lovely here . We've been hogging yummy cheese at the excellent Brown Bread Bakery like silly tourists, doing Yoga and going to the temples.
The main Vishwanath temple to which Marie isn't allowed because of reasons of terrorism and Hinduism was architecturally spectacular with a golden gopuram.
The King of Punjab commissioned the construction of both the Golden Temple in  Amritsar and this temple so there are some similarities. However the street leading up to the temple and the temple itself feel like a war zone completely stripped of the spirituality and the sanctity that temples have. There are gun men everywhere even inside the main temple where the Shiv Lingam is. Obviously it is very crowded, and cops are pushing you around and old men behind you in line are holding on to your waist so that they don't fall in the stampede.
Just walking along the ghats , with ancient buildings in the foreground, people watching while drinking chai and navigatiing the quaint narrow alley ways of the old town
foraging for silver jewellery,hot  palak pakodas and beautiful photographs are some of the things I like about Varanasi.
Off to Sarnath today.

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