Elin travels

Varanasi & Agra, India – Throwback Thursday

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Thursday 22 october 2009

Dead bodies and the worlds most beautiful mausoleum 

After yet another long train journey, this time 27 hours, I arrive in Varanasi, India’s holiest city, located in Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is chaotic, dirty and exciting. Just like in other parts of India there are dogs and cows on the streets,  but here you will also see a lot of pigs and monkeys.

I have come to love India and Varanasi is no exception. I really like the chaos, the smells and all the colors. 

The city abounds in narrow, winding alleys where you will easily get lost. To find your way back to the hostel is not always simple. It may take time. Sometimes even hours. Fortunately then, there is so much to look and marvel at, time just flies.

All of a sudden I see a funeral procession walking down the street

All of a sudden I see a funeral procession walking down the street. The dead body, only wrapped in a thin cloth, is carried by mourners. They are on their way to the Ganges River where the body probably will be cremated. 

The concentration of bicycle rickshaws seems larger than in other Indian cities that I have been to. They are often run by old, toothless, wiry men. I feel like a white, rich, lazy person when I go for a ride with one of them. I try to think that it’s his source of income and that I’m actually helping him by taking this ride. I have a hard time convincing myself though and I end up tipping excessively to appease my guilty conscience 

If you’re going to do a tour on the Ganges River my advice to you is to wake up at an unearthly hour

If you are in Varanasi I would say you have to take a tour on the Ganges River. My advice to you is to wake up super early. Make sure you are at the Ghat (the stairs by the river) right before the sun rises. Then go for a boat ride. This way you will have an amazing view over everything that is going on along the river bank. You are going to see all the Indians in their colorful saris getting ready for a new day, while the sun rises over the river. It’s truly beautiful.

If you like taking pictures this is a perfect place for that. Just make sure you have enough battery with you. Unfortunately, my camera got stolen (not in India) before I had the chance to save all the pictures. I’ll share the once I had on fb. As you can see the quality is very bad.

He takes a few sips from the river water to prove how clean it is 

The guy rowing the boat is constantly talking and I have a hard time understanding what he is saying. But one thing I get, he claims that the water, due to its holiness, is totally free from bacterias. He says it’s as clean as mineral water. He then takes a few sips from it to prove how clean it is. I happily decline the offer when he wants to give me some. 

The water is so disgusting that when I get a small splash of it on me, it feels like it might as well be acid

I get a small splash from one of the oars and I struggle to keep calm. The water is so disgusting that it feels as if it I got a splash of acid on me. Maybe then you can understand the panic I feel inside. Here I want to stress though, you cold not see the panic in my face. I repeat. You could not see it. Not at all. Ok then, maybe only a small tiny wink in one of my eyes. At the most 🙂 

The water is brown och garbage is floating around. Cows, people and dogs are swimming there. Clothes are being washed and the ashes from dead bodies are thrown in.

Last but not least – there are actual corpses floating in the water!

I see both a dead monkey and a bloating  corpse floating right by the boat I’m in

The guy explains that pregnant women and people that died from snake bites aren’t allowed to be cremated. They are instead just thrown into the water the way they are. If it’s true or not I’ll leave unsaid.

På väg till Ganges en tidig morgon. Varanasi
Några män skrubbar sig rena i Ganges skitiga vatten. Varanasi
Ganges, Varanasi
Här badas det. Ganges, Varanasi
Här paddlar vi oss fram bland alla sopor.
Morgonbestyr. Ganges, Varanasi


When I feel satisfied with all the strong impressions that Varanasi leave me with, I take a taxi all the way to Agra (600 km). It’s way cheaper than flying and there are no tickets left for the train. Plus, to be honest, I’m a slightly tired of taking the train. There has been many really long train journeys for me here in India.

Taj Mahal is truly magnificent, yes, simply the worlds most beautiful mausoleum!

Agra as a city is not that much to see. Taj Mahal on the other hand is magnificent. I would go as far as saying it is the worlds most beautiful mausoleum!

I get kind of the same feeling as when I saw the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. It feels almost unreal to be here. To see such a famous building in real life. A building which I’ve seen in pictures hundreds of times. It gives me slight goose bumps.

Taj Mahal, världens vackraste gravplats
Taj Mahal


Over and out

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