Kolkata to Varanasi

Howrah train station in Kolkata is an amazing place... the flow of humanity to and from the station is evident within 4km of the station - untold numbers arriving and departing by foot with full luggage in hand or atop the head. 2nd Class A/C is more expensive than many other classes in the train, however, it was well worth the added expense as it was a 20 hour ride through the night... arriving around noon, the train crossed the bridge over the Ganges river yielding an impressive view of the ghats all along the western banks of the river... there are no permanent structures on the east side in the flood plains so it provides an interesting backdrop of river delta soils and a few holy mens tents clustered together.

Aside the expected bathing and ritual that encompass Varanasi, I was photographing a batch of water buffalo - in the Ganges... squatting down to take the photo, I realized one of the water buffalo blow some snot out and charged my way from about 2.5 meters away... instinct does kick in. I have more respect (fear) of falling or being knocked into the Ganges than being plowed over by a water buffalo ~ fortunately, I employed my newly acquired Indian driving skills & I now have become a water buffalo matador - pushing off of his head and rolling to the side... and of course, gracefully clearing the scene of the incident w/o even so much as a mud imprint anywhere on me. Just another encounter with a wild creature for me... better a buffalo than a crocodile!

The burning ghats are always doing brisk business. I`m sleeping just outside of one of them... all day and all night, bodies arrive from all parts of India to be cremated on a wood pyre or in the electric crematorium (less expensive/faster). Bodies cue up on the ramp after being carried down the road that my guesthouse overlooks. The chanting of those carrying the bodies lets you know when they approach. The body is usually placed on the ground for a short time and different accoutrement's are applied/purchased and the body heads either up the ramp to the electric crematorium or down to the shore of the Ganges. Last night, there was someone quite well-to-do as they were burned on top of a large stop altar... instead of just on the shore/sand... this also attracted a large audience. Kite flying is a very popular passtime for the youngsters of Varanasi... its as if the spirits are flying about all over the city... On average, I can see about 50 kites from the rooftop.

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