Ganges River Boat Tour / Bathing Ghats
A dawn boat trip takes you along the bathing ghats on the holy river Ganges to witness 2,000-year old rites of prayer and devotion.
The Ganges is the most sacred and venerated river in India. Besides the ritualistic aspect of Hinduism (thread ceremony, head shaving, food to departed souls, etc.) you can also see the bathing, laundry, and cremations of the dead that takes place here on the banks of the river. Life and death go hand in hand in Varanasi. While young people seek prosperity and protection from harmful influences, the older generation comes to Varanasi to cleanse their souls in the forgiving waters in preparation for the ultimate dissolution. A ritual cleansing in the holy waters of the Ganges at Varanasi absolves the believer of all sins: it is the aspiration of every devout Hindu to die at Varanasi, thus ensuring a direct passage to heaven.
Varanasi, the City of Light has become a haven for the sick and the aged waiting out their final days. The smoke that billows from the crematoriums on the edge of the river gives testimony to their final release from life’s earthly confines. On any given day, anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred corpses are cremated here; the ghat is assiduous with activity as the cremated bodies threw up smoke and fire. The views of the city from the water are mysterious and magical.