Thursday, February 12, 2015


I suspect that for many western travelers coming to Varanasi, they either believe that they have been blessed to come here to experience the sacred Ganges or that they have been cursed to come to such a wild, crazy and chaotic place such as this. Between these two positions there is precious little firm safe ground upon which to stand.

Thankfully our lives are not dependent totally upon on our own choices.  Something within draws us to places such as Varanasi.  Something not unconnected to our outer senses but one which draws more upon inner receptivity to our spiritual selves.  A divinity which is always present within us but which seems to be awakened and inspired by such sacred places like Varanasi caught on a curve of the divine flowing Ganges. 

There is more dirt and beauty collected in one place than is possible for our human senses to grasp.

Indians believe it to be the holiest of its 7 sacred cities.  Though it is hard to fully prove it is as well one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth.

The 10 horse ghat is the focal point for most pilgrims who come to the Ganges.

Many take early morning boat rides to enjoy and worship the sun as it rises on the far shore.

There are temples in and around the old city and down almost every alleyway and street.

Deities are placed in little corners everywhere

If you stop and quiet the mind you will definitely feel the inner beauty here.

But of course there are many thoughts and feelings rushing through you at every moment.

On the little streets life is an incredible mix. One man scoops up garbage with a piece of board another reads the paper.

I am surprised by the amount of security particularly around some of the temples deep within the city.

I take a boat ride on my first morning and the sun does not reveal itself much.

On shore some have no interest in the spiritual life here.

Though it is hard to not be impressed with the sheer volume of sacred objects and sites.

And of course the not so sacred, kids and cows.

 I have a long full day exploring the city.

 There are beggars everywhere.  We are warned that many are professional and travel to all the tourist sites throughout the day.

 The streets are never quiet and it always seem as though traffic is teetering on the verge of chaos. What is amazing is even though the horns never stop honking the drivers alwasy seem calm and never fazed by the vehicular confusion.

 A shop in which a bull makes its home.

 The streets seem full and noisy all day long

 Some day dreaming before a customer comes by.

We go back to the Ganges in the afternoon and take another boat ride.

As it gets warmer the boatman removes his shirt.  We are heading down the Ganges.

The Ghats are a magnificent sight along the river for miles it seems.  This is the last ghat on the Ganges as you head up river.

One of the burning ghats, wood stacked high for cremations which take place here every day.

People will bathe all day long

This is not for show.  It is a very serious act.

Women as well.

 The endless Ghats never cease to impress.  Each named and with its own unique history.

Amit our guide is taking us someplace I have requested of him.  One, even he working for tours for 6 years has never been, or even heard about. The boatman tells him he knows the way.

The place of Troilanga Swami is up these steps.  It is said he lived to be 280 years old living in Varanasi from 1737 to 1887.

One day Troilanga Swami was with his disciples on the banks of the Ganges when a nicely-dressed, middle-aged Bengali gentleman wearing a new dhoti and perfumed with oil came up to him. To the disciples' wide surprise, Troilanga Swami stood up and embraced the gentleman. Then the gentleman walked away.

Everybody protested, "How can you embrace someone who is so sophisticated and unspiritual? There is no spirituality in him at all. Besides, he is only a householder."
Troilanga Swami said to them, "You fools, you do not recognise him. You would have to give up everything in life, renounce everything, in order to come to his spiritual state of consciousness.

In your highest state of consciousness, you cannot equal him. For him to wear clean, new, ironed clothes or to use perfume is nothing. He has reached such a spiritual height that he will not be affected no matter what he wears or what he does. You cannot judge people by their outer appearance. He is really a great seeker, an extraordinary soul."Troilanga Swami's words proved to be true.

The gentleman's name was Lahiri Mahashoy and he was soon accepted as a great spiritual Master. Many people came to know of him after Troilanga Swami's highest tribute.

Spiritual commentary
If one knows how to sing the world-renunciation song well, then one can never be tempted by the world-possession-song, not to speak of the world-temptation-dance. His divine realisation is not affected in the inner world, his human performance is not affected in the outer world. He is like a boat that is in the water and, at the same time, is not affected by the water.

Sri Chinmoy, Lahiri Mahashoy: A revelation of the beyond, Agni Press, 2005

Just outside his door this would have been his view.

There are lots of people along the river trying to find God or to find attention.

A wedding party

See no evil

Getting clean

Each night there is a sacred ritual called an Arati.  7 young priests ceremoniously put the Ganges river to sleep.

Thousands attend.

After which the streets are even more chaotic.

A silk weaver.

On my final morning I go at dawn to the river once more.  This time the sun rises clearly.

I don't take a boat ride but instead walk along the shore. Everything and anything is taking place.  Men washing clothes.

Men getting trimmed.

A real Sadhu prays.

Another prays that you will take his picture and give him money.

Some are oblivious to it all.  A dog and a sleeping man.

Of course many many come to bathe

My traveling companion Sanjaya meditates and makes a friend.

We both will bathe in the Ganges in our own way.

Insult Brings Retribution:

One day Troilanga Swami was walking along the street naked when a magistrate and his wife saw him. The wife was horrified and wanted to have him arrested. As the guards were about to arrest the Yogi, Troilanga Swami suddenly disappeared. There were many people surrounding him, so everyone was surprised that he could escape.

After a short time, he appeared in the same spot, smiling. The magistrate got furious. "Why do you do this kind of thing?" he shouted. He insulted the Master mercilessly, saying, "You are such an odd-looking fellow! Why do you move around naked? Do you have no sense? You create so much nuisance for us!" But he let Troilanga Swami go.

That night the magistrate had a dream. In the dream he saw a sannyasi, wearing the skin of a tiger and holding a trident, running towards him to kill him. The sannyasi said to the magistrate, "How did you dare to insult Troilanga Swami? He is such a great spiritual Master. I shall not let you remain in this sanctified city of Benares." The magistrate was frightened to death. He shouted out loud in his sleep, and his attendants came to his rescue and woke him up.

The following day the magistrate himself went to Troilanga Swami, placed himself at his feet and begged for forgiveness, which was immediately granted.

When one insults a God-realised Master, he incurs immediate retribution, not from the Master himself but from God, who loves the Master, His supreme instrument, more than He loves Himself. The Master forgives the culprits, for forgiveness is what he knows. But God, in spite of being His own Eternity's and Infinity's Forgiveness, does not allow His chosen instrument to be ridiculed and insulted, for His instrument is he who is of God and for God alone. After all, what God wants is always the constant manifestation of His own Truth-Light-Beauty.

Sri Chinmoy, Lahiri Mahashoy: A revelation of the beyond, Agni Press, 2005


anuday said...

Excellent :)

Francesco said...

Tank you for share it Utpal.

Dean Brousseau said...

Thank you for the insights to another world so many time zones away.
Your photoeye gives equal accompaniement to your writing both well done.

Sherry Marshall said...

A wonderful description in both words and photos of a place that has such a spiritual history; and one that most of us will not visit otherwise!