The ride was more exciting than anything Disney had to offer. The Tuc Tuc weaved its way at speed through the densely populated town.
We narrowly missed a cow at a roundabout controlled by a policeman frantically waving his baton like a demented John Cleese. There was no right or left, there was only chaos. The vibrant colour and pungent smells of Varanasi added to the experience that only India could offer.
The spectacle at the Gnats was a challenge to all my senses. The Holy River Ganges offers blessings to the newly wed, embraces the newborn and dispatches the dead. I oversaw the cycle of life from the remote position offered by a small boat some fifty yards from shore.
The funeral pyres burned high that evening as the ceremony began. I was a sceptical visitor as I watched the Hindu customs unfold. Darkness fell as thousands of people lined the shore. The high altar was adorned in a fashion befitting a sacred religious occasion. The solemn music added to the mood as the sick and infirmed came forward to be blessed by the holy water. Those with heavy hearts unburdened their soles to their Hindu God. Many left petitions at the altar of their religious master. The Sadhus prayed, people sang and many cried as a procession made its way to the rivers edge. Thousands of candles were alight and the smell of incense filled the night.
The candles, positioned on beds of flowers, were gently placed into the majestic river. My mood turned sombre as the flotilla grew a thousand fold. Voices sang in praise as the symbols of personal loss passed me by. The air was tense with the emotion of the occasion. My throat tightened and suddenly I felt tears.
I had witnessed such a ceremony and similar emotions before, in a small town in the south of France. What difference between the Hindu and Christian God? What difference between Varanasi and Lourdes?