Postcards from Abroad

Whether your dream is to stay in a colonial-era bungalow in the middle of a tea plantation, an Indian princely palace, or to cruise in luxury the Irrawaddy to Mandalay, we never tire of searching for your next great travel destination. This is the place to share with us your most recent adventures.

Venerable, virtuous and vivid Varanasi

James Fraser in Sarnath Varanasi provides a complete assault on the senses.......

 Our hotel on the waterfront is a haven of peace and tranquility, for once you step outside you enter a strange and manic world.




Surya Uday Haveli Varanasi

The waterfront is dominated by 88 ghats, some steep and imposing whilst others are smaller, all marked with a lingam. This is where thousands come each day to carry out their daily ritual ablutions. Behind the hotel is a labyrinth of narrow alleys before the roads widen, and one reaches the main streets of the old town. You know when you have arrived there as a loud cacophony of different sounds greet you. Roaring motorbikes with horns blaring, ubiquitous tuk-tuks, scavenging dogs, cows, locals and also tourists overawed at the bedlam. We have never witnessed so much noise and congestion anywhere before in our lives. Welcome to the city of 'learning and burning'.

 Early morning we watched the sun rise as we were rowed up the river, a very quiet start to the day. 


This was very unlike the Aarti - an evening performance with much noise, a very loud celebration of Shiva with music, chanting, bells and smells all reaching a coruscating crescendo. Varanisi is the place every Hindu wants to visit at least once. You need to try and be a good human being by helping those less fortunate than yourself and looking after your family. Visiting the Ganges as a Hindu helps you realise your wrongs and if you visit with a pure heart, your sins are washed away by the water and this helps you to achieve Moksha ( Enlightenment ) Anyone who dies here attains it instantly. The Ganges provides purity to the living and salvation to the dead. 

Varanasi Aarti

It also serves as the local laundromat, although it is still heavily polluted with sewage and heavy metals, (and the odd corpse or 2 - see later)

Varanasi Ghats  

The burning of bodies is carried out day and night at Manikarnika Ghat. Piles of wood dominate the riverside, while male members gather to give their loved ones a final send off. Women are not allowed to attend as they are believed to be too 'sentimental' and the burning of the body is meant to be a celebration. Bodies burn and smoulder, the smoke rising and wreathing the ghat, blackening nearby buildings.

There are 5 types of people that cannot be cremated.
1. Pregnant women
2. Children under 10
3. Lepers
4. Priests
5. People bitten by a snake
Their corpses are weighed down with stones and dropped into the middle of the river - they are not cremated as they are already considered pure.

 Varanasi Cremation

 Varanasi cremation rites

Enough of death..........

Naturally we visited a few more temples, a modern one of interest is Bharat Mata (Mother India) which contains a huge relief map in marble of the Indian Subcontinent. I'd describe it as a precursor to Google maps. North of Varanasi we visited Sarnarth where Buddha apparently gave his first ever sermon and where his ashes were interred in a large stupa, until,we were told, this was torn down and it's bricks recycled and his ashes chucked in the Ganges.

An even larger stupa remains which dates from the 5/6th century.

 James Fraser in Sarnath

Next stop Khajuraho..............


Kempt but kinky Khajuraho and Orsome Orchha
Hello again from sunny India.