Our first stop in India was Varanasi, one of the holiest Indian cities that is sacred for Hindus. People from all over the country come to swim, wash and even drink from the sacred waters of the River Ganges. It’s pretty crazy when you realise that the water is actually septic.
But the main reason people come to the city is to cremate their loved ones. The river is lined by ghats (sets of steps) and at some of these bodies are burnt in the open.
‘Outcasts’ carry the deceased through the town. They are wrapped in different coloured material depending on their familial role. The bodies are taken down to the river and dipped in the holy water before being weighed and the precise amount of firewood (there are many different types with the most expensive being sandalwood) needed to incinerate them is calculated. Then they are put on the fire.
We watched several of these rituals at sunset from a rowing boat on the river.