If you can express the ethos of India in just one photograph, this would be it. One does not simply visit or see the aarti, it draws you in and makes you an integral part of it.
Logically, it should be the last place anyone should ever go to (puns not intended) Its nauseatingly dirty, there are more cows on the road than bicycle’s and breathing inside the Kashi Vishwananth temple is a certified biological hazard.
Which begs to question, how has this place not imploded already ?
There has to be a larger force at play, which would explain its enigma. Before you know it, it feels like you have been here before.
Deja vu, most likely.
My visit to Benaras was not a happy one.
Carrying the ashes of a loved one is possibly the hardest thing to do, but there is something in the air in Benaras that allows you to release that grief and let the person go along with the Ganga.
Of the many questions that were on my mind on this particular trip, Benaras answered the deepest and the most hurtful one.
Why are some chosen to die when others get to live ? And the one’s that are alive, how do they find the strength to live ?
This is the farthest I got to explaining.
In life, there is a fine line between hope and despair. The two meet at Benaras. I spent the majority of my time looking at decomposing bodies of animals and humans alike at the Manikarnika Ghat.
And somewhere in the course of that time, it dawned on me.
Life has continued at these hallowed grounds for centuries. It will continue after me.
A certain acceptance that everything that is born must die and that ashes to ashes and dust to dust is the only real truth of life. Its liberating. Takes the guilt out of moving on. It allows you to enjoy the reminder of your life without living in the shadow of the dead.
If this is not India’s greatest gift to the world, what is ?
In its infinite wisdom, India sees babies having their heads shaved right next to a body being cremated. Its heartening, this feeling of karma and re-birth. It allows you to think that the dead have moved on, they will choose when they want to come back. You can live your life now.
This is what endears people to Indian culture. It gives you the strength to accept what is and leave to God what is not more than any other religion in the world.
Our dependency on God is not a weakness, it is what keeps this country going.
Benaras threw the reality of my situation in my face; then it sat right beside me as I dealt with it and moved on.
And this is why I recommend going to Benaras. Let her take your pain away, Let it flow in the Ganga, Let yourself be immersed in the aarti, Let yourself be.
You will come back feeling lighter.