Varanasi, the City Where Life and Death Coexist in Peace

Varanasi, the City Where Life and Death Coexist in Peace

Another day is born. The sunrise is as mystical as it always has been to the locals, associated to the divine. In the distance monumental towers become visible through the mist that frequently emanates from the shores. The noise becomes more accentuated as more people take baths and wash their clothes in the mighty Ganges river as the sun keeps climbing towards the sky. A crow lands on a mini-island. An island made of branches, litter and overall filth. The bird quickly pulls something edible from it and swallows with ease. It’s a human eye.
Welcome to Varanasi, the place where the local inhabitants have learned to live side by side with death with tranquility, while most of the world tries to run away from it in fear.

It seems incomprehensible to the average Westerner as to how some people can live like this, but turns out that these Indians live extraordinarily long and healthy lives, and are overall happier than most of us.

Varanasi is a land of contrasts, a place where the contradictions of life manifest themselves, the young and old, rich and poor, happiness and despair.
A city that celebrates both life and death, where the concept of enlightenment, reincarnation and eternal life outweigh all the negative aspects of this short, terrestrial existence. This is what the Hindus believe in, throughout all of India and the nearly 1 billion worshipers of Hinduism, some believing they had past lives as animals, others thinking they’ll reach a higher state of being when their time on earth expires. Yet the inhabitants of this city, which is one of the oldest in the world, refuse to succumb to the luxuries of modern life, and live as their forefathers did 5 thousand years ago, following a milliner tradition and a way of life in peace with other religious and non-religious people, (not seeking to convert others is highly commendable in my opinion) and this is something that is worthy of respect.

Varanasi, the City Where Life and Death Coexist in Peace

Despite all the dangers that seem evident by bathing in and drinking water from a river where dead bodies float in abundance, where the sewers unleash all the human waste, and it does affect an estimated 400 million people that live near it’s shores to some extent, nothing seems to deter these people from blessing themselves in the holy waters of the Ganges. Lord Shiva founded Varanasi 5 thousand years ago, according to Hindu belief. And the river is deemed sacred because Hindus believe that the Goddess Ganja lies in it, and by bathing in it they wash away all their sins.

The down side of all this reverence of a river is that all Hindus seek it, in life and beyond it. So a huge part of them are cremated and their ashes are released on it (but not all end up seeing this wish become a reality, especially the most modernized Hindus who are not that attached to their religion these days and those in extreme poverty who can’t even carry their dead relatives to the river). Sadhus, who are considered the holiest men in Hinduism (the equivalent of the Buddhist Monks), children under 13, pregnant women and people who had leprosy before death, are not cremated, instead, their bodies are put on small rafts and set adrift in the river. Most of the times, due to wind and other climatic conditions, the corpses fall to the water and float away. Now imagine this by the hundreds, and hundreds every single day. As a friend of mine who witnessed this by himself once told me “you can’t look at the river and not see a dead body floating. Sometimes you see them by the dozens”.

In India there is a group of people, the lowest of all classes, called the untouchables. The rest of society segregates them, and they are not allowed to live in the cities, having to consequently lead a nomadic lifestyle. They are some of the poorest people in the country and perform the jobs most people refuse. One of those jobs consists of going on small boats and sink the corpses that arise to the surface due to the building up of body gases. They attach weights on the corpses and sink them back again. Sometimes they are forced to dive in the water so that they can bring the body inside the boat and attach the weights.

Varanasi, the City Where Life and Death Coexist in Peace

The notion of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” and returning to nature seems reasonably acceptable to a lot of people, and I agree, considering we are part of nature too, nonetheless, but bathing in a water that is infested with excrements, dead bodies and filth from the city that is dropped there? The bodies float near the shores and people bathe not that far from them. It’s simply amazing. I could never do it, but I am interested in seeing this by myself one day. It really shows in a perfect way the lengths people are willing to go to for their beliefs.

The Sadhu (who i’ve mentioned above) are men who refrain from having any possessions other than a Saffron to cover their genitals, who renounce all sexual pleasure, and are not allowed to see their family (as a way to show their religious devotion) and carry out bizarre rituals and sacrifices, like this man who hasn’t put his arm down in 40 years, or this one who has stood on one leg for 10 years. Many even agree to be buried alive, without oxygen, for quite a long time (hours or even days, according to some people) in order to meditate with enhanced concentration and better clarity.
The Aghori Sadhus, for example, live in caves in the mountains or in isolated Ashrams (temples) and are known to perform cannibalism and cover themselves in ashes. They usually gather around in Charnel grounds (above ground sites for the putrefaction of bodies, mainly human) and perform several types of rituals there.
Most Sadhus don’t work and often beg for a living. Hindus are highly generous to these holy men, so food is plentiful but they force themselves to only eat once a day and undergo extreme fasting periods that can take weeks or even months (no food at all).
Despite this strange behavior (for us), they are highly respected in Indian society.

Back to the “swimming with corpses” theme, could you do it?

Oh by the way, did you know the Gypsies (Romani people) are originally from India?

Author: Portuguese Dude

From Portugal, thats all.

98 thoughts on “Varanasi, the City Where Life and Death Coexist in Peace”

      1. Based on DNA study on eye color, everyone with blue eyes alive today are related and can trace their ancestry back to one person, a study published in the journal Human Genetics has found. “The first blue-eyed humans were among the proto-Indo-Europeans (Aryans) who subsequently spread agriculture into western Europe and later rode horses into Iran and India.” said Professor Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.
        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130170343.htm

          1. Yes I’ve read that. The first human being with blue eyes lived some time around 10 – 12 thousand years ago in what is now Turkey.

            Not only are all humans with blue eyes descendant from this person, but all people with non blue eyes but with relatives with blue eyes. Blue eyes is in fact a genetic deficiency. A gene that is responsible for the production of melanin was turned off for some reason. Blue eyes are in reality white, but appear blue.

            My mom has blue eyes, and even though I have amber colored eyes, I too am descendant from that one person, as well as she is.

    1. This is very true. I’m not interested in this stuff as a form of ‘morbidity’, but as an appreciation of ALL life, which includes dealing with death. I find much beauty in seeing things that usually go unseen. I applaud this site. Thank you Best Gore/ Mark(I think). Keep up the good work!

    1. @hanabi, I am sure there are plenty people here who could teach you to swim – and before of the guys chime in – you don’t need a bikini, swimsuit or any other suit apart from your birthday suit 😉

        1. I’m thinking it’s because they get free housing and loads of benefits not to mention free health care . Or maybe I’m just being cynical and their cultural beliefs might just kick in once again and hey presto , off they go . Somehow @TonySnafu , I seriously doubt that though .

    1. they do everything with that water. if you’re ever in India don’t drink the water. if you order a drink, don’t get it on the rocks because that ice will come from that water.

      unless you don’t mind the taint of death on your lips. 😉

      1. The very first video I watched on this site was a decapitation – probably was not the best idea I had. I can watch them, but I can’t have the sound on. I still can’t get that video of head!

          1. If I’m about to be decapitated I’m gonna scream very loud to make it more funny,you can use your headphones and listen Beethoven

  1. Off topic but someone also tried hacking my account on here. I’ve been denied sign on for two days because of multiple attempts to sign on. I only get on here from two secure devices of my own and they both have the password saved so there’s no way it was me failing to log in… Just saying.. Folks.. Beef up your passwords…

    1. CorpusDelecti, Check out the post : Latest Updates on Upgrades to Website, IPv6 and Moderation Poll by Acneska on March 25. It may explain why you’ve had that problem. Other people have had the same thing happen.

    1. It is… the city holds more interesting surprises, which are not mentioned in this post. But after dark it’s a dangerous place and you can risk your life walking around . The energy is very intense, too. I hope this stronghold of Indian culture will not give way to modern-day deterioration.

        1. Ouch man! That’s unthinkable! If you’d ever seen the place you wouldn’t be saying that!

          I can see several reasons why a McD couldn’t possibly exist there anyway…for one, Varanasi is a holy city, and cows are sacred to Hindus …

  2. Amazing post Dude, I’ve been fascinated by this river since joining BG a year or so ago, I used to think it completely disgusting that humans would actually bathe in such a body of water.
    I still believe that, but I have a better understanding of it. I love the detail in the article, It’s obvious you really took your time with it.
    Looking forward to more of your contributions man!

  3. European Westeners (from their earliest origins), were well-acquainted with the stench of Death and were not nauseated by it as we are today. Imagine how bad cities and large towns, villages and hamlets stank as different plagues over centuries swiftly killed hundreds of thousands. The smell of rotting flesh was a daily inhalation to those overwhelmed by corpses. It is also true that earlier civilizations, such as Stone, Bronze and Iron Age Man lived in close proximity to their rotting relatives.
    I’d rather ship mine down a river… Once they are dead, of course! Problem is upstream traffic jams!

  4. As most of you are aware my Fuhrer’s birthday is on the horizon, as is mine, and i DEMAND the bloodiest, most soul-crushing, hair raising video you can find out on the internet that does not involve dead children. If I don’t get the video expect me to be at your place of residence aiming the barrel of my landkreuker at your door.

  5. Great post @PD, but the place is still a shit hole. Swimming with rotten corpses sounds nice, and the thought of eating green chicken that has been sitting out in the sun for a few weeks is appetising, but I’m afraid I’m going to pass and take Door Number 2.

  6. Would like to see it for myself also . I know someone who has relinquished most of his old western ways and is into Buddhism . He seems happier than ever after meditation in isolation for weeks on end . I can appreciate these beliefs and definitely agree @PD that not trying to convert others is commendable . I couldn’t swim or wash among corpses though , beliefs won’t stop you getting disease .

  7. They should stick a sign next to the river that says “Warning; May contain traces of water” Obviously the locals have built up a resistance to the “water” but I bet if a tourist went for a dip they’d catch all sorts of sickness and infections. Looks like a trippy place to visit. Definitely one to see before you die. And what a cheap funeral, just throw another corpse on the bbq. It’s probably half the reason they do it this way; thet haven’t the money to be shelling out on a big fancy funeral and casket. Whatever floats yer boat. Or corpse, as the case may be.

  8. I belong to the category called ?untouchables?? I mean they branded me like that I got nothing to do with it these assholes refuse to accept truth always want live in fantasy that?s why nowadays foreign god started to swallow up their thirty million gods slowly. I hate India I hate Indians for that matter entire human race white trash, nigs, fuck whatever it might be. Actually I always want go there to see corpses thanks to internet it make my business easy. They call it sacred river but made it like UN flushed toilet. Let come to the sadhus they are some kind of sick assholes they feast on rotting corpses like j.dahmer they participate sex with bitches while they are in menses I like that anyway but I don?t have one that?s a different issue. They refuse to call it India they call it bharat Indians watch porn drink alcohol and keep raping whatever comes on their way no matter whether it be child or nanny they just brutally rape it the only thing is flip flops upload their videos these assholes not otherwise net infested with their bizarre acts. Want to abuse lot but want to sleep now. Fuck every asshole that causes bad to nature. One more thing these assholes ready to do anything for Uncle Sam I mean they loves white dicks and pussies.

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