Several times a day, whilst getting lost in the old town, wandering along the ghats or watching the cremations at night a man would ask if we would like to be given a tour so that we could understand what we were seeing. But it felt impossible to even consider trying as we were witnessing people living Hinduism, a religion that I cannot hope to grasp beyond the names of the best known gods, and especially as I have trouble as a lapsed Catholic understanding the Christian Holy Trinity (how can 1 + 1 + 1 = 1?).
Instead we literally just floated along watching a whole day take place in front of us. Waking up before sunrise to see families sleeping on their roofs, to watch people cleaning themselves during the sunrise ablutions in the (very, very dirty) Ganges, and ending with the cremations that apparently never stop. At sunset there are several ceremonies that take place on the bank of the river involving music (including a mechanical one-man-band), camphor flames and with varying numbers of devotees watching. I still have no real idea what the “Ganga Pujas” were about, but the point was that like everything else that seems to be going on in the town, it is something that happens every day, always has done and always will do. The one at Lalita Ghat where our hotel was based had noone watching and a group of kids disrupted it repeatedly with their wayward game of marbles. And all that is what is makes Varanasi seem so unique, as it exists absolutely through and around a religion, remaining alive (and even thrive) outside of history.