For people in Poland, a conversation about India would relate to Mumbai, Delhi or Varanasi.
Varanasi is synonymous with the Ganga, prayers, and cremation rituals. During my visit to this spiritual city while on an internship with Clap Global, to interact with the school students in Varanasi I realised that no videos or internet experience could do justice to this mystical destination as much as a physical experience of being there. I left Varanasi feeling spiritually enriched, an experience I will cherish for a lifetime.
Day one – My alarm clock set for 4:00 AM. At 5:00 AM I sit at the Assi Ghat waiting for the sunrise and morning prayers. Slowly I could see people come together by the banks of the Ganga river. With the rising sun, the chanting of prayers began. Auspicious and serene, I was soaked into the ritual singing (bhajan), candles (diyas) and flowers – a complete recipe for a morning magical experience. I realised that even though I live in the 21st century and my life is full of working, rushing, running from one duty to another, there is a special space for spirituality it just makes me complete. Back in Poland I would never wake up before sunrise on my own accord and spend 2 hours pondering on the meaning of life and spirituality. I would never get the chance to be by myself, just sit around with cup of ‘chai’ and enjoy the view….I also connected with some more people around the world at the hostel and together we experienced a lovely evening in Varanasi.
After being lost among tiny, charming streets of Varanasi finally we reached the crematorium. The glow and smoke of burning pyres was already visible from afar. One of the members of the crematory offered to explain to us the whole process. This experience was so powerful, it still lingers on my mind…
Being so close to death, watching how life ends and a corpse being burnt to ashes in mere 3 hours!! This was overwhelming and impossible to understand. But when I got to know all the details and meaning of the rituals it was easier to accept this circle of life. After a visit in a crematorium the best thing one can do is go for a long walk along the Ganga river and the ghats watching evening prayers which are full of flames, sounds and flowers.
I also enjoyed walking through the tiny stores (they literally had everything you need) hidden among the tiny streets. Colourful clothes, devotional articles, images of gods, and most importantly – Food. Street food of course, full of different flavours and spices…I still can’t seem to fathom that in one country every city, region and state looks and tastes completely different. I wish I could remember all of the names of the dishes I tried. But unfortunately, it’s just not possible.
But of course, what I will definitely remember from Varanasi are the traditional dairy sweets and dosa stuffed with mixed veggies and cottage cheese. And obviously, the ‘masala chai’ that I woke up to every morning!!
Highlights of my trip to Varanasi – It was definitely a great opportunity to meet so many new people, enjoy and explore secrets of Varanasi with them, share our stories and learn about them.
A very peaceful experience that gave me time to bond with myself, I had so much time to ponder on the meaning of life and spirituality. Moreover I learnt so much about culture, preserving national heritage, watch how the younger generation respects and imbibes the culture from the older generations.
Thank you Varanasi for being so accepting and amazing.. I have now understood and appreciate the beauty of life far better!!!