fisherman on ganges in Varanasi early morning
India

Varanasi – Soul City


Varanasi ist dreckig. Varanasi ist laut. Varanasi ist chaotisch. So wurde mir eine der heiligsten Städte des Hinduismus vor meiner Abreise beschrieben. Doch ich fand schnell heraus, Varanasi ist nebst alldem auch wunderschön, faszinierend und spannend.

Das Leben in Varanasi ist intensiv. Nichts wird beschönigt. Neuankömmlinge sind oft überfordert, wenn die vielen neuen Eindrücke mit der Wucht eines tropischen Gewitters über ihnen hereinbrechen und froh, wenn sie diesem Inferno nach ein paar Tagen wieder entfliehen können. Auch ich werde mitunter durchgerüttelt. Doch es befreit mich. Varanasi öffnet all meine Sinne. Berauscht mich. Die Augen, ich möchte sie nie mehr schliessen. Indische Pilger tun genau das. Sie kommen, um zu sterben. Wer hier stirbt, wird erlöst vom ewigen Kreislauf der Wiedergeburt. Die Leichen, sie werden in aller Öffentlichkeit auf Scheiterhaufen am Fluss verbrannt.

Nur wer fähig ist, sich treiben zu lassen, Indien mit all seinen positiven und negativen Seiten hinzunehmen, kann Varanasi geniessen. Gelassenheit ist das Zauberwort.

Inzwischen habe ich zusammengezählt über ein Jahr in dieser ungewöhnlichen Stadt verbracht. Varanasi ist mir längst zu einem Zuhause geworden. Bin ich nicht da, sehne ich mich nach ihr wie nach einem geliebten Menschen. Varanasi kann man nicht beschreiben, man muss es fühlen.

Varanasi is dirty. Varanasi is loud. Varanasi is chaotic. That is how people described one of the holiest cities of hinduism to me before I headed out to see it with my own eyes. I soon realised Varanasi is more than that. It is also beautiful, fascinating and exciting.

Life in Varanasi is intense. There is no sugar-coating. Newcomers are often overwhelmed when all the new impressions break down on them with the force of a tropical thunderstorm. They are happy to leave this infernal place after a few days. Me too am shaken by the power and energy of this place. But the force and range of emotions released so unexpectedly don’t crush but free me. I feel euphoric, suddenly all my senses are wide open. My eyes, I want to never close them again. Hindu pilgrims do exactly that. They come here to die. Who dies in Varanasi is freed from the cycle of rebirth. The bodies are burnt on funeral pyres in public along the river.

Only who can let go and drift with the flow, who can accept India with all the positive and negative aspects will be able to enjoy Varanasi. Composure is what it takes.

Overall I’ve spent more than one year in this incredible city. Varanasi has become home. When I’m not there I miss her like one misses a loved person. One can not describe Varanasi, one has to feel it.

Housis lit by morning sun at Munshi Ghat Varanasi
Houses at Munshi Ghat on a misty winter morning.
Cow standing in the door at night in Varanasi
Holy cow
Hindus taking their ritual morning bath in the holy river Ganges.
Hindus taking their ritual morning bath in Ganges.
Wedding photographers in Varanasi India
Indian wedding photographers in action.
Palace above Ganges in Varanasi India
Palace overlooking the holy river Ganges.
holi men climbing the steps at dandi ghat in Varanasi
Sadhus (holy men), tourists and touts going their way at Dandi Ghat.
Horse riding on the river bank of Ganges opposite of Varanasi
Horseback riding on the river banks opposite to Varanasi.
Young men weaving banarasi silk sarees in Varanasi
Weaving the sarees is done by men mainly.
stretching the silk threads for a banarasi silk saree in Varanasi
Stretching the silk threads for the famous banarasi saree.
view from room at bengali tola in varanasi india
View from my room in Bengali Tola
Evening at the ghats in Varanasi India
The river Ganges is holy for Hindus. They call her Ganga Ma (Mother Ganges).
muslim man walking street in Varanasi at night
Returning home from an Indian wedding.
Childrin jumping into the cool waters of Ganges on a hot summer day in Varanasi India
In summer temperature reaches 50°C: Boys jump into Ganges to cool down.
Man after a bath in Ganges in Varanasi India
A bath in Ganges is supposed to cleanse oneself from previous sins.
Shiva and his friends smoking a chillum at the ghats in Varanasi at night
Shiva and his friends are smoking a chillum at the ghats.
shadows of tree on the walls at dandi ghat in varanasi
The shadows at Dandi Ghat reflect my twisted mind.
pigeons flying at munshi ghat in varanasi india
Spending time at Ganges makes my dreams fly high.
boys celebrating shivratri along ganges in Varanasi India
The night of shivatri: Youngsters celebrate in honor of Shiva the god of destruciton and transformation.
A nightly stroll along the ghats in Varanasi India
Lonely night at the ghats.