Varanasi – A Sacred Moment


Sunday 22 December, 2013 by Uncle Spike

India. Ever been there? It’s one of the most fascinating spots on the planet, for me at least. Often described as a complete assault on the senses, I can wholeheartedly endorse that. The noises, the colours, the smells…. the whole vibrancy of the Indian sub-continent is really something else.


wallpaper India 11111


Sure, it’s not for everyone. I know some ‘hippy-chick’ from England who went there for a month once, only to return after 5 days – she just couldn’t handle it, just all became too much for her sensitive Western soul. I can understand that in a way. For an out and out Westerner, it is indeed about as different as one could imagine from modern Europe, the States, Canada or Australasia. But love it, I absolutely revel in it’s beauty as a nation.

I don’t profess to know an abundant amount about India; the country, it’s culture, its religions or history, but all I do know is that when I am there, I just love to take it all in, immerse myself and yes, I relish having all my senses assaulted from the moment I arrive until the moment I leave.


Varanasi 4


Varanasi… for me, now that place is very special. For many of the population, it is a very sacred place too; a good place to die. If you have some spare time, read up on Varanasi. Even this link to Wikipedia will open your eyes (

Many people will travel there in anticipation of their passing, or so I had read. But nothing, nothing could really prepare me for the burning pyres on the shores of the River Ganges; of the ghats at Varanasi. Initially I felt awkward, not due to some macabre fascination of what I was witnessing, the burning of recently departed loved ones, but awkward as in I didn’t want to intrude, yet equally drawn to watching the rituals.




At one pyre that was in the final stages of preparation, a young man dressed all in white caught my eye, and he started to wander over in my direction. I felt ashamed, a gawker, an unwanted Westerner poking my nose and my camera into another world, a private world where I didn’t belong.

He stopped in front of me, smiled and greeted me, “Namaste”.

He welcomed me and told me simply to relax. The funeral pyre was for his mother, who had just passed away, having been in Varanasi for some time in anticipation of the inevitable. As the eldest son, it was his responsibility to do the honours, hence he was the one dressed in white. He said I was welcome to come closer, to watch, and to share.


Varanasi 2


We all live and we all die. There is nothing more profound than that.

Some of us are lucky enough to have travelled the globe in search of adventure and cultures beyond our own. You see stupendously amazing sights; huge  mountains, impregnable castles, beaches that stretch for miles, people of all shapes, sizes, colours, religious persuasion, as well as temples, cities, extreme poverty and shameful extravagance. It becomes a mind overload after a while…

But some experiences, no matter how simple, how bizarre… well, they stay with you for eternity. For me, Varansasi and that guy’s mums funeral was mine.


Varanasi 3


42 thoughts on “Varanasi – A Sacred Moment

  1. Rupali says:

    I have never being to Varanasi but read so much that now I really want to go there. Thanks for a good attitude.


  2. Miia says:

    India is my number one travel passion at the moment. Been there 4 times, total 4 months. Varanasi this April. I can still smell The Odour… Varanasi is disturbing but beautiful. Older than the world itself says Mark Twain.


  3. One of the greatest cultures in the world is India, this truth can not be refused. Although I eager to explore all the colorful beauties of this country, the social crimes in here really scare me off…


  4. MJF Images says:

    India is indeed an overwhelming country. I totally agree about your senses being assaulted from the moment you touch ground. That is what is great about a visit, and ultimately what will limit the time you stay (if you’re anything like me). I wandered Calcutta’s streets for several hours one afternoon/evening and I’m not at all sure I could ever get used to that. But it was fascinating to be sure.


  5. Colleen says:

    Yes I agree with everything you said above about India, I plan to return one day it truly is a unique special place. Varanasi well what can I say I spent 6 days there before heading north to nainital north India. Varanasi will stay with me forever I feel truly blessed to have had the experience…glad you did too 🙂


  6. Couldn’t agree more. We loved India (or what we saw of it). Didn’t manage to get to Varanasi but we’re planning on going back to India for sure so we’ll add it to our list.

    Oh and thanks for following us and liking our posts 🙂


  7. Varanasi is on my list along with Agra to see the Taj Mahal of the places in North India that I would love to visit. My husband is from the South (Karnataka) and we spend most of our time in the village with his family or in Goa – but some day.

    You have an amazing story(ies) and I look forward to reading more!


  8. Jeanne says:

    Hi Uncle Spike
    Great post. India has long been on my bucket list. I’ve heard western people either love it or hate it – still it seems like something one just has to find out. I am more of a traveler than a tourist myself and would revel in the color, the texture, the humanity of it all. Thanks for sharing.


  9. Yes, I too felt discomfort mixed with awe. I found the signs of faith inspiring at the sacred river Ganges. In the water as ash dissolved, the holy cows were alongside believers “cleansing” themselves.


  10. Just this picture seems like a complete assault on the senses, I feel like I can almost smell it, touch it, etc.


  11. timecollage says:

    Wow, this is definitely a different place, something really hard to grasp. People just incinerating the dead on the river side, with so many other people around… seems so chaotic.


  12. LB says:

    Never been to India, but your pictures fit the words “sensory assualt” perfectly. The photos reveal so much … people, cows, boats, colors, smog, fire. umbrellas, flags … so much to see!


    • Uncle Spike says:

      These are actually just file photos unfortunately… all mine are still boxed in someone’s attic in Europe (lol). But I will be getting them back in a few weeks I hope – then blogging can really start… if my scanner is up to the job 😀


  13. judlaw says:

    Never been there, but it’s on my Bucket List!


  14. Kavi says:

    A well-written piece. What a rare moment to witness that man’s mother’s funeral – and how touching that he welcomed you, even at a time like that.


  15. balroop2013 says:

    Hi Mr. Spike,

    Never visited Varanasi [Banaras] though I have lived the major part of my life in India and explored most of the places! I can understand your fascination for the place because of different culture and rituals. I am glad to hear somebody liked it!! for us, it is usual, boring stuff!!

    By the time we grew up, we heard Ganges has been polluted so much because of various activities that go around it and so never felt the urge to actually go and see such a place which is so…oooo crowded. I think in India, it is visited more by very religious people.


    • Uncle Spike says:

      I think so too.

      I don’t think I would move there next week… but as a place to visit; to really witness a culture in action, so to speak, it’s an amazing place.



  16. Ninna says:

    I have never been to India, and it isn’t likely I ever will. But still I have since long ago felt this fascination for the country. I have read books och seen movies that take place in India, and I can easily imagine the scents, the heat, the colors, the noises… yes everything, I guess.
    Certainly it must be a lot of romantic nostalgia (which really isn’t nostalgia since I’ve never been there) in my imagination of India. But never the less! There is something that I recurrently dream about. Not all the time, off course, but now and then.
    One of my favorite movies that take place in India, are Darjeeling limited, where I really can “smell the colors”. But there are others. 😀


  17. OMG!! I’m so used to read badly about my country that posts like yours fill myself with pride hundred times more than what I would have been if it had been normal. Thank you for taking pains to try to understand and immerse in the culture of our country 😀
    Loved your post! 🙂


  18. I think I fall into that category of ‘not for me’!


  19. KG says:

    Being an Indian and having visited Varanasi I am glad to read your post. It sure is a different place.


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